War Diary: 53rd Welsh Division HQ

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    HQ 53rd Welsh Division War Diary

    1st June to 1st July
    Location – APO, England
    1st June – Lieutenant Colonel ap Rhys Pryce, GSO 1, Lieutenant-Colonel R Neilson, AA and QGM, Major K Goodacre, GSO 2, Major J Grisomnd, DAAG, Major N Pascall, APM and Brigade Majors attended 12 Corps Exercise ‘Ass’ – principles of concentration on the other side.

    3rd June – 53rd Division ordered to send a report to HQ 12th Corps daily from D+1 to hear summary of operations.

    4th June – Marrying up of small bodies from units to units with whom they travel to the other side.

    5th June – 2200 – Imposition of wireless silence as from 0200 B hours 6th June.

    6th June – Completion of concentration
    D Day
    Issue of 53rd Division Operation Instruction No1 (Appendix A)
    Issue of 53rd Division Intelligence Summary No1 (Appendix B)
    and other publications
    Exercise Tom – principles of concentration on other side.

    7th June – Commencement of daily viist to 12th Corps by Staff Officer Division HQ to hear report from Chief of Staff on progress of Operation Overlord.

    8th June – 0945 – Major-Generl RK Ross, DSO, MC, Commande r53rd Division and Lieutenant-Colonel Rhys Pryce, GSO1 briefed heads of Services, Command Division Troops and HQ Staff.
    1830 –Commencement of daily report to Divisional reps on progress of operations.
    One Major and on Captain from 53rd Recce Regiment ordered to Main HQ Second Army for liaison duties.

    9th June – Issue of 53rd Division Operation Instruction No2 (Appendix C)

    10th June – Major-General RK Ross, DSO, MC, Divisional Commander commenced series of lectures to all units of 53rd Division.
    Demonstration to all personnel of Division HQ of procedure of movement from present location to marshalling area.
    Issue of 53rd Division Standing Operation Instructions (Appendix D)

    11th June – Demonstration for all personnel of Division HQ of procedure on disembarking and movement from beaches to Division Concentration Area, showing layout of signs.

    13th June – Seven enemy shells 4” landed in Maidstone area between 0030 – 0400 hours 13th June 44. Shortest distance between French coast and Maidstone is 56 miles.
    Lieutenant-Colonel R Neilson AA and QMG and Major N Pascall, APM, left for marshalling area today.

    14th June – Lieutenant-Colonel L Williams, OC 53rd Recce Regiment moved to this HQ today to command residue of vehicles.

    16th June – Tactical HQs left location for Marshalling Area at Leytonstone.

    17th June – Tactical HQ remained in Marshalling Area.

    18th June – Tactical HQ remained in Marshalling Area.
    Main HQ left location for Marshalling Area Ilford.

    19th June – Tactical HQ left marshalling area for embarkation at 1400 hours and embarked at Royal Victoria Docks at 2000 hours.
    Main HQ remained in Marshalling Area.

    20th June – Tactical HQ arrived at 0600 hours off Southend and anchored.
    Main HQ remained in Marshalling Area.

    21st June – Tactical HQ in anchorage off Southend.
    Main HQ moved from Marshalling Area and embarked Tilbury Docks 1000 hours and arrived at Southend at 1300 hours and anchored.

    22nd June – 0800 – Tacitcal HQ sailed in convoy.
    1600 – Tactical HQ passed through Straights under smoke screen. No incidents.
    Main HQ in anchorage off Southend.

    23rd June – 1200 – Tactical HQ arrived off coast of Normandy.
    1600 – Tactical HQ disembarked at beach of Courseulles.
    2200 – Tactical HQ arrived in concentration area near Subles.
    Main HQ in anchorage off Southend.

    24th June – Main HQ in anchorage off Southend.

    25th June – Main HQ moved off in convoy at 2005 hours.

    26th June – Main HQ passed through Straights of Dover between 0100 and 0400 hours. No incidents.
    Arrived off coast of Normandy at 2230 hours.

    27th June – Unloading started at 0830 hours.
    Landed at Arrom[a]nches-Les-Bains at 1730 hours.
    Arrived Concentration Area Subeles via Bayeux.

    28th June – All HQ in position by 1500 hours.

