249th (Airborne) Field Company RE on D-Day and Battle of Normandy

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by PRADELLES, Jul 9, 2015.

  1. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    The following pages I believe are from a post war Staff College report. I'll include the two pages dealing with 249 Fd Coy RE. If you want the whole report entitled "6th Airborne Divisional Troops" I'll send it along.

    6thAirborneDivTroops_01.jpg 6thAirborneDivTroops_02.jpg

    Regards ...
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  2. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

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    PRADELLES Well-Known Member

    Ha ha, this area is near german strongpoint WN30. May be some germans had fighted in the afternoon of the 6th June, were hidden the 7th and try to rejoin their line on 8th...Why not ?

    PRADELLES Well-Known Member

    The "post war Staff College report" you send me is very interesting. I don't know this kind of document.
  5. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    I have a few studies from Army Staff College, Camberley that someone has poorly copied and made available. The "Staff College Battlefield Tour: 6th Airborne Division: Operations in Normandy 6-12 June 1944, volume I part VIII: 6 Airborne Divisional troops" has proven very helpful in the past.

    View attachment BTC125_6thAirborneDivTroops.pdf

    The few others I have on the 6th Airborne seem more like summaries and are probably not connected to Vol. 1. The Staff College's role was to train Army Officers. It also conducted battlefield tours and invited key figures who took part in the battles. I think the Camberley archives are now located here.


    Regards ...

    PRADELLES Well-Known Member

    During the first days of June 1944, the 249th Field Coy RE embarked at Southampton in 3 LSI (Monowaï, Duke of Wellington and Isle of Guernsey) and 1 LST (N°160). It's easy to understand how was the crossing.

    But when the unit landed at Juno Beach ?
    War diary of the 249th RE : "Nos 1, 2 and 3 March parties landed between 1200 hrs & 1400 hrs at or near BERNIERES SUR MER"
    War diary of the Headquarters Royal Engineers and 6th Airborne Divisional Troops : "Meanwhile the marching party of 249 Field Coy less 2 Pl started landing under 3 Cdn Div on NAN sector at about 0915 hrs."
    Trux and I suppose after H + 3 hours but before H+6 hours.

    In which craft they landed ?
    Monowaï's LCAs, in LCTs who returned from the beach or in LCI(L) ?

    Does anybody have information about that ?
  7. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    I haven't found any accounts of 249 Field Coy RE men on the ships during the crossing, Here are a few links to men of other units who were on the Duke of Wellington and the Monowai.


    Some photos of the ships which you probably already have. I couldn't find one of HM LST 160 at Juno but there is a high rez one of her in Sicily available on the web.

    Monowai.JPG Isle of Guernsey-pre-war.jpg Isle of Guernsey-Model.JPG Duke of Wellington D-Day maybe.jpg Duke of York (Wellington) pre-war.jpg

    The vehicle party in LST 160 would have unloaded right on the beach. As for the converted merchant ships they would have stayed off shore and men would have gone in on smaller craft. Taking in bicycles on LCAs seems awkward though? There are lots of photos of the Canadians in around Juno but I haven't run across any of British Airborne on bikes and vehicles in the June 6 - 8 period (Archie to Homer).

    Regards ...

    PRADELLES Well-Known Member


    "Taking bicycles on LCAs seems awkward though". A soldier of the Royal Bershire Regiment confirms he took a LCT to go to Bernières : "In due time we slid down canvas chutes into the waiting craft, in my case Landing Craft Tank (LCT) 1542, and we set off at a leisurely pace for the French coast" (https://books.google.fr/books?id=bLekZU5PRZAC&pg=PA92&lpg=PA92&dq=lieutenant+peter+prior&source=bl&ots=Cbo1UrZ05G&sig=PghyT3i1p0bE8f2qyP7TP2nqZLg&hl=fr&sa=X&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAWoVChMI5ebCj_TuxgIVArgUCh0WPwca#v=onepage&q=lieutenant%20peter%20prior&f=false)
    I suppose serials 1543 et 1545 were also LCT.

    Cee likes this.
  9. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    That's a good find and perhaps the way the Airborne engineers from the passenger liners got to the beach. I noticed also in that book a picture of a LCA still on davits with a few bikes stacked on the back deck. However, loading bicycles on a LCA alongside the ship while in the choppy sea would have been a challenge and could you put 30 or so on that small rear deck?

    LCA with bikes.jpg

    Regards ...

    Later: I'm a little slow, the word "serial" confused me. So that would be the number/code of the vessel that took them into the beach. LCT 1542 would have been assigned to LSI(L) Monowai according to Lt. Peter Priors account. Great find!

    From the Wikipedia:

    "From June 1943 to February 1944 she (Monowai) was refitted with completely different armament, capacity for up to 1,800 fully equipped troops, and 20 Assault Landing Craft. She was used during the Normandy landings."

    PRADELLES Well-Known Member

    Another information to confirm that ? (hard for me to translate "had to lie")

    "We ploughed back to the Monowai and had to lie off as further troops were being taken off the ship by the LCTs which had returned from the beach and could put larger numbers of reinforcements ashore."

    Cee likes this.
  11. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Just an excellent account. Terrible losses there with only 4 of the 12 LCAs in his flotilla returning. To "lie off" would mean the LCAs waited at a distance from the Monowai until the LCTs had loaded their men and cleared off. Sergeant Frederick Turner doesn't recount going in a second time. The Duke of Wellington and Isle of Guernsey being smaller ships only carried 6 LCAs each.

    Regards ...
    brithm likes this.

    PRADELLES Well-Known Member

    I think :
    556th Flotilla (12 LCAs) -> Queens Own Rifles
    557th Flotilla (12 LCAs) -> La Chaudière Regiment

    PRADELLES Well-Known Member

  14. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    Good map Xavier. Here are a few oblique aerials of Courseulles blown up a bit so not the best, also from 1943.

