Royal Engineers: From Sword beach to Pegasus Bridge

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by brithm, May 22, 2014.

  1. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    I am trying to find the first Royal Engineers from Sword beach to Pegasus Bridge. Richard Todd, actor and paratrooper, of 7th Parachute Battalion, said in his autobiography, Caught In The Act, after the arrival of commandos a bunch of Royal Engineers arrived, unsupported, but who were the first seaborne Royal Engineeers to arrive at Caen Canal bridge?

    Richard Todd:

     
  2. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Several RE units were involved. A little while ago on a concrete stand near Pegasus bridge, there was one of our company halftracks, identified by the Blue square with the white 49 in the middle on the front.

    We won a mention in the short RE history for our deeds in completing the bridge under severe fire.......That will be there long after I am gone. The three RE Field Companies from Third Div were responsible for keeping the bridge open, and building a tidal bridge and rafting as a back up ... Colonel Tiger Urquhart forbade armour to cross the bridge in case it collapsed. Though It was allowed later when the bridge was inspected for "End packing"

    My fox hole was on the western bank side about fifty yards south from the bridge.....
    You will not find this in the press or company histories.. But the Sappers got there before the commandos. The sappers watched as the commandos arrived with their piper. Very brave show.. But we got there first....... 17 strafing German fighters were shot down over Pegasus.. IT was claimed mostly by small arms fire.. Though I doubt it.
    Major Willison RE was in charge the bridging. our sister company 17th FId RE were the main movers in the assault bridging at Pegasus with 71Fd Co Re and 106 bridge co RASC. 263 Fl Co RE came under command. MY Co RE 246 was drafted in to help out when the going got rough....
    The bridge over the Orne had to be tidal as there was quite a rise and fall in the tide.
     
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  3. Bernard85

    Bernard85 WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    good day sapper.ww2 veteran.yesterday.#2,re:royal engineers:from swordbeach to pegasus bridge.thank you for posting a pice of history.17 planes shot down.thats a lot of small arms fire.you spent a lot of time in the thick of it.glad you made it back.regards bernard85. :m8:
     
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  4. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    There might be something in CAB 106/1026 - the 1946 Royal Engineers battlefield Tour - lots of good maps and reports in these files

    John
     
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  5. tmac

    tmac Senior Member Patron

    F Troop, 318 Battery, 92nd LAA had the task of defending Pegasus Bridge (Caen Canal) and Horsa Bridge (River Orne) from air attack with its six self-propelled Bofors Guns. The 92nd was the LAA regiment of 3rd British Infantry Division.

    The troop landed on Sword Beach on D-Day and deployed around the bridges early on June 7. Two guns were dug in either side of Pegasus Bridge, two either side of Horsa Bridge and two along the road between the bridges.

    During the first four days, F Troop destroyed 17 enemy aircraft, firing 5,000 rounds of ammunition (see war diaries, attached). The troop fought on without its scheduled reinforcements after the liberty ship Sambut, carrying the remainder of 318 Battery, was sunk in the Channel.
     

    Attached Files:

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  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Bridging vehicles were RASC rather than RE but this does not mean that a RE major could not be with them. The following elements of 106 Bridge Company RASC arrived at the Orne bridges area on D Day.

    106 Bridge Company RASC.

    1626 Platoon landed FBE equipment at 0920 hours. The beaches were under fire and the sand was soft. Most of the vehicles had to be hauled off the beach by recovery vehicles. This and the congestion on the beach meant that clearing the beach was slow. Two vehicles had cleared the beach by 1010, three more by 1045 and two more by 1100. The eighth vehicle damaged its steering when being towed. The seven undamaged vehicles were despatched to their rendezvous at Benouville. The vehicles arrived by 1200 hours and parked along the road until 2230 when they were parked in an orchard and rafting began at 2300.

    1629 Platoon with assault equipment landed in three batches at 0920, 1130 and 1330. They went to Benouville and into the marshalling area without casualties.

    The first eight vehicles of 1621 Platoon with Bailey equipment landed at 1200 and arrived at the River Orne bridge site marshalling area at 1400. The vehicles were unloaded and returned to Queen Beach to reload at 2300 hours.

    Mike
     
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  7. JohnS

    JohnS Senior Member

    Every RASC Bridging Company had a platoon of RE as part of their TO&E to maintain the bridging equipment.
     
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  8. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    John,

    That is true of course but they were not ashore yet. The actual bridging operation was in the hands of 17 Field Company with 71 Field Company under command. 263 Field Company joined on D+1. I would guess that the RE Major was the OC 17 Field Company carrying out his reconnaissance but I have not had time to check on this yet.

    Mike.
     
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  9. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Thats odd... For the Sappers got to Pegasus before the commandos. I wonder where some of these facts come from?
    Because of casualties the OC was Major Upton RE.
     
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  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

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  11. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Thanks guys for the great posts.

    I came across this great aerial shot from the 486th Bombardment Group website.

