John Holland SAUNDERS (228040) - 1 Troop, 80 Assault Squadron Royal Engineers

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by Michel Sabarly, Nov 1, 2015.

  1. 71 years ago today Captain John Holland SAUNDERS was fatally wounded by shrapnel in his LVT on board LCT(4) 712 (Serial 21) while approaching Westkapelle, Walcheren Island, The Netherlands. Capt SAUNDERS was commanding 1 Troop, 80 Assault Squadron RE.
    See:Remembering Today Captain John Holland Saunders 80 Assault Sqdn.RE 1/11/1944

    War Diary, 80 Aslt Sqn RE

    1 Nov 44 1145 hrs
    Plenty of enemy shelling, all our LCT's hit.
    Capt Saunders hit by shell splinter on LCT and
    mortally wounded. He died about half an hour

    Operations Report
    The Walcheren Operation
    Part II. The Story of 47 Commando

    LCT Serial 21. Y Troop

    This LCT received a direct hit outboard the starboard side when about 300 yards from the beach, killing the Captain in charge of the LVT’s (who was standing up) and wounding the driver, the troop Sergeant Major (Tynan) and Marine Luffman. The last two were not wounded seriously. Nothing caught fire.

    John Holland SAUNDERS was born around 1920. He was the son of William Holland Saunders and Nellie Saunders, of Earley, Berkshire.

    He was made Second Lieutenant on 8 March 1942 and a War Substantive Lieutenant on 1 October 1942. On 10 August 1943 he was taken on strength of 80 Assault Squadron Royal Engineers (fourth squadron in 5 Assault Regiment RE, 1 Assault Brigade RE, 79 Armoured Division) and became the Troop Officer (i.e. Second in Command) in No. 1 Troop on 6 September 1943, with Captain Cecil Francis TRACY, RE (95078) as Troop Commander from 14 November 1943.

    (to be continued)
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2019
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  2. D Day

    For the initial assault phase 80 Aslt Sqn worked on a Half-squadron basis. The OC T/Major Reginald Trery WILTSHIRE, RE (56390) commanded the Left half-squadron (to land on NAN RED Beach at H Hour), while Capt TRACY, as the only other full Captain in the squadron, was given command of the Right half-squadron (NAN WHITE), comprising 1 & 2 Tps.

    As a result, on D Day Lt SAUNDERS was in command of 1 Tp and the corresponding breaching team, with Lt Allan Alexander OXTOBY, RE (238612) (from 2 Tp) as second in command.

    The Plan

    This team was tasked to open GREEN Exit on NAN WHITE Beach on the western side of Bernières-sur-Mer, more precisely to clear and mark a lane at least 9 feet wide through Exit No.1 at Eastings 993 (point N.4) to the first inland lateral, or at a convenient place near its point of touchdown.
    It was then to turn left towards 2 Tp (if they had not met on the inland lateral) and work towards 2 Tp's Exit clearing a minimum width of 9 ft again.
    When circuit was completed, it was to answer calls by Cdn Inf Bdes so long as personnel was left on the exit to maintain the exit and markings and clear the lateral between exits.
    It was then to improve and widen route circuit to a minimum of 16 ft including ramping down or constructing a more permanent exit at the top of the beach. Exit might be taken over by Beach Gp Field Coy RE at this stage.

    Composition of No.1 Team

    No.1 Team was composed of eight vehicles:
    • the five remaining Churchill AVsRE of 1 Tp, numbered 1B to 1F (Capt TRACY retaining his own AVRE 1A),
    • two Sherman V Crab Mk.I Flail tanks of 1 Troop, B Squadron, 22 Dragoons (senior regiment in 30 Armoured Brigade, 79 Armoured Division) and
    • one D7 Armoured Bulldozer of 149 Assault Park Squadron, at that time part of 1 Aslt Bde and Aslt Park Sqn, 79 Armd Div.

    Loading & Embarkation

    No. 1 Team was assigned the Serials 1408 and 1409 (LCT(5) 2286 and 2436 respectively), and was to embark from 1500 hrs on D Minus 3 (2 June 1944) at G.1. Hard in Gosport.

    From the War Diary:
    Gosport 2 [June]..17.00 Serials begin loading on L.C.T. Prime Minister
    ........................and General Smuts present. Loading completed
    ........................19.00 hrs.

    The two LCT carrying No.1 Team were loaded as follows:

    LCT 2286 (Serial 1408):
    ...........................Flail No.15
    ..........................(Cpl CAVILL)
    AVRE 1D (Log Carpet)............AVRE 1C (Fascine)
    (Lt SAUNDERS).........................(L sjt BURNELL)
    .......................AVRE 1E (Aslt Br)
    ............................(Sjt SMITH)

    LCT 2436 (Serial 1409):
    .......................... Flail No.12
    ..........................(Sjt CREW)
    AVRE 1B (Fascine)..............AVRE 1F (no device)
    (comd not known).......................(Lt OXTOBY)
    .....................D7 Armd Bulldozer
    ..........................(Spr SCOTT)

    Here are AVsRE 1E & 1C waiting to embark:

    AVRE 1E backing into Serial 1408:

    A panoramic colour view showing 1 Tp embarking (right click to display/save image in full size):

    AVsRE 1D and 1F preparing to embark, with Lts SAUNDERS and OXTOBY standing in their turret to direct their respective drivers...

    then embarking in parallel:

    Lt SAUNDERS' AVRE 1D on board LCT 2286 (1408), with AVRE 1E (SBG br) behind it and AVRE 1C (Fascine) to its starboard:
    5 - 1D on board LCT 2286 (1408).jpg

    Incidentally, the above stills are the first and only photos I've found so far of a D Day Log Carpet on its AVRE, let alone colour ones.