    29th June – 1430 – Orders received from 12th Corps that Divisional Command proceed to 8th Corps HQ for orders and one Brigade Group to be ready to move the same evening and deploy in the area.
    15000 – General Montgomery Commander-in-Chief held conference at this HQ down to Lieutenant-Colonels.
    1545 – Division Command arrived at HQ 8th Corps. Received instructions that 158 brigade Group was to move that night and take up position about Le Mesnil Patry facing South and South East. Arranged with Movements that 158 Brigade Group should move through Bayeux at midnight.
    Divisional Command returned to Division HQ at about 1900 hours.
    2100 – 8 Corps Liaison Officer arrived with orders for Division Command to report to Corps Command at 8th Corps HQ at once, and 158 and 160 Brigade Groups to get into position tonight in area of Morrey-en-Bessin – Le Mesnil Patry. Arrangements put in hand for Division HQ to follow 158 Brigade at about 0330 and go to area North East of St Croix Grand Tonne. 160 Brigade Group to follow Division HQ and go to area – Morrey-en-Bessin.
    Division Command left about 2200 hours with Brigadier Coleman, Commander 160 Brigade and G1. Arrived at Corps HQ about 2250 and orders were confirmed. Enemy were counter-attacking 15 Division front.
    158 Brigade Group recce parties went off about 1630 hours.
    Division HQ special recce party went off.
    About 2315 hours Division Command and Brigadier Coleman and G1 went to HQ 15 Division. Corps Command and Command of 43 Division also arrived and Corps Command conferred with Commanders of 15, 43 and 53rd Divisions.
    As a result it was arranged that 160 Brigade should occupy the area Le Mesnil-Patry northwards to exclude railway and 158 Brigade Group area Norrey-en-Bessin – Bretteville L’Orgueilleuse.
    Division HQ to go somewhere between main road and Secqueville-en-Bessin.
    Gun area to go somewhere between Secqueville-en-Bessin and Bretteville L’Orgueilleuse.
    Meanwhile Commander of 158 Brigade was somewhere about and he was finally found and told the new plan about 0100 hours 30th June. The 158 Brigade column was caught on main road and held until Commander of 158 Brigade issued fresh dispositions.
    Division HQ recce party was also contacted and told to recce new area.
    Meanwhile GII arrived with a Liason Officer.

    30th June – Attended 8th Corps Conference at HQ 15th Division at Putot-En-Bessin 1100 hours. Received orders to hold our present defensive position occupied by 158 and 160 Brigade Groups.
    At end of Conference about 1300 hours, Corps Command instructed Division Command to send recce parties from 160 Brigade to prepare to take over from 46 Brigade in area of Grainville-sur-Odon, South of Le Mesnil-Patry tonight.
    1315 – Division Command visited 160 Brigade HQ and instructed the Commander of 160 Brigade to take his COs to recce 44 Brigade area forthwith.
    1600 – Corps Commander telephoned Division Commander and ordered 160 Brigade to relieve 46 Brigade tonight. Asked by Division Command to direct 15 Division to divert 160 Brigade Command and recce party from 44 Brigade area to 46 Brigade area. Corps agreed to arrange this.
    1600 - At the same time Corps Command ordered the following programme of further reliefs:
    Night 1/2nd July – 158 Brigade to relieve 227 Brigade in area of Gavrus
    Night 2/3rd July – 71 Brigade to relieve 44 Brigade in area of Grainville-sur-Odon.
    Relieving Brigades to come under command of 15th Division until such time as Corps Commander decides that 53rd Division to assume responsibility.
    Relieved Brigades similarly to come under command 53rd Division until change of command.
    15 and 53rd Divisions to exchange areas.
    1900 – Commander 53rd Division gave future intentions to Commander of 158 Brigade as follows:
    1. Patrol 160 Brigade under command 15 Division with effect from 2300 hours 30th June.
    2. Commander of 158 Brigade to contact Commander 277 Brigade at 0500 hours 1st July to do recces – also contacting 159 Brigade.
    Under Command 158 Brigade
    One machine gun platoon 1 Manchester
    Two troops 91 Anti-tank Regiment (17 pounders)
    One or two batteries 71 Anti-Tank Regiment
    3. 71 Anti-tank Regiment and 1 Manchester}less detachments with 158 Brigade to come under command 15 Division with effect from 1st July.
    4. Divisional Arty moves 2nd July
    Recce parties, advance parties and OP Officers move 1st July 44.
    5. All Brigades come under command 15 Division as they arrive in their area until Division is complete in new area. When troops revert to 53rd Division.
    6. When Division complete in new area, 159 Brigade comes under command 53rd Division.
    7. 71 Brigade moving through Secqueville St Grande Tonne to be in position by 1000 hours 1st July.
    8. Commander 158 Brigade ordered to recce for minefields on his proposed front.