    Box-0078-16-August-1943-3068.jpg Box-0078-16-August-1943-3069.jpg Box-0078-16-August-1943-3070.jpg

    Regards ...
    brithm likes this.

    PRADELLES Well-Known Member

  16. Nice find Xavier!

    The total War Establishment (according to WE I/186/1) for 249 Fd Coy RE (Airborne) was 241 Personnel, 38 vehicles and 14 Solo Motorcycles.

    The plan as of 13 March 1944 for 249 Fd Coy RE (Airborne) non-airborne units was as follows:
    Source: Unit Staff Table - 1 Corps Tps - 249 Fd Coy RE (Airborne)


    1st 6 Airborne BULFORD BULFORD 208 32 9 Cars 5 cwt loaded with D Tide 1
    Div with trailers 10 cwt 4
    Cars 5 cwt 4
    Trailers, Compressor 3
    Trailers, binned store 1
    Trucks 15 cwt GS 2
    Trucks 15 cwt compressor 1
    TOTAL 15

    2nd 2 Trucks 15 cwt water 1 D+1 Tide 4
    TOTAL 1

    3rd 4 Lorries 3 ton 2 D+2 Tides 5/6
    TOTAL 2

    Last 15 6 Lorries 3 ton 2 D+6
    Lorries Winch 1
    Cars 5 cwt 3
    Trailers Binned Store 3
    TOTAL 9

    However, by 2 May the numbers of personnel and vehicules in the first "portion of unit", to be landed D Tide 1, had slightly changed to the following:
    Source: Landing Tables for D day 1st Tide dated 2 May 44, including Amendment 4 dated 10 May 44

    Marching party:
    Ferry Service from LSI, to be landed on NAN Sector by LCA as available
    Serial 1542 - 100 marching personnel with 100 Bicycles Folding, from LSI J30 (LSI(L) SS MONOWAI) loading Southampton 38 Berth starting 1800 hours D-4.
    Serial 1543 - 60 marching personnel with 60 Bicycles Folding, from LSI J32 (LSI(H) HMS DUKE OF WELLINGTON) loading Southampton 38 Berth starting 1700 hours D-3.
    Serial 1545 - 40 marching personnel, from LSI J33 (LSI(H) SS ISLE OF GUERNSEY) loading Southampton 38 Berth starting 0900 hours D-3.

    Vehicle party:
    Serial 1552 (LST II) loading Southampton S One Hard (Outside) starting 1600 D-3, to be landed on NAN WHITE Beach at H+4 to H+7
    38 personnel with (all on Main Deck):
    1x 15 cwt GS
    4x Cars 5 cwt
    4x Trailers Airborne
    4x Cars 5 cwt
    1x 15 cwt Compressor
    18x MCs
    Note: this is 1x 15 cwt GS and 2 men less than in the 13 Apr edition of the Landing Table. The remaining 15 cwt GS has been moved from the Tank Deck to the Main Deck.

    Serials 1542, 1543 & 1545 were planned to be landed by "LCA as available" employed in the Ferry Service, i.e. LCA returning to (preferably) their LSI after landing the assault waves, but because of the heavy losses in LCA and the higher capacity of LCT, the Ferry Service used many LCT, and perhaps also LCI(L), in lieu of LCA. This is why Serial 1542 was landed by an LCT and not by LCA as planned. Another example is LCT(A) 2014 which was used as Ferry Service from LSI J36 (LSI(L) HMCS PRINCE DAVID) after she returned from the beach, and thus carried Serial 1546, instead of the planned LCA:
    View attachment 140279
    View attachment 140280

    Serial 1552 was HM LST hull number 160 of 4 LST Flotilla, already mentioned in Xavier's opening post. Unfortunately I do not know the hull number of the LCT which landed Serial 1542, nor which craft landed Serial 1543 & 1545.

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    PRADELLES Well-Known Member


    Thank you a lot for your help.

    I have found in the 6th Airborne Division operation instructions no. 1, part 2 (http://www.paradata.org.uk/media/852?mediaSection=Operation+instructions
    pages 18 and 19), predictions below :

    DDAY - 16 vehicles for NAN - 212 men (another prediction for the first part)
    D+1 - 1 vehicle for QUEEN - 2 men
    D+2 - 2 vehicles for QUEEN/ROGER - 8 men
    D+6 - 9 vehicles for QUEEN/ROGER - 20 men


    PRADELLES Well-Known Member

    Hey Michel,

    Two questions :

    Do you have any information(serial number, ship, hour of landing...) about the landings off the coy on D+1, D+2 and D+6 ?

    The number of personnel of the 249th between the Total War Establishment (241) and the Unit Staff Table (261) isn't the same. And, if we added at the Unit Staff Table's number, the number of personnel who landed by glider for TONGA (58), the total personnel for the coy is 319.
    Does anybody knows the reason of that ?

  19. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    I don't know if the total numbers for an Airborne Field Company RE differed from that of the regular army which can be viewed here:


    According to that there were 247 men total plus 9 cooks (ACC). Perhaps whoever wrote the Operations Instructions (and other lists) had the entire Company coming in by sea and neglected to subtract the men of 2 Platoon which took part in Operation Tonga. Although that seems like a pretty big miscalculation to make. Just looking at the numbers above provided by Michel there were said to be 238 men coming in by sea.

    Regards ...

    PRADELLES Well-Known Member

    Hey Cee,

    You can see below extracts of the war diary of the 249th about his strength :

    5 Feb 1944 : 251
    25 March 1944 : 251
    8 April : 247
    24 June : 195


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