    After loading, Serials 1408 & 1409 went to Berth 43, Ocean Dock, Southampton to await the order to sail in tight company with the other craft of their Group:

    The Passage

    Serials 1408 & 1409 together with the other eight LCT(5) of Group 322(a) were then to slip at H-23h 40m and sail at about 5 knots, passing West Bramble Buoy at H-21h 45m, Spithead Gate at H-20h 10m, and thence by Portsmouth Swept Channel leaving "D", "E", "X" and "F" Buoys on their Port hand, passing "F" Buoy at H-17 h 30 m. Thence through Position "AA" to "BB". After passing through Position "BB" groups were to open out and proceed to their respective approach channels, which for Group 322 (Code Word "WHIRLABOUT") was Channel 8. Planned times of passage through the various Positions were the following:
    "BB" = H-11h 05m
    "GG" = H-8h 25m (entering No.8 Swept Channel)
    "PP" = H-1h 10m (Lowering Position)

    Here we see part of Groups 312 & 322 carrying the AVRE waves as they pass Spithead around 1115 hrs on 5 June. On the left is an LCF(4) towing two LCA(HR). The cameracraft is an LCG(L)(4). Lt SAUNDERS' LCT might be one of those with an Assault Bridge pointing skywards:
    ...Sailing postponed 24 hrs due to weather.
    ...Slipped at 0745 hrs on the 5 Jun 44 and proceeded on voyage.
    Sea rough and nearly everyone affected....Brs and devices stood
    up to buffetting very well.

    From The War of The Landing Craft (Paul Lund and Harry Ludman, 1976) pages 160-161:

    Lieutenant Reginald Edwards, RNVR, commanded LCT 2436 [Serial 1409].
    ..'After a conference just prior to D-Day, during the briefing of COs, some bright US Air Force general had indicated three church spires on a map – one at Bernieres, where we were to land, one at St Aubin, a village to our left, and the third at Courseulles, a village to our right with a very small harbour – and told us that three squadrons of Fortresses flying on each village would erase these objects from the face of the earth. But when the French coast came in sight and we could really see things through binoculars the first majestic items we were able to recognise were those three church spires, erect and intact – so much intact that the Germans had a machine-gun nest in each one.
    ..'We carried AVRE vehicles designed to cut through the obstacles embedded on the beaches. It had been calculated that the state of the tide at the time would enable our LCTs to touch-down with the obstacles between us and the shore defences, the AVRE vehicles would cut a way through, and the tanks, and the assault infantry who landed from LCAs alongside us would nip through the gaps thus created. Wonderful! The only trouble was that someone had messed up the time of the tide, so that when we went in the beach obstacles were either submerged or, like the fearsome Element C, partly submerged. Consequently we had no alternative but to ride over the lot, as "Land the Army at all costs" was the order. Some of our LCTs had their ramp doors blown off or had their enginerooms holed and flooded and were stuck on the beaches. Amazingly though, serious casualties on our sector were light.
    ..'Another plan that came unstuck was the idea of filming our assault. Special movie cameras had been fitted on each LCT, one on the fo'c'sle and one on the stern, and just prior to beaching each CO had to throw a special switch on the bridge and films of the beach ahead and the follow-up astern would be taken. Unfortunately those cameras that were not shot away were damaged by sea water, which is why it is difficult to find any film of the JUNO landings.'

    (to be continued)
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
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  3. The Assault - as related by Lt SAUNDERS himself:

    ...........Report on action in which No 1 Tp assaulted the
    .........beach defences at BERNIERE SUR MER (MR 993895 Sheet 7E/5)
    ...............on 6 Jun Lt JH SAUNDERS

    Intention of the tp
    .........(1)..To make, mark, and keep clear an exit from the beach at A the first lateral rd (see sketch ) and then
    .........(2) clear the lateral to the next exit on the left.


    .......1......Breaching team :-
    ..............................2 Sherman Crabs..........1 G......1 H
    ..............................1 br AVRE................1 E
    ..............................2 Fascine AVRE...........1 B......1 C
    ..............................1 Log carpet AVRE....(tp comd)....1 D
    ..............................1 Petard AVRE............1 F.

    .......2......The crabs to flail through suspected mined areas among
    ..............beach obstacles and above HWM.
    ..............The br to be placed against the 5' wall to the right of
    ..............Ramp A.
    ..............The ditch at C to be filled with a fascine.

    ..............On Tue, 6 Jun, LCT 1408 was 30 mins late, touching down 0815 hrs....LCT 1409 touched down at 0820 hrs...Both
    ..............craft touched down right among the beach obstacles which
    ..............had fuzed shells tied on them, but all vehs were able to
    ..............get ashore without touching any of these, and DRY was reported approx 0830 hrs.