    An American Boeing 17 flies over London Bridge 1 the Bailey Bridge on the Caen Canal from Benouville village. You can also see further down the Canal the Bailey Bridge at Blainville (York Bridge?).

    http://www.486th.org/Photos/Schurwan/AC/440808Caen01.htm

    I was just reading Neil Barber's book The Pegasus & Orne Bridges; Barber mentions in Chapter 13 Seaborne Arrivals at the Bridges that an advance party from 17th Field Company Group arrived at the Canal Bridge, where Lt. Clarke and Dixon made a reconnaissance along the west bank towards where the bailey bridge where it was planned to be built, Clarke was hit by a bullet and Dixon by shrapnel both were treated at the Airborne MDS.

    They were followed by Major Major Cuthbertson, 90 Company RASC, who landed at Sword beach at 0920 and arrived at the the bridges with a despatch rider after 11.30 (both had used motorcycles to get to the bridges.)

    I have attached 17th Field Coy War Diary for May and June.

    Brithm
     

    Attached Files:

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  12. Javvy

    Javvy New Member

    I'm new to this site so I hope I'm posting in the right place, there's a lot of chat about the Royal Engineers on here so here goes. I'm trying to piece together the movements of my late father of 263 Field Company RE, I've already picked up lots of really useful info on the Company's D-Day movements - fantastic work from all contributors, especially "Trux". I'm now trying to find out what happened after d-day and the breakout from Normandy, where 263 went, bridges built etc so any info, or tips on how to find out would be much appreciated. First up, the attached pic of 263, taken in January 1944, does anyone recognise the building in the background?
    I am currently going through other old photographs and have several pics of Montgomery Bridge over the Rhine at Wesel built, along with many others by 263 company, happy to post them here if anyone's interested.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Javvy

    The first and most important step is to obtain his service records - Request records of deceased service personnel - GOV.UK these will tell you who he was with, when and roughly where. He may not have stayed with the same unit all the time, his records will tell you this.

    Once you have them the next step is to obtain the War Diaries for those particular units for the particular dates he was with them -
    As an example this is one of the Diaries for the unit you mention:
    Reference: WO 167/1003
    Description:
    263 Field Company Royal Engineers
    Date: 1940 Apr.
    Held by: The National Archives, Kew
    Legal status: Public Record(s)
    Closure status: Open Document, Open Description
    Access conditions: Open Immediately

    But until it is known which units he was in and when it is difficult to know which Diaries to obtain

    TD
     
  14. Javvy

    Javvy New Member

    Cheers TD, helpful info
     
  15. John Frearson

    John Frearson New Member

    Sorry to come upon this thread somewhat late - hopefully my contribution will be of some interest.

    The story of the Engineers arriving at Pegusas Bridge before Lord Lovat was told on several occasions by my late father-in-law, then Lieut. John Vincent FIORI, [later Major M.C.] of 71 Field Company R.E., who had landed on Sword beach on the morning of D-Day. Their task would be to take their Bailey Bridge equipment up to replace the Pegasus and Orme bridges, on the assumption that they would not have been captured intact.

    71 Field Company had the task of erecting the Bailey Bridges across the waterways. The two Engineer Companies formed advance parties that were to land on SWORD before their main bodies and head straight for the Canal Bridge. They were to report back via radio on the status of the bridges and the enemy resistance in the area, and then prepare for the arrival of their respective Companies. Travelling in a White’s Scout Car, 17 Field Company’s advance party comprised two officers, Lieutenants HC Clarke and BJ Dixon, while that of 71 Field Company comprised five men including the Company Commander, Major L.E. ‘Tiny’ Upton. They were also travelling in a White’s Scout Car.

    John Fiori was in an armoured fifteen hundredweight White Scout Car with the wireless equipment - presumably with the Company Commander. He wrote of witnessing the arrival of Lord Lovat at the bridges on D-Day - this is an extract:

    “Gradually they came, Lord Lovat and his piper up the crown of the road. The French Commandos in the ditches hopping out to kiss their friends and relations, being given quick slurps of Calvados and diving back to avoid sniper fire. Children appeared from nowhere and we gave them chocolate from our rations. Our marching sappers, rather wet and weary - their landing was in five foot of water, it’s a long walk from the beaches particularly with everything bar the kitchen sink on your back, calmly came along the road as if nothing was going on.

    A sniper fired, I drew my fighting knife - rather too far so I put it back. I tried my revolver and put that back too - neither really the weapon at 200 yards. A Bren gun quickly silenced him.

    The sappers settled down by the road side. I turned away for a moment and then looked at them again - boots off, brewing tea! We put their boots back and gladly shared their tea.

    We could not get to the relief bridge site so we stayed around, collecting any stray bodies and vehicles. These included six DD tanks (assault boats with a 30 ton keel and a gun firing 12lb shells) and the forward observation officer of HMS Arethusa. A spectacular attack was put in using these strays with our 12 Bren guns giving covering fire - all simultaneously firing rapid. Good for morale anyway.

