Accounts of Juno Beach, D-Day

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Drew5233, Mar 2, 2009.

  1. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Some more personal accounts from D-Day from ATB.
  2. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    My recce patrol consists of the eight-wheeler armoured car under command of Hans Krapf and another under Heinz Dahmann. Both are experienced armoured recce commanders who have served in Russia. I give my men a quick briefing on our intentions and orders and on intercommunication en route. It has already got a bit lighter and the visibility is over 100 metres now. Since our target area – Bayeux and Courseulles – is some 80km away, I am choosing the quickest route through Brogile and Lisieux to Caen. We are now helped by our knowledge of roads gained from our recce and training exercises over the last few months. After an hour, we are moving through Lisieux.

    Off we go now on the Route Nationale to Caen. Visibility has improved and the sun should soon be penetrating the fog and clouds. My eyes are watering from the cold damp morning mist. We are distinctly meeting more Wehrmact transport so the road is clear. We soon reach Caen. At the entrance to the town, there is a busy to-ing and fro-ing of transport of every description. Wehrmact units at platoon strength have taken up their positions. A Leutnant asks us where we have come from and if we have had any contact with the enemy. He is willing to take me to his commander a few streets to the north. At the same time, he draws my attention to the sounds of battle and reports that enemy parachutists have attacked the Orne bridges some 10km to the north and that fighting is taking place. I can now understand the great activity on the roads and the massing of infantry on the edges of town. They are Panzergrenadiers of the 21. Panzer-Division. A Hauptmann in this defence company asks where I am from and informs me that strong British airborne units have landed on both sides of the Orne estuary and that the bridges are in all probability in enemy hands, since there is no longer any telephone connection with Ranville. The sounds of battle, which can be clearly heard, will be coming from there. Even as we talk, fighter-bombers are attacking, shooting up the town at random. Panic-stricken French civilians are deserting their houses and thronging out of town.

    We drive through the centre of Caen to the western exit. It’s the same picture here: the streets are almost jammed, particularly with anti-aircraft troops with or without vehicles. They come from the direction of the airfield to the left of the road. A thick pall of smoke drifts off to the south east, presumably from a successful hit by the fighter-bombers. If I could have done with a bit more light, even some sun earlier on, I would now welcome even more of this mist which is blowing over from the coast on the right of the road. It’s a good thing, however, that the Bayeux road, which is almost as straight as a die, is lined with trees and that there are leafy plots surrounding the villages lying on the road.

    Another 20km and we will have reached our destination – Bayeux. Because of the heavy traffic coming towards us, no Tommies could have landed here, so we step on it at 80 kph. Civilians are running from the first houses lining the road. Elderly soldiers, who could have been our fathers, stand by the gardens fences and chat with the locals. The nearer we get to the centre of the town, the market square, the denser grows this mass of humanity: baggage trucks, Kubelwagon cars, motorbikes, uniforms of every branch of service – only the Kreigsmarine is missing. A detachment of military police is trying to create some order. I want to get to the Stadtkommandant, but it’s no use. Then I hear artillery has already been pounding Bayeux. If the fighter-bombers get here too, all hell will be let loose.

    A Feldwebel tells me that there is heavy fighting in the bay of Arromanches and that the Englanders have been off loaded on the coast by hundreds of ships. Judging by the sounds of battle, things must really be hotting up there, for you can distinctly hear the crump of the artillery. We must see this! So these are not just airborne landings, but seaborne landings as well!

    I brief SS-Unterscharfuhrer Dahmann that we are avoiding roads from now on and only driving along terrain which is under cover. North of the town, the country rises gently with pastureland and farmsteads.

    As we proceed, keeping our eyes open and watching both sides, to the little village of St Sulpice, we can see spouts of earth and burning houses in the direction of the coast at Tracy. As yet I can’t see anything of the sea. We have to go about another 1000 metres before we reach the ridge. We drive dead slowly, keeping to the stone walls and the hedges, until we reach the high ground (about 50 metres) of Magny-en-Bessin, just a farmhouse with trees and a barn. A view opens up here over the bay of Arromanches. Our armoured cars keep to the reverse slope and, thanks to the good camouflage which Hans Krapf and Heinz Dahmann draped round our vehicles like leafy bushes back at the exit from Bayeux; we can stand up and look down on the great unknown, the improbable, the incomprehensible. What sort of grey expanse is this, stretching out in front of us? I have once more to orientate myself; there, on the left, to the west, is the steep cliff of the bay of Arromanches, and there is the heaviest artillery fire. Spouts of earth as high as houses, spring up and then die down. To the east, a seemingly endless dark grey expanse – the sea – and, equally endless, the horizon, only rather lighter in colour than the sea.