    ..............On touching down at 0815 hrs I observed that the log carpet
    ..............was not needed and jettisoned it, and ordered the Crab on
    ..............the craft to proceed with the plan by itself.....A lane was
    ..............successfully flailed up to the wall and the br was dropped the correct place.....The br tk then went up the br and
    ..............struck a mine at the top losing a track and blocking the br.

    ..............I then ordered the Crab (Cpl Cavill) to go along the beach
    ..............below HWM and flail a path up to the wall where it had been
    ..............broken down to some extent at a point just to the right of 'B'.

    ..............In the meantime LCT 1409 had touched down and the other Crab
    ..............(Sgt Crewe) commenced flailing up to the wall to the right of 'B'
    ..............followed by Cpl Cavill....Both Crabs managed to get up the
    ..............wall and "UP" was reported at approx 0840 hrs.

    ..............I then ordered the Crabs to Flail to the lateral and then
    ..............along the lateral to the ramp at 'A', then to return and
    ..............complete flailing of lateral to Exit No 2.....This was done
    ..............and IC dropped a fascine in ditch at 'C' and later destroyed charging a steel rail obstacle at MR 997854....."CLEAR was
    ..............reported at 0845 hrs.

    ..............Meanwhile the Bulldozer (Spr Scott) had been signalled up to
    ..............the br and had pushed the br tk (1E ) clear of the br to one
    ..............side....Sgt Smith (comd of 1E ) then dismounted and, with his
    ..............crew and Lt Oxtoby (1F) , cleared mines by hand from the top
    ..............of the br to the rly...Thus a second exit was completed.

    ..............Sgt Smith then directed Sherman tks up the br until a porpoise
    ..............towed by one became stuck between the br girders....The
    ..............Bulldozer tried to remove this but failed, and when it returned its parking place at the side of the lane Spr Scott, the dvr, dismounting stepped on an A/P mine which exploded, killing
    ..............him and wounding Sgt Smith.

    ..............The damaged porpoise proved to be an obstacle to Bren Carriers
    ..............and so light vehs were sent up exit at 'B' while tks continued
    ..............the use the br.
    .................................................................2 / ...

    ................................- 2 –

    ..............Lt Oxtoby remained at 'A' to keep the exit clear and I
    ..............remained at 'B'.

    ..............Later a second fascine was dropped at 'C' and split and
    .............spoil bulldozed over it to improve the crossing.

    NOTES :

    .......1......It was not possible to use the Petard against the sea wall large numbers of inf were already sheltering under the
    ..............wall when the AVRE arrived.

    .......2......The Porpoise sledge is liable to the br when being
    ..............towed by a tk.

    .......3......The amount of eqpt and explosives carried inside the AVRE
    ..............seriously reduce the crew's capacity to fight the AVRE.

    .......4......The Br Tk going first up the br struck a mine just at the and blocked the gap....The bulldozer pushed this AVRE
    ..............out of the way.

    Périers Sur Le Dan....................................(Sgd)...JH SAUNDERS Lt RE
    15 Jun 44.............................................................1 Tp


    (to be continued)
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016
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  4. NAN WHITE Green Gap - Lt OXTOBY's AVRE 1F sits by the SBG Assault Bridge laid by Sjt SMITH's AVRE 1E. Left of the SBG bridge: the 10' high wall section blocking the first ramp down to the beach ("Ramp A" in Lt SAUNDERS' account), then the 5' high seawall, the point of the wall "where where it had been broken down to some extent at a point just to the right of 'B'", then another section of 10' wall blocking the second ramp (Ramp 'B') and finally the seawall again, 10' high from that point on. Bernières Railway Station is just above the near end of the SBG bridge:

    A similar view, slightly to the right, shows Sjt SMITH's mined AVRE 1E:

    The now condemned SBG bridge, with the anti-tank wall section blocking the ramp (Ramp A) just to its left already partially demolished:
    IWM Non Commercial Licence

    The partially filled anti-tank ditch behind the Railway Station, with the cradle of one of the Fascines dropped at 'C' by 1 Tp in the foreground:

    This aerial view shows that the SBG bridge was dropped just opposite rue des Ormes, one of the two roads leading inland. The mined bridge AVRE 1E has been pushed out of the lane. A half-dozen vehicles can be seen parked at 'C', just Southwest of Bernières Railway Station:

    Lt SAUNDERS' AVRE 1D (right) with Capt TRACY's AVRE 1A behind, at 'C', just Southwest of the Railway Station. On the lower glacis plate of 1D, behind the Log Carpet release gate (made of tubular, in its lowered position), the last figures of 5 Aslt Regt RE's AoS Number are visible (1233), as well as 79 Armd Div's emblem. Some inscription is on the front of the upper glacis plate. 80 Aslt Sqn RE's Mobilisation Serial Number 30360 is painted on the front of the offside front mudguard side, then a slash '/', which was probably followed by the chalked LCT Serial (1408):

    Lt SAUNDERS (helmeted, holding mike) on his AVRE 1D at the same location:

    Finally, no less than four AVsRE of 1 Troop, plus four D7 armoured bulldozers and two BARVs engaged in beach clearance on NAN WHITE Beach in the afternoon of D Day.

