The Hero of Hllman on D day, and my hero

Discussion in 'Royal Engineers' started by sapper, Jul 18, 2010.

  1. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    An introduction by Lt A Heal. R.E. C de G.
    Tuesday, 6th June, 1944 was to be, for me and many others, a defining moment. Our first taste of active service face to face with the enemy, and life would never be the same again.
    It was the climax of months of arduous training, mainly in the North of Scotland, often in atrocious weather conditions. During numerous amphibious exercises I was invariably seasick, and I could hardly realise my good fortune that I was one of the very few who was not sick on D Day, despite being tossed about in a L.C.A. on the run-in.
    I was further pleasantly surprised having moved off the beach and inland towards Colleville-sur-Orne to find myself and my party of Sappers still in one piece. Before embarking at Southsea we had been told that casualties on the initial assault were likely to be very heavy!
    My unit 246 Field Company, R.E. 3rd British Infantry Division was scheduled to support 8 Brigade in its assault on Sword (Green) Beach. The company provided each of the three battalions with small teams of 4 or 5 sappers and I found myself in command of mine clearance teams supporting 1 Suffolk, landing at 08.25 hours. Each team carried mine detectors, plastic H.E. and grenades. Two of my colleagues Lieutenants Edwards and Trench gave similar support to the assault battalions 1 South Lancs and 2 East Yorks respectively, with mine clearance and demolition teams.
    1 Suffolk’s principle objectives were the clearance of the village of Colleville-sur-Orne, and the capture of the two German strong points code-named ‘Morris’ and ‘Hillman’. The day’s events have been well documented throughout the years, particularly by Lt.-Col. Lummis, an officer in the battalion on D-Day in his “1 Suffolk on D-Day”
    “Morris” surrendered very quickly, but the initial assault on “Hillman” having failed, I was ordered, in the nicest possible way, by the C.O. of the battalion, Lt.-Col. Goodwin to clear a path through the perimeter minefield so that tanks could enter the locality.
    During training in Scotland I made sure that we could all recognise and disarm any mine we were likely to find. I was therefore disconcerted that I could not identify the first mine that I uncovered. It turned out to be an obsolete British Mk.11 anti-tank mine left behind at Dunkirk in 1940. However, lying flat. on the ground, and with the help of covering fire and smoke from the tanks of the Staffordshire Yeomanry and the assault company this was achieved by the early evening. “The final clearance of Hillman” is described in Norman Scarfe’s “Assault Division” as a “grisly business”. It was only much later that it was appreciated what a formidable obstacle “Hillman” had been.
    Now, more than fifty years on, I feel great pride in having played a very small part in what is now recognised as the greatest combined military operation of all time. Pride is tinged with sadness at seeing so many friends killed and wounded, in many cases before even reaching the water’s edge. For example Eric Lummis “1 Suffolk” records that of the 43 officers and warrant officers in the battalion on D-Day, 13 were killed and 26 wounded by the end of the campaign.
    I am also privileged to have played a small part in the restoration of “Hillman” to provide a permanent memorial to those of the battalion and supporting arms who lost their lives on D-Day and subsequently. There is nowa strong continuing link between the village of Colleville-Montgomery and the Suffolk Regiment which is formalised by regular exchange visits and by the naming of the road leading up to “Hillman” as Rue du-Suffolk Regiment.
    Events on D-Day show yet again, that in time of war ordinary individuals perform extraordinary deeds.

    W.S. / Lieutenant Arthur HEAL, 259749, 246 Field Company,
    During the attack on COLLEVILLE-SUR-ORNE, FRANCE, on 6th June1944, it was necessary to clear a forty yard lane in the perimeter minefield to enable tanks to enter the locality. The gap was under enemy small arms and mortar fire. This officer commanded the assault engineer platoon supporting the attacking Battalion. He organised and personally carried out the clearing of the gap under very heavy mortar and machine-gun fire, from short range.

    During the whole of this period the work had to be carried out lying flat on the ground. It was entirely due to his work that the tanks were able to enter the locality and destroy the enemy. Throughout the operation he set a splendid example to all ranks, his exceptional courage and determination in this action being a major factor in its ultimate success
    My Own Royal Engineers company Hero
  2. Driver-op

    Driver-op WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Well what can one say Sapper after that. Brilliant stuff. I was not a fighting soldier, although I spent some time with the PBI I was always able to keep my head down. I have always had a great deal of admiration for those at the sharp end, and you have every right to be proud of what you have done.
    PS. I didn't get to Hillman until you had finished.
    CL1 likes this.
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  4. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Andy - I am pretty sure Brian is quoting from an account he has by the officer in question.
  5. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    It was a part of a book that I wrote for family and close friends...It cost me an arm and leg.

    This is original material ..It may be that you have read something similar.That is because these original documents have been used and quoted in other publications. The original are in my possession. Some originated from my best mate, for both of us have helped out several Authors with our own war time material.
    Oddly enough we have had our own words quoted back to us !):):)
  6. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    No.... Thank Heavens I did not take part. though my platoon did. I found out where Arthur Heal lived, and gave him a ring. For me? a privilege !

    He gave me hs permission to use his citation as a frontispiece for my book. All of that are his words, and his alone. I thought that was clear? Obviously I did not make that plain. Though the narrative is entitled

    "An introduction by LT Arthur Heal RE CdG"

    The first part is written by A Heal as an introduction for historical records, the second part is the official citation

    That battle, by the way had long term repercussions. My best pal took part in the battle, and it caught up with hm on the night of the assault crossing of the Escaut Canal
    . He was never the same again
  7. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Brian - I moved your post above to here as I think it had ended up in the wrong place.
  8. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Cheers Paul.
    Occasionally I get doubted..... But in this case, I would have thought that was made quite clear who had written it. After all, it has the title !

    Over a period of time I have submitted a great many postings that I thought would have been of interest.
  9. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Brian - your postings are always welcome here, and of interest to many, I know.
  10. 2EastYorks

    2EastYorks Senior Member

    Excellent stuff Brian.
  11. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Hi matt.
    Why I write this bit, is that Lt Arthur Heal's deed's on D day were of such bravery and devotion to duty, that he deserved something better than a Croix de Guerre.

    The British army was always very careful not to hand out medals if they could avoid it. I personally know of several instances where the bravery and courageous deeds were never recognised. Had they served in Afghanistan they would have been richly rewarded. For despite the bravery of our lads there "Bless them" the scale of warfare has no comparison to what took place in Europe.


Share This Page