    1st July – 0900 – Brigadier General Staff 8th Corps held conference. GSO II attended:
    1. Situation night 30th June/1st July
    a. 129 Brigade were mortared from direction of Carpiqet
    b. 227 Brigade. A and SH had a bad time, but large parties made their way back at midnight and after. CO and 2 IC missing.
    c. 70 Brigade. Enemy attack put in between Kings Own Scottish Borderers and TS. Enemy now withdrawing.
    d. Air.
    i. Big attack on Villers-Bocage which wiped out the town completely.
    ii. Attacking Noyers and Conde
    2. Moves: 71 Brigade to St Croix Candetonne 100 hours 1st July.
    158 Brigade – night 1/2nd July.
    Division Troops 53 Division with Division Troops 15 Division.
    Guns – 53rd Division to change with 15 Division when command passes e.g. tomorrow 2nd July
    3. Today: 1st July
    a. ‘Sit tight and sock these fellows’
    b. Guards Armoured Division should land.
    Command 53rd Division visited HQ 15 Division at approximately 1315 hours, and arranged that 53rd Division should take over command at 1200 hours, 2nd July 44.
    He discussed with the Commander of 15 Division the positions of HQ 160 Infantry Brigade and the future of 158 Brigade HQ, and the Commander 15 Division agreed with what command ‘46’ had told the Commander of 53rd Division this morning, that the place was unsuitable, and agreed that they should try and find a place North of Cauville railway.
    Command 53rd Division then visited HQ 160 Infantry Brigade where he discussed the situation, and it was agreed that they were much too thick on the ground. Instructions were given to send back strong LOB debts. 4 and 1/5th Welch were suffering heavily from mortar fire, and arrangements must be made for stopping this.
    Commander 53rd Division met Lieutenant-Colonel Gaysford, commander 7 Royal Tank Regiment, who is in support of 160 Infantry Brigade and impressed on Brigadier Coleman that anti-tank guns were to be used for tanks, and tanks for infantry.
    Command 53rd Division instructed Brigadier Coleman that the first thing that must be done is active patrolling in order to pin-point the enemy positions along the whole Division front, as there are absolutely no positions pin-pointed at present. These instructions were also given to the other Brigades.
    The policy regarding mortaring will be that after actual enemy infantry localities have been located, 20 mortar bombs must be sent down on them in return for every 10 the Boche send over.
    Commander 53rd Division then met Commander 158 Infantry Brigade and he discussed Command 158 Brigade’s layout, Commander 158 Brigade said, (as everyone else had said), that we were much to thick on the ground, and when the attack goes in, a good proportion of his troops will be left behind.
    Commander 53rd Division then returned to HQ 15 Division, arriving at 1500 hours for Corps Conference.
    He there met Lieutenant-Colonel Harringotn, OC 1 Manchester, who said that he had made a recce for a suitable area for his mortars which he can cover the whole Division front, and Commander 53rd Division agreed that he should take up the positions recced. He also explained to him the policy regarding counter-mortar fire.
    Commander 53rd Division instructed Brigadier Blomfield also, that as soon as possible after his relief he must reorganise his Brigade so that he has two battalions up, and one in reserve instead of his present organisation.
    The Corps Commander said that the present policy is for the Corps to sit down as it is, and there is no prospect of a forward advance in this area for some time, and we must make ourselves as secure as we possibly can at the moment, in a purely defensive role. Mining and wiring is to take place, and is to be done urgently; initially only within our area. Commander 53rd Division agreed that we are probably much to thick on the ground, and the Corps Commander instructed him to consider a possible reorganisation of the line, enabling him to move one Brigade out of the line.
    Corps Commander wishes very careful coordination of the anti-tank and MF layout throughout the area, and he wishes particular attention paid to our junction with 49 Division, and he insists that the junction should be physical contact, and that we must have a post on our side of the road body line, and 49 Division must have a post in contact on the other side of the body.
    Commander 53rd Division also spoke at the conference to General Barker, commander of 49 Division, and agreed with him a junction point with his forward minefield and our forward minefield.
    At the end of the conference, at about 1730 hours, Commander 53rd Division visited the HQ of 158 Infantry Brigade, where he discussed with Brigadier Jones his detailed dispositions, and his taking over tonight, and agreed to them and gave him the above-mentioned policy as regards to patrolling and mortars, and instructed him that he must lay a minefield and be very careful in linking up his Left with the Right of 160 Infantry Brigade.
    Command 53rd Division also instructed him to consult with Brigadier Coleman and examine the possibility of holding the present 158 and 160 Infantry Brigade areas, less Division counter-attack Battalion at Cauville, with one Brigade.
    Commander 53rd Division then returned to Division HQ at 1845 hours where he met Brigadier Bloomfield. He informed 53rd Division that owing to a German attack he had been unable to recce the forward Brigade area, but he had arranged relief of the forward battalions. Commander of 53rd Division suggested to him that he should take over command as soon as those two battalions were in position, and he said that he was going up to see the Brigadier tonight.
    158 Infantry Brigade at one hours notice to move from 2300 hours.