    Capt TRACY:
    Beach Clearance
    .....After first tide 1 Tp help to clear beach of obstacles and
    wrecked landing craft.

    Note the bundles of beach marking signposts waiting to be erected and the very edge of a wire mesh track in the foreground:
    1D on beach - Notes.jpg

    - The End -

    Last edited: Nov 1, 2019
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  5. idler

    idler GeneralList

    That was a rather good read! Great work.

    What exactly was the log carpet meant to do, as it doesn't look like a long run?
  6. Buteman

    Buteman 336/102 LAA Regiment (7 Lincolns), RA Patron

    I agree with Idler's comments. A great read.

    His grave at Bergen-op-Zoon Commonwealth War Cemetery in the Netherlands. His details on CWGC do not mention the unit he served with. I'll contact them to get the details added.

    Last edited: Mar 21, 2019
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  7. 50. Use of Log Carpet Device
    To assist AVREs to climb sand dunes or cross soft going.

    See (courtesy Danny):

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  8. idler

    idler GeneralList

    The 2' centres make a bit of difference to the length of the carpet. Thanks for the explanation.
    What threw me is that I was mentally comparing it to the version in Futter's 'The Funnies' which had the logs on a 'roof rack' over the whole length of the AVRE.
  9. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria. Patron

    Hello Michel, you said that you were going to find as much as you can on Captain John Holland Saunders but this as gone way beyond my expectations, this is absolutely fantastic too be honest and I am lost for words and also I have a big lump in my throat reading this brilliant thread that you have done in remembering John.
    I can't really put it into words of how much I am really pleased with what you have done Thank you and I am indebted to you Michel.
    Once I can compose myself and take all this in I will be back to ask questions cheers.

    Best wishes Michael.
  10. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Thank you for your time and trouble producing this excellent thread.

  11. Arty

    Arty Member


    Another superb piece of research by you.

    What’s the source of the colour footage?

  12. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    Great thread Michel, thank you for sharing your information. Like the Southampton dock photo. Cheers Maria
  13. Noel Burgess

    Noel Burgess Senior Member

    Only just spotted this thread - wonderful stuff.
    I am aware of the discussions on various forums regarding the D Day Log Carpet, most of which you have been involved in, and am pleased to see that you have finally found a picture of one.
  14. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    Like some other members apparently I failed to notice this thread when it was first posted. I am very glad it has been 'bumped' now and that I have realised what it contains. Bit sneaky of you to disguise it under a low key title. If it had said 'a superb thread on D day Funnies' I would have opened it immediately'

    Anyway a belated thank you. A superb piece of research and presentation.

  15. JohnS

    JohnS Senior Member

    Good work guys! I enjoyed this.
  16. I've just edited my posts above to update some of the colour photos with better quality versions, found on an IWM clip to which my attention was recently drawn:
    Rare British Colour Footage From The Normandy Campaign

    I've also tried to restore the original formatting following the change of forum software.

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  17. Deacs

    Deacs Well i am from Cumbria. Patron

    Michel that link is fantastic cheers, and once again thankyou for all you have done on this fantastic thread it is my favorite thread cheers.

    Best wishes Mike.
  18. 1 Tp 80 Aslt Sqn RE
    1 Nov 44

    For Operation INFATUATE II, the assault on Westkapelle on Walcheren Island, Captain SAUNDERS' 1 Tp, 80 Aslt Sqn RE, now equipped with Landing Vehicles, Tracked Mark II and Mark IV (LVT(2) & LVT(4)), was tasked with carrying elements of 47 (Royal Marine) Commando ashore:

    "47 Cdo were to be prepared to land from H + 60 minutes on the right side of the gap, behind 48 Cdo. When ordered, they were to pass through 48 Cdo and clear the dunes South from Zouteland to Bty. 11 (071278). If Bty. 12 (063315) were found to be active, it was to be destroyed.
    47 Cdo and troops under command, were to land in LVT and Weasels, from the four LCT, on the South side of the gap, disembark from the LVT’s and move on foot to an Assembly Area to be reconnoitered on the dunes about 500 yards South of the gap.

    Commandos were provided with a number of Water Weasels, variously called M29C or CCL for Carrier, Cargo, Light (or Commando Carrier, Light because they were initially designed for and mainly used by Commandos).