    I look through my binoculars and now I can pick out the outlines of individual ships. Next to one another, behind one another, reaching to the horizon: ships – ships, masts, command bridges. From behind them, lightning spots lit up at irregular ranges and from different places – naval artillery! Between the beach and the dark armada in front of us lies the dark grey sea, and in these dark expanses of water all the way from the steep coast of Arromanches to the horizon east of the Orne mouth, white lines are advancing from the endless bank of ships – coming towards us! They are fast boats with high white foaming bow waves, landing craft which then spew out brown globules of soldiers on to the beach. I can also see white fountains of water spraying up among the landing ships too, presumably from our own coastal batteries. Then, I hear the distant splutter of German MG42 machine guns. So our coastal defences have not yet been entirely overrun!

    SS – Unterscharfuhrer Dahmann points out to me some brown shapes slowly crawling through the sand dunes. They are wearing flat steel helmets, so they must be British! Groups of men in platoon strength, even whole companies, are advancing towards us through the dunes, apparently meeting no resistance. They are still a good 3000 metres away from us, only recognisable through binoculars. Some houses are alight in Arromanches; the smoke drifts over us and from time to time screens the whole bay.
    Then I spot tanks – one, two, three of them, a whole bunch oddly shaped. They come from the bay; follow the coast road up to us, and then branch off to the east, zigzagging through the dunes, firing without stopping to aim. Presumably they are neutralising individual resistance nests. I can, however, clearly make out long blades on the tanks which they bulldoze in front of them. Are they intended for the construction of an immediate coast road or for digging out mines? Imperturbably, other tanks emerge straight from the sea. Is this really happening? At first, all you see are the turrets and then the whole tanks emerge like dinosaurs from the primordial deeps. And no one seems to hinder them. Aren’t there any 8.8cm flak guns there? Well, no, for fighter-bombers attack the reverse slope of the coastal cliff with impunity. They unload their rockets on the concrete walls of the defence installations.

    I take another look at our lightly armoured scout cars, are they camouflaged enough? For, if we are spotted, they will cut us to pieces. Even our Tiger tanks are powerless against these ‘bluebottles.’

    But now my report has to be got through quickly! Division must know as soon as possible what’s going on here! This must be the invasion! What else can it be? Soon there will be more ships than water! But who will believe this, if he hasn’t seen it himself?

    So let’s make a cool count...and where exactly are we? ‘0745 hours, bay of Arromanches, my own position 3 kilometres south of Magny. (Then I count, between two degrees of my binoculars, the ships, about 50x8 =400.) Over 400 ships, with a wall of barrage balloons, stretching over a 30-kilometre length of coast east as far as the mouth of the River Orne. British are putting ashore troops and heavy equipment continuously and unimpeded. Have observed 11 heavy tanks. Coastal defences neutralised and overrun. Infantry to battalion strength advancing south towards Bayeux. Enemy naval artillery firing on Bayeux and its approach roads. Fighter-bombers attacking resistance nests in the coast cliff. Am making further recce in direction of Creully. Ende.’

    Suddenly, the ground rocks all around us, almost without warning – a slurping sort of noise as if bombs were falling, but then we haven’t seen a plane. Then I realise it is the naval artillery. Tremendous explosions: whole mounds of earth fly through the air and rain down over a radius of several hundred metres. We lie down on the ground and would like to get back into our steel tubs, which at least keep the splinters off. But the side hatches are closed; I half get up, knock on the plating, and shout – but the gunner, driver and radio operator just don’t understand that we want to climb in from underneath and not through the turret through which we got out, since the pressure waves from the explosions alone would blow us off. And then, finally, they get the message. The eight-wheeler weaves to the right and left, lumps of earth splatter against the armour and, as long as we still hear that, all is well, since, if it were a direct hit, we would no longer hear anything!

    I am just wondering how they could have seen us. This good camouflage, this far away – even the advancing Tommies, two kilometres away, can hardly have seen us. If so, the tanks would certainly have immediately opened up on us. Or has somebody ratted on us from a nearby farmhouse? But then they wouldn’t have ordered this hellish fire down on themselves, would they? I press my forehead against the narrow observation slit: nothing stirring in the farmhouse. The roof looks pretty odd: pockmarked, yet still with a few tiles on roof supports. Then it’s all quiet again apart from distance sounds of battle on the coast. The cows that were grazing separately near us now huddle together in a corner some way off.