    53rd Welsh Division Intelligence Summary No.3
    Dated 27th June 44

    There is evidence to show that the enemy has recently captured ALLIED Intelligence Summaries. It is highly important that the enemy should NOT realise how much we know – or do NOT know – about him. Summaries will therefore be safeguarded as SECRET documents (which they area) and destroyed by fire within 48 hours of receipt.
    Notes taken at conferences will be treated in like manner.
    Before destruction Intelligence Officers will extract such information (particularly Order of Battle information, and information regarding enemy equipment and methods) before they are destroyed.

    Part I
    • Enemy Situation
    a) The enemy forces immediately facing the ALLIED bridge head now amount to eleven divisions of which four are panzer, one motorised, one para and the remaining five infantry. The immediate reserve behind the bridge head, the enemy has two further panzer divisions – 1 SS Panzer Division on the British Sector, possibly in the wood East of Mount Picon T84 or in the Foret de Cinglais U05, and 2 SS panzer Division probably in the wodded country South of St Lo.
    b) British Sector
    21 Panzer Division which saved Caen on D-Day is still holding on tenaciously in East, North and Ewst of the town by means of two Battle Groups.
    On its left is 12 SS Panzer Division roughly between Carpiquet (9869( and Fontenay Le Pesnel (8867) (now in our hands).
    Between Fontenay and Hotto (8265) is 130 Panzer Lehr Division, battered and short of infantry. One of its battalions was relieved recently in Hottot by the defensive company of 12 SS Panzer Division, the defensive company 1st Panzer Corps and 6 Company 192 Grenadier Regiment (taken from 21st Panzer Division around Cane.
    To the Left and South of Caumont is 2nd Panzer Division.
    The infantry divisions on the British sector are to be found on the East of the bridgehead, where the greater part of 711 Infantry Division still remains in its pre-D Day position on the coast and where 346 Infantry Division has been reinforced by a further as yet unidentified Division.
    c) American Sector
    3 Para Division is West of Caumont, 353 Infantry Division has absorbed the remains of 352 Infantry Division and is East of the Vire. 275 Infantry Division fronts the canal de Vire et Taute with its Right flank on the River Vire.
    17 SS Division is South-West of Carentan and further Left is 265 Infantry Division with the remnants (worth bout a bridge altogether) of 77, 91 and 243 Divisions based on La Haye du Puits.
    d) Summary
    Of the divisions which have opposed us, six can be regarded as non-existent, namely:
    716 Infantry Division (who met the initial British assault)
    352 Infantry Division (who met the initial American assault)
    77, 91, 243 and 709 Infantry Divisions (who were embroiled in the American drive into Cherbourg).
    • Recent Ops
    An attack was launched shortly after 0400 hours 25th June in the Fontenay – Le Fesnel area. During the day a two mile wide salient encompassing the wood West of Tessel Bretteville was made, more than 100 prisoners of war were taken and at least 8 tanks were destroyed. Resistance in Fontenay was stubborn but enemy reaction to the attack was weak.
    This attack was continued yesterday in the direction of Rauray and a further attack was launched to the East between 90 and 94 Grid Lines.
    The enemy fought hard but considerable gains were made by us.
    By noon St Mauvieux 9268, Cheux 9167 and Le Haut du Bosq 9066 were in our hands nad 12 SS Panzer Engineer Battalion in this sector was virtually destroyed.
    The enemy’s gun line was overrun and a fair number of AA guns both heavy and light were accounted for.
    By 2359 hours our troops were 1,000 yards North of Grainville 9064, in possession of Colleville 9265 and thence North East to the outskirts of Marcelet.
    Rauray 8865 was captured at 2200 hours. 8 enemy tanks were accounted for in this battle.
    The Pont du Juvigny 847668 was also captured.
    Today further progress has been made, the road Caen-Villers Bocage has been cut in the area of Tourville 9384, a crossing has been reported over the River Odon, and in the East patrols have penetrated to Juvigny 8466. Juvigny is still held by the enemy as is also Vendes 8665.