    1 Tp loading

    LCT 712

    Five of the six LVsT in Capt SAUNDERS’ Troop were embarked on LCT(4) 712 (Serial 21), together with six Weasels of 47 Commando, carrying between them a total of 148 men from 5 different units:
    101 men from 47 RM Commando
    6 men from 10 Cdn FDS
    14 men from 509 Fd Coy RE
    2 men from 1 Lothians
    25 men from 80 Aslt Sqn RE (the crews of the LVsT, five men per vehicle)

    Vehicle allocation was as follows:

    LVsT (in probable order of disembarkation)

    LVT(2) 1F - Y.1 (Y Troop No.1)
    HQ Y Tp
    Sp Sec Y Tp (2" Mortar - Sgt WROE)
    Sec Y Tp

    LVT(4) 1C - Y.2 (Y Troop LVT No.2)
    Three secs Y Tp

    LVT(4) 1D - Y.3 (Y Troop LVT No.3)
    Wasp details X Tp

    LVT(4) 1B - A.3 (A Troop LVT No.3)
    Offr (Tempy. Lieut. Herbert Frank WHENHAM RM, seniority 6 Aug 42)
    Two secs A Tp (No.3 & No.4 Secs)
    Six men from 10 Cdn FDS

    LVT(4) 1A - HW(2) (Heavy Weapons Troop LVT No.2)
    Offr (Tempy. Lieut. Colin LEIGH RM, seniority 18 Oct 41)
    ½ Tp HQ
    3" Mortar det

    All LVsT also carried stores, POL & amn

    Weasels (to disembark after the LVsT)

    Y Tp
    One dvr
    One TQMS
    Amn (2" Mortar Smoke, HE, 77 Grenades, .303 Bdr in this order of priority)
    2 'Lifebuoy' equipments (flame thrower), complete with one refill

    A Tp
    One dvr
    One TQMS
    Amn (2" Mortar Smoke, HE, 77 Grenades, .303 Bdr in this order of priority)
    2 'Lifebuoy' equipments (flame thrower), complete with one refill

    LO Flails
    One dvr (47 RM Commando)
    One LO Flails (T/Capt Maurice Joseph Leadbetter STEVENSON 164119 – 1 LOTHIANS)
    One W/T Set Op (Cpl WILKIE – 1 LOTHIANS)

    Four men (probably Cpl KIRBY, Mnes PINDER (dvr), LOMAX & DRYSDALE)
    1 spare MMG or 3” Mortar

    Two dvrs

    Two dvrs
    4 stretchers

    LCT 892

    1 Tp’s sixth LVT was on board LCT(4) 892 (Serial 18, Flotilla Leader):

    LVT(4) 1E - B.3 (B Troop LVT No.3)
    Two secs B Tp
    Stores & amn

    LCT(4) 712 (Act. Tempy. Lieut. Eric Samuel TURNBULL RNVR, seniority 20.11.42) and 892 (Tempy. Sub.-Lieut. Roger Henry VALE, RNVR, seniority 16.10.43) were both part of 20 LCT Flotilla (Act. Tempy. Lieut.-Com. Gavin Douglas Stewart, RNVR, seniority 26. 6.42), N LCT Squadron.

    (1) Operations Report, The Walcheren Operation, Part II. The Story of 47 Commando

    (to be continued)
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2016
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  19. The landing

    War Diary, 80 Aslt Sqn RE:
    (my highlights)

    BLANKENBERGHE...1 Nov..0100...Squadron on board 4 LCT’s (MK IV) slips out
    ..BELGIUM.....................of OSTEND harbour carrying No 47 Marine Commando.
    C. 7912.......................Destination WESTKAPELLE gap on the island

    of WALCHEREN. Job. To get No 47 Commando
    in through the gap and S.E. along the bank of the
    dunes towards FLUSHING and so take the
    coastal defences in the rear. H- hour 1145 hrs
    1 Nov. Each LCT carried 5 LVT’s of 80 Aslt Sqn, and
    various Weasels and equipment belonging to
    47 Commando. All craft packed solid with
    men & stores.
    .......................0130...Trip reasonably pleasant. Wind freshened at
    .......................1000...first light but all craft seemed to be in
    .......................1000...station. Shore in sight . The “Warspite”, monitors

    and LCGs firing nearby at the Coast defences.
    WESTKAPELLE.....1 Nov..1000...Rocket ships also being used. Enemy opposition
    .WALCHEREN....................slight at first but frequent large splashes

    seen ahead.
    .......................1100...Nearby craft hit and on fire. LCGs engage
    enemy batteries at close range. Several sunk.
    In touch by wireless with leading squadron.
    .......................1145...ashore. Ordered in and touch down on
    the right (S.E.) shoulder of the WESTKAPELLE
    GAP at 1145 hrs. Things are not so good.
    Plenty of enemy shelling, all our LCT’s hit.
    Capt Saunders hit by shell splinter on LCT and
    mortally wounded. He died about half an hour
    afterwards. LVT 1E in OC’s LCT hit by shell
    which killed two men, went right through
    LVT and burst under a weasel in front,

    WESTKAPELLE.....1 Nov.........causing considerable fire and confusion.

    Cpl Malcolm of 11 RTR attached to us drove his
    burning LVT off the LCT thus enabling 2
    more LVT’s and a weasel to disembark.
    Beach in very poor condition due to
    RAF bombing. LCT’s all beached close together
    and draw a lot of shell fire. Disembark
    D.018335......................& swim out to sea a bit and then in
    through gap. Saw several LVT’s belonging to
    another Sqn blown up on mines, so proceed
    carefully and drop Commando in position
    demanded. 1 Tp & 3 Tp ordered by 2I/C of Commandos
    to go to left of gap but eventually get
    them ferried back to our side.
    .......................1300...Battle expected to be going fairly well so O.C.