    The Naval FOO, against our advice, went forward half a mile and established himself on top of a water tower complete with a 32 ft aerial and a nice white rope hand-rail to stop him failing off. A German 88 soon got his range and back he came complete with aerial and hand-rail asking what he could do to help. We pinpointed the German artillery post for him which was where he had just come from and he spoke Naval jargon into his wireless, I heard him give a range and ask for a broadside. Almost simultaneously there was an enormous crunch. I did not like being shelled by six inch guns from my own side. Nor did he, so he changed the range.

    The French came and talked, or took walks through the area seemingly unconcerned by bullets and shells travelling in both directions.”

    There is quite a bit more about his landing on Sword Beach - and he was involved with building many more Bailey bridges - including the first Bailey Bridge across the Rhine, where he won the M.C. when working on the German side of the river. He finished his war in beyond Hamburg around Lubeck - after bridging the Elbe, a direct road distance of some 1200 kilometers from Sword Beach - but it wasn't a direct route!!

    I could post the full story of D-Day as told by John Fiori - but this is probably the wrong thread.
     
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  16. John Frearson

    John Frearson New Member

    I omitted the first paragraph from John Fiori's account above, which is rather important to the thread and it is now included below.

    Sorry to come upon this thread somewhat late - hopefully my contribution will be of some interest.

    The story of the Engineers arriving at Pegusas Bridge before Lord Lovat was told on several occasions by my late father-in-law, then Lieut. John Vincent FIORI, [later Major M.C.] of 71 Field Company R.E., who had landed on Sword beach on the morning of D-Day. Their task would be to take their Bailey Bridge equipment up to replace the Pegasus and Orme bridges, on the assumption that they would not have been captured intact.

    71 Field Company had the task of erecting the Bailey Bridges across the waterways. The two Engineer Companies formed advance parties that were to land on SWORD before their main bodies and head straight for the Canal Bridge. They were to report back via radio on the status of the bridges and the enemy resistance in the area, and then prepare for the arrival of their respective Companies. Travelling in a White’s Scout Car, 17 Field Company’s advance party comprised two officers, Lieutenants HC Clarke and BJ Dixon, while that of 71 Field Company comprised five men including the Company Commander, Major L.E. ‘Tiny’ Upton. They were also travelling in a White’s Scout Car.

    John Fiori was in an armoured fifteen hundredweight White Scout Car with the wireless equipment - presumably with the Company Commander. He wrote of witnessing the arrival of Lord Lovat at the bridges on D-Day - this is an extract:

    That done, with plenty of cheering Normans about, though one wondered what they had to be cheerful about looking at the state of their houses, I raced my OC who had a similar vehicle down the road to Benouville to reach the airborne around Pegasus Bridge. My vehicle won by 20 seconds. A tired looking Para Captain with two troopers - at that moment his full squadron was peeved that we were not Lord Lovat, the Norfolks, or the Suffolks. We on the other hand were pleased to hear that the bridges were intact and we could switch our attention to relief bridges. He of course wanted relief infantry.

    Gradually they came, Lord Lovat and his piper up the crown of the road. The French Commandos in the ditches hopping out to kiss their friends and relations, being given quick slurps of Calvados and diving back to avoid sniper fire. Children appeared from nowhere and we gave them chocolate from our rations. Our marching sappers, rather wet and weary - their landing was in five foot of water, it’s a long walk from the beaches particularly with everything bar the kitchen sink on your back, calmly came along the road as if nothing was going on.


    A sniper fired, I drew my fighting knife - rather too far so I put it back. I tried my revolver and put that back too - neither really the weapon at 200 yards. A Bren gun quickly silenced him.

    The sappers settled down by the road side. I turned away for a moment and then looked at them again - boots off, brewing tea! We put their boots back and gladly shared their tea.

    We could not get to the relief bridge site so we stayed around, collecting any stray bodies and vehicles. These included six DD tanks (assault boats with a 30 ton keel and a gun firing 12lb shells) and the forward observation officer of HMS Arethusa. A spectacular attack was put in using these strays with our 12 Bren guns giving covering fire - all simultaneously firing rapid. Good for morale anyway.

    The Naval FOO, against our advice, went forward half a mile and established himself on top of a water tower complete with a 32 ft aerial and a nice white rope hand-rail to stop him failing off. A German 88 soon got his range and back he came complete with aerial and hand-rail asking what he could do to help. We pinpointed the German artillery post for him which was where he had just come from and he spoke Naval jargon into his wireless, I heard him give a range and ask for a broadside. Almost simultaneously there was an enormous crunch. I did not like being shelled by six inch guns from my own side. Nor did he, so he changed the range.

    The French came and talked, or took walks through the area seemingly unconcerned by bullets and shells travelling in both directions.”

    There is quite a bit more about his landing on Sword Beach - and he was involved with building many more Bailey bridges - including the first Bailey Bridge across the Rhine, where he won the M.C. when working on the German side of the river. He finished his war in beyond Hamburg around Lubeck - after bridging the Elbe, a direct road distance of some 1200 kilometers from Sword Beach - but it wasn't a direct route!!

    I could post the full story of D-Day as told by John Fiori - but this is probably the wrong thread.
     
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  17. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Maybe post it as a completely seperate thread - using his name in the title

    TD
     

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