    Lieutenant Colonel
    53rd Welsh Division

    Appendix A To 53rd Division Intelligence Summary No4 dated 27 June 44
    Notes on Enemy Tactics and Methods

    1. General
    The information continued in this summary has been extracted from the Intelligence Summaries of formations who have been in contact recently with the enemy.
    Many of the methods should be explained to all ranks.
    2. Use of Shermans by the Enemy
    It is reported that the enemy is using captured British tanks, and in this connection Shermans have been reported in use by the Germans in the Tilly-Caumont sector. It appears that the German tanks advance covered by Sherman. On approaching our position the Sherman disappears to a flank leaving German tanks running at close range to our positions. All ranks should be warned of this practice and all Allied type tanks approaching from a doubtful direction should be treated with suspicion.

    Enemy Mines and Booby Traps

    3. General
    Latest information is that the enemy is making increased use of booby taps in hedges, in gates and in houses,

    4. Laying of Tellermine 42 and 43
    A captured official pamphlet dated 1st February 44 lays down that Tellermine 42 and 43 will be laid upside down in order to make it more difficult to lift them. To ensure that the mines detonate they are to be laid with the pressure plates resting on wood battens or suitable stones or bricks.

    5. Mines in roads.
    A prisoner of war has stated that when roads have been mined or when minefields have crossed a road the following method was used.

    4 Staggered rows.
    PW know no details of distances.

    6. Booby Traps
    a) A Mauser rifle has been found with a small concealed charge in the mechanism. This charge functioned when the trigger was operated and was off sufficient power to inure a man’s hand severely. Had the rifle been fired from the shoulder the result would probably have been fatal.
    The same charges have also been found concealed in Luger Pistols.
    b) A Tellermine 42 was found mounted behind an oven door in a house. A ZZ 35 Ignited had been inserted into the mine and connected by wire to the back of the oven. The door was slightly open and the mine was set to explode as the door was opened wider.


    7. Digging-in of Tanks
    There have been many reports of the enemy in digging in his tanks. In many cases the tanks have moved out at night.

    8. Allotment of tanks.
    Tanks have been allotted to the infantry in 130 Panzer Lehr Division on the basis of four per Company.
    In defence one tank stays with the infantry battle outpost and the other three with the main body of the Company several hundred years behind. Further back still medium machine gun posts were sited to give protective fire. The positions were gon(?) in woods and never vacated by day. At dusk however the tanks would move out.
    In attack the taks of the tanks were to protect the flanks of the infantry by firing down lanes and other approaches and to provide close support fire when the infantry were held up.

    9. Village Fighting
    In several battles for villages the enemy counter-attack has come after we have partially occupied the village. The main stay of the counter attack has been in converging movement from either side, supported by self-propelled guns.

    11. Tank-hunting tactics
    Paratroops have been equipped with a blinding device for use against tanks. It has consisted of a bottle. When thrown against a tank it has generated thick yellow smoke thus obscuring the vision of the driver and crew of the tank.

    12. Trip Wires
    A patrol in the neighbourhood of the River Mue met a trip wire which lit a dim light. A second and third trip wire was encountered and the latter set off a S mine after which the enemy MGs opened up on the patrol

    13. Fake Orders
    On several locations during the critical stage in an engagement the enemy have netted into Company and Platoon frequencies and given orders to cease fire or withdraw.
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