    WESTKAPELLE.....1 Nov..1300...took 6 LVT’s along the dunes. Not such a

    good move as they were met by direct 20 mm
    fire and some stonking as well. Fortunately
    shooting was bad and no one hurt.
    .......................1400...47 Marine Commando not engaged in battle
    at the moment so got their kits to them
    and helped recover some gear from drowned
    weasels. These Weasels were not a success.
    C.026332...............1800...OC + 3 Tp spent night at C. 026332.
    1 & 2 Tps remained in the gap which was
    heavily shelled during the night by the
    enemy. No casualties.

    Operations Report, The Walcheren Operation, Part II. The Story of 47 Commando:
    [My notes in square brackets]

    1st NOVEMBER

    The sea passage was uneventful and reasonably calm. When dawn broke, the convoy appeared to be present and correct and the island of Walcheren was just visible ahead, Westkapelle lighthouse being clearly seen.

    The convoy slowed down as we were ahead of schedule.

    We arrived about six miles off the beach at 0945 hours. There we waited about, watching the Support Squadron which was under heavy fire from the batteries which were anything but silent. The LCG’s were having a rough time and we passed one which was upside down in the water. We saw another hit and blow up.

    It was reported that one LCT astern of us had been mined and had sunk but I did not see this. She wasn’t one of the 4 LCT allocated to 47 Cdo.

    Some distance away to the North, we saw an LCT steaming away from the beach with a fire onboard. I learned later that this LCT was carrying AVRE’s, Flails and a bulldozer; the fascine on one of the AVRE’s had been set on fire which was eventually put out and the craft returned to Ostend without ever beaching.

    We were receiving good intercepts on the Bde link which I passed to the 2 i/c in another LCT.

    The order for 47 Cdo to land was received about 1230 hours.

    There is some doubt about which LCT was the first to beach: there was much confusion and some LCT never beached at all but lowered their ramps for the amphibians to swim out. Serial 18 (with me and ‘B’ Troop) was certainly leading as we approached the beach, although our load of LVT’S did not leave her before some of the following LCT’s had discharged their loads.

    LCT Serial 18 (‘B’ Troop)

    This LCT lowered her ramp a short distance off the gap in the dyke at about 1250 hours. It was intended that the amphibians should swim out, into the gap, and land on the South side of it, some distance in from the seaward end. Things did not work out that way.

    The lowering of the ramp coincided with a direct hit. The enemy shell passed through the driving compartment of an LVT [1E] killing the driver and the wireless operator, but not exploding until it had gone through the far side of the LVT. It then burst under the front Weasel on the port side which “brewed up”, helped by the flame-thrower equipment which it carried.

    The foremost LVT (Capt. Moys), immediately the ramp was lowered, drove down it into the water.

    The hold of the LCT was becoming a little untidy. There was quite a brisk fire on the port side and imminent risk of ammunition going up. Two of the Weasels on the port side were well alight, including ‘B’ Tp’s weasel (Sgt. Rackham).

    Most of the crews and passengers of the remaining LVTs had left their vehicles and had clambered up the starboard side of the LCT with a view to swimming ashore. At this critical moment, Cpl Malcolm (attached 80 Assault Squadron R.E. from 11 R.T.R.) saw his vehicle catch fire and, realizing that if he did not move his vehicle out of the way none of the others would be able to leave the LCT, got his crew back into his LVT and drove off the ramp; it was then well alight. As soon as it got into the water, its steering gear locked and the LVT was abandoned; the men jumped out and swam ashore.

    Lieut. Lloyd was among those who swam ashore but he returned to the LVT to assist a marine (Mne. Battley) who had broken his leg. By this time, the fire in the LVT was out and Lieut. Lloyd was able to help the marine ashore, aided by Cpl Malcolm.

    ‘B’ Tp’s third LVT [1E] was unable to leave the LCT. It is thought that its track may have been broken (?). Most of the men from this LVT swam ashore.


    LCT Serial 21. Y Troop

    This LCT received a direct hit outboard the starboard side when about 300 yards from the beach, killing the Captain in charge of the LVT’s (who was standing up) and wounding the driver, the troop Sergeant Major (Tynan) and Marine Luffman. The last two were not wounded seriously. Nothing caught fire.

    There is some conflict of opinion about where this LCT beached; some officers say South of the gap, others North. What probably happened is this:

    LCT Serial 21 beached abreast the gap towards the Southern side. Some reports say that it was the first LCT to beach.

    The LVT’s carrying Y Tp [1F, 1C & 1D] drove off and crossed the gap from South to North; the LVT crews had been told to follow their Troop Commander and, as a result, all arrived in a street in Westkapelle.

    It is thought that all the LVT’s and Weasels from Seria1 21, except Y Troop’s Weasel which was sunk, arrived in Westkapelle.

    All three Y Tp’s LVT’s [1F, 1C & 1D], followed by the H.W. Tp’s LVT [1A], drove over the rubble into what was probably the main coasta1 road through Westkapelle, where they disembarked with their weapons and equipment complete.