    We leave our positions one by one and drive along the edges of the fields and hedgerows eastwards past Ryes and Bazenville in the direction of Creully. In Creully, houses are burning and enemy artillery is shooting it up. I halt once or twice to make observations and establish that despite the murky weather conditions and the smoky atmosphere along the coast road, the broad sandy beach to the west of Courseulles is clearly visible from time to time. Along the full extent of the coastline, for some 20 kilometres, the bright bow-waves from the fast landing craft are hitting the beach ceaselessly. Hundreds of craft lie beached in shallow waters and are offloading; trucks just take off into the sea and wade ashore.

    In Creully, our own artillery must be in position ‘plastering’ that section of the coast. Their hits in the water and on land are clearly very effective: the beach is bursting with much equipment and the Tommies try to reach the first houses on the beach as quickly as possible. Whole bundles of men at company strength are massed round some of the houses: the frontline must still be holding here. But tanks are already driving on the coast road and the stubby shape of a Sherman makes it quickly identifiable as an enemy tank.
    Heavy enemy artillery is systematically churning up the inshore area, the roads leading up this height to Caen. And then there are the Jabos, the fighter-bombers; despite the low clouds, they dart in at lightning speed and blaze away into the village of Creully from the south. We nudge our way from cover to cover, ready for any enemy patrol which might be a target for our guns.

    In these few hours, I have already seen how a wave of 10,000 soldiers has rolled ashore; and every second fresh ships are landing, bearing soldiers like ants.

    Back to Division. I must make a personal report to the commander. Otherwise no one will believe this. And whoever still has doubts then, will have to go and see for himself. But in a few hours’ time, they shan’t be able to stand on this spot anymore, since British tanks will be rumbling around here!

    SS-Obersturmfuhrer Peter Hansmann

    Chef de Panzerspahkompanie

    SS-Aufklarungs-Abteilung 12, 12. SS-Panzer-Division
  3. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    More by accident than by design, I found myself the leading tank. On my way in, I was surprised to see a friend – a midget submarine who had been waiting for us for 48 hours. He waved me right onto my target and then made a half-turn to go back. I remember him very distinctly standing up through his conning hatch, joining his hands together in a sign of good luck. I answered the old, familiar Army sign- To you too, bud!

    I was the first tank coming ashore and the Germans started opening up with machine gun bullets. But then we came to a halt on the beach, it was only then that they realised we were a tank when we pulled down our canvas skirt, the floatation gear. Then they saw that we were Sherman’s. It was quite amazing. I still remember very vividly some of the machine gunners standing up in their posts looking at us with their mouths wide open. To see tanks coming out of the water shook them rigid.

    My target was on the seafront. A 75mm which was in a position of enfilade fire along the beach like all guns. The houses along the beach were all full of machine gunners and so were the sand dunes. But the angle of the blockhouse stopped them firing on me. So I took the tank up to the emplacement, very close and destroyed the gun by almost firing at point-blank range.

    We ended up in a narrow street and there was one of those funny looking trucks with a charcoal burner on the running board. I couldn’t get my tank by, and I saw two Frenchmen and a French woman standing in a doorway, looking at us. So I took my ear phones off and told them in good Quebec French: ‘Now will you please move that truck out of the way so I can get by?’ They must have been frightened because they wouldn’t budge. So then I called them everything I could think of in the military vocabulary. They were amazed to hear a Tommy – they thought we were Tommies – Speak French with the old Norman dialect!

    Sergeant Leo Gariepy
    B Squadron, Canadian 6th Armoured Regiment
  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    If you are familiar with the area, the sharp bend in the wall, with the pill-box, was on our right front. My section was first from the LCA, and we were slaughtered.

    For some peculiar reason, as we approached the beach, our craft did an about turn, making a large loop, then came in for the landing. How long? Who can say, but the defences were manned as our craft grounded. Our support craft were knocked out so we had no heavy weapons. The DD tanks had not come ashore. My platoon, approximately 36 strong, went through what we believe was enfilade fire from five machine guns.

    We landed in our proper area, but no specialised gear reached the wall. All our assault engineers were killed in action. We were still in the water when the section was cut down. Most of us deflated the Mae Wests we were wearing, and possibly those that died had drowned. I was a Lance-Jack, Bren crew, loaded with around a total of 300 rounds, plus 36 Mills grenades. The sea was red. One lad was hit in the smoke bomb he was carrying. Another, a human torch, had the presence of mind to head back into the water. Our flame thrower man was hit and exploded, and we couldn’t even find his body.