    Capt. Flower [Tempy. Capt. Richard Talbot FLOWER CH/X1538 R.M., seniority 20.11.41, O.C. Y Tp 47 RM Commando], after reporting to the 2 i/c, took Numbers 17 and 18 Sections across to the south side of the gap in borrowed LVT’s. Lieut. Winter [Tempy. Lieut. Peter Lawrence 'Frosty' WINTER R.M., seniority 21. 2.43], with Troop Headquarters, Numbers 19 and 20 Sections and followed by the Medical Officer and R.A.P crossed the gap to the south side in the LVT in which they had originally landed.

    Y Tp was the second fighting troop, after Q Tp, to re-organize the South side of the gap where they concentrated about 150 yards beyond the radar station on the seaward side of the dunes. There they came under fire from a 20 mm gun, an air—burst shell from which wounded the Troop Commander’s runner (Mne. B. Williams).

    Y Tp arrived in the assembly area between 1800 and 1900 hours where they spent an uneventful quiet night.

    The LVT [1B] carrying Lieut. Whenham with 3 and 4 Sections of A Tp landed from LCT Serial 21 on the North side of the gap together with their weasel. They drove in their LVT to the outskirts of the village but, realizing that they were the wrong side of the gap, they crossed over to the South side, still in their LVT, and there they disembarked and proceeded on foot to the assembly area, leaving their small packs in the LVT.

    A Troop

    The three LVT’s carrying A Tp had been split between LCT Serial 19, 20 and 21. All three separately landed on the wrong (North) side of the gap. The LVT’s from Serials 19 and 21 [1B] discharged their passengers on the North side and they were later ferried across to the South side. The LVT [1B] from Serial 21 arrived first of all on the Westkapelle side but the officer, Lieut. Whenham, realizing the mistake, ordered his section to remain in the LVT which then crossed the gap to the South side where it discharged its passengers. They were there well before 1400 hrs. and much earlier than the remainder of the troop.

    A Tp had suffered no casualties and had all their weapons and most of their equipment but two-thirds of the men were very wet.
    The troop Weasel arrived the South side of the gap in working order.

    Heavy Weapons Troop

    The Troop Commander, Capt. O’Connell, landed with me from LCT Serial 18, on the South side of the gap.

    The H.W. Troop was split between LCT Serials 18 and 21 [1A], with one LVT in each. The troop also had one Weasel in each of the four LCT.

    The LVT ex LCT Serial 18 landed on the right (South) side of the gap but the other LVT [1A], with Lieut. Leigh, and probably three of the four H.W. Tp Weasels, landed the North side and had to be turned around.

    Major Donnell, the unit 2 i/c, gave Lieut. Leigh a message for the Adjutant asking for LVT’s to be sent across to the North side of the gap to ferry men across to the South side.

    When the H.W. Tp’s LVT [1A] (ex Serial 21) re-crossed the gap to the South side, followed by one of the H.W. Weasels, the Weasel got into difficulties and sank. The LVT drove around in circles and picked up two of the men from the Weasels who had swum to a nearby pole. The other two men were picked up later. (Cpl. Kirby, Mnes. Pinder (driver) ,Lomax and Drysdale).

    This LVT [1A] beached under the Radar Station and Lieut. Leigh went forward on foot to report to his Troop Commander, Capt. O’Connell.

    It was then not earlier than 1400 hrs. and the position at that time was that there was one 3” mortar in Lieut. Leigh’s LVT [1A] South of the gap, near the radar station. There were two H.W. Tp Weasels with MMG’s on the North side of the gap. Most of the men of the H.W. Tp were South of the gap.

    Capt. O’Connell sent Lieut. Leigh back to bring the two H.W. Tp LVT’s forward with the 3” mortars, ammunition and equipment. One of these LVT’s (the one ex Serial 18) could not be found and the other [1A] could not be moved so one 3” mortar and ammunition were carried forward along the seaward side of the dunes. During this move Marine Day was killed by a 20 mm airburst shell. The party crossed over to the landward side of the dunes and the mortar was mounted near the R.A.P., ready to support 48 Cdo’s attack.

    War Diary, 1 LOTHIANS, Nov 44:
    [my highlights & comments]

    App J10
    Operation INFATUATE
    Capt M J L Stevenson

    In this operation I was attached to 47 RM Cdo as LO between them and A Sqn. I was transported in a Weasel, with Cpl Wilkie as my operator and a dvr supplied by 47 Cdo. We boarded an LCT [LCT(4) 712, Serial 21] in Ostend Docks during the afternoon of 31 Nov [sic, Oct] 44.

    .....The ship was supposed to sail at 0100hrs 1 Nov 44. I turned in in the skipper's cabin at about 2200hrs and awoke at about 0800hrs to find the craft well on its way. When I went on deck I was agreeably surprised to find so many LCTs and other craft about. We were about halfway down the column of ships.
    .....All went quietly until about 0915hrs, when we could see the leading craft being shelled from the coast of Walcheren. In about 30mins we got within the shelling area ourselves and, as we were only running at about 2-3 knots, it was rather unpleasant, particularly as we could see other craft being hit.
    .....At about 1100hrs we started to head for the beach, but the shelling got very heavy and we turned around and steamed out to sea again. We waited about two miles off the coast for about 30mins and then got the order to go into the beach again. All went well until about 600yds from the beach, when the craft was hit four times from guns near the lighthouse, 1,000yds North of Westkapelle; a few cdos were hit.
    .....Eventually we touched down South of the gap and made for the beach in our respective vehs. The craft was entirely emptied of vehs in about one minute. We went up the beach, which was being shelled heavily, and observed many Weasels and LVTs burning.
    .....The sec I was with made then across the gap to the North side. I followed in my Weasel, which was swamped by a wave; it did not sink but refused to go. After trying it for 5mins we evacuated it and got a lift on a passing veh to the North side of the beach where, after about 30mins delay, I got an LVT to agree to tow me out. We went across the gap and got a line on the Weasel. The driver and myself were on it.
    .....As soon as the LVT started to tow, the Weasel put her bow under and went to the bottom. Both the driver and myself were picked up by the LVT. We still continued to tow the Weasel, in the hope of getting it onto the beach. After a hit [sic, bit], however, the LVT started to skid and we had to release the Weasel.

    (sgd) M J L Stevenson

    The driver and operator of LVT 1E who were killed on board LCT 892 were 4915651 L/Cpl Clarence Gordon WHEELER and 5192819 Spr George Frederick Charles HICKETTS. See: Remembering today Sapper George Frederick Charles Hicketts 80 Assault Sqdn.RE 1/11/1944.

    The two Commandos who were wounded when Capt SAUNDERS received his mortal wound were Troop Sergeant Major Frank 'Tiny' TYNAN (already wounded on 23 Jul 44) and Marine W.B. Luffman, both from Y Tp.

    War Diary, 47 (RM) Cdo, Nov 44
    App 'A' - Battle casualties - Other Ranks

    1 Nov...PO.X...1599...TSM....Frank...TYNAN..........Y...SW left shoulder arm and face
    Note: SW = Shrapnel Wound


    TSM Frank 'Tiny' TYNAN PO.X 1599, Y Tp, 47 (RM) Commando.jpg

    Group photo of Y Tp, 1945:

    Y Troop, 47 RM Commando, 1945 - Notes.jpg
    Photos courtesy of 47 Royal Marine Commando Association: 47 Royal Marine Commando

    (to be continued)
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2016
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  20. It is unfortunately not fully clear which LVT Capt SAUNDERS was in when he was fatally wounded. As the Troop Leader his mount was normally 1A, but 1A, carrying part of the HW Tp, was apparently planned to be the last LVT to leave the LCT, whereas 1F was to be first off.

    Additionally, since 1F was carrying the HQ Section of Y Tp, 47 RM Commando, Capt SAUNDERS must have elected to land in this LVT instead, so that he could both lead his Troop and be alongside the officer commanding the troops he was to carry ashore.

    Another hint is the following sentence from The Story of 47 RM Commando (see previous post):
    "The LVT’s carrying Y Tp [1F, 1C & 1D] drove off and crossed the gap from South to North; the LVT crews had been told to follow their Troop Commander"

    Finally, the two Commandos who were wounded at the same time as Capt SAUNDERS were from Y Tp, not the HW Tp, and one of them was the Troop Sergeant Major, presumably carried with the rest of HQ Sec in LVT 1F.

    The LVT (War Department Registration Number P 5822219) named 'ESQUAY' in the following photos shot in Walcheren in November 1944 wears the 79 Armoured Division emblem with Arm of Service number 1233 over a (blue) flash for 5 Assault Regiment RE. The vertical (red) rectangle indicates the fourth squadron in the regiment, i.e. 80 Assault Squadron RE. The "1" inside the rectangle means 1 Troop, as confirmed by the vehicle callsign '1A' for the first vehicle in 1 Troop, the Troop Leader's.

    This is therefore Capt SAUNDERS' normal mount, although probably not the one he was riding on 1 Nov:
    LVT4 1A 'ESQUAY' P5822219 80 ASRE Polsten, Walcheren Nov 44 - George Rodger LIFE - 1.jpg
    LVT4 1A 'ESQUAY' P5822219 80 ASRE Polsten, Walcheren Nov 44 - George Rodger LIFE - 2.jpg
    The name 'ESQUAY' comes from the ESQUAY just SW of Hill 112 in Normandy, now Esquay-Notre-Dame, not to be confused with Esquay-sur-Seulles:

    War Diary, 80 Aslt Sqn RE, Jul 44
    .................15. .........Sqn F Gp. Lie up during day, officers do recces
    and attend O Gps.
    .................15. ..2145...1 Tp under comd 147 RAC takes part in attack
    on ESQUAY. 9461. Attack
    successfull but little work for us though
    much shelling & mortaring . Lt Saunders' tank
    set on fire by shells but fire extinguished
    & no damage done. Attack on Esquay successfull

    No doubt that the vehicle name was chosen by Capt SAUNDERS himself in memory of a hot time...

    Here is 1C, another LVT from 1 Tp, 80 Aslt Sqn RE, photographed in Veere, The Netherlands (date not known), presumably also a survivor from Op INFATUATE:

    LVT4 1C 80 ASRE, Veere NL - FO033141.jpg

    Last edited: Nov 10, 2016
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