    Rolph Jackson
    10 Platoon, D Company
    The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    When the Brigadier ‘Jumbo’ Leicester [the OC of 4th Special Service Brigade], had finished, I [Lieutenant-Colonel James Moulton] took over and described my plan. As we should not be under fire when we landed, and as our transport would not be available for the first day, we would land carry a fairly heavy load of ammunition and explosives. We could dump this at St. Aubin and then, lightly equipped, would move down a road parallel to the shore to Langrune. This would be our firm base, and from it we would tackle the coast defences from the rear.

    As we closed the beach, Lieutenant-Commander G. C. L. Timmermans [commanding the LCI’s carrying the Commando’s] and I tried to pick up the beach signs and beach parties. The beach seemed confused and they were difficult to spot, but it was clear that there were a lot of people there, and we could see some signs of work on the beach exit, to the right of the houses. Now we were very close. No one seemed to be shooting at us. It was probably all right. Our motion checked sharply, and Timmermans swore as we hung rolling on the beach obstacle we had fouled; then a wave caught our stern, swung us, and carried us forward to the beach at a bad angle and rolling. As we struck the obstacle, the enemy opened fire with mortars and machine guns from the esplanade, a little more than a hundred yards away. The sailors replied with crashing bursts of Oerlikon fire.

    I looked around and saw the other landing craft of the squadron in confusion. Our craft and the three next to us on our left had got through to the beach reasonably close in; further left, the other two were hung up on beach obstacles, helpless and well out from the beach. In the noise and confusion, I realised that the enemy were firing at us and men were being hit. No question now of our smoke upsetting the Canadians’ battle or interfering with the work on the beach – that had all to clearly gone very wrong – and I looked for the mortar men to fire smoke. Thinking that they would not be wanted when we were not fired at on the way in, they had dismounted their mortars and gone forward ready to land. I shouted to them, realised that my voice was powerless against the noise, jumped down from the bridge on the port side and ran forward a few paces to grab one of them by the arm. He looked around, saw me, said something I could not hear, then ran back to the sandbags and started to mount his mortar. Someone had done the same on the starboard side. Back on the bridge, I realised with a sinking heart that the Commando was meeting something like disaster. Then the mortars popped, and seconds later, hissing out of the sky on to the esplanade to windward, came the blessed smoke bombs. The other craft, seeing our smoke, joined in with theirs, and in a minute or two we were in dense white smoke, and the Germans were firing blind.

    My adjutant, Captain Dan Flunder, had gone forwards to see that there was no delay in landing. When the craft checked on the obstacle and seemed to beach, he and some of Headquarters and Signals helped the sailors to get the first brow out, then started down it. As he led the way, the wave hit the stern, the craft rolled, and the brow, jolted from its rollers, threw him and the others into the sea.

    A squadron of tank landing craft wallowed in to an untidy beach, hampered by the beach obstacles and our stranded craft. Their steel hulls were less vulnerable to the obstacles than those of our wooden craft, but the beach was getting very congested now, and they seemed to have trouble in beaching. The tanks came out blindly and bogged down in the shingle. Flunder saw one run over some wounded men lying in its path, shouted to it to stop, then, as it paid no attention, deliberately broke one of its tracks with an anti-tank grenade. Other tanks began to burn, with their smoky yellow flames. For the moment we could see no more of our men, so we went back through the taped exit and on to the assembly area: again the contrast from the din and confusion of the beach.

    What had gone wrong? First and foremost, the much vaunted pre H-Hour bombardment was, on our beach, almost completely ineffective. A few days later, I walked around St. Aubin and the strong point which had done the damage; I counted two, and only two, houses which had been hit by anything larger than light projectiles. This meant not only that the defenders, in their well-protected defences, were unharmed and unshaken; but that the Canadians, once ashore, found it exceedingly slow and costly business to get into the esplanade strong point; and did not do so until that evening. We were soon to have similar difficulties. The time allowed for the Canadians to silence the beach defences, before we landed in un-armoured craft, was very short, and in these circumstances quite impossible. We realised this from the first and never had any inclination to blame the Canadians for our bitter medicine.

    Secondly, the Landing Craft Infantry (Small) were quite unsuitable and unnecessarily dangerous for landing against beach or under fire. The gallant leading-seaman, who ferried ashore Z Troop in his assault landing craft, convincingly demonstrated that smaller, lightly armoured craft could negotiate the beach, in spite of its obstacles and fire, with success and without unreasonable risk. There were, it is true, not enough of these craft for everyone to have them; reserve brigades landed in the heavy, steel Landing Craft Infantry (Large). Neither type of landing craft should have been sent forward without first ensuring that the beach was reasonably clear of obstacles and aimed machine gun fire – as far as I know this was done for the larger craft. Any delay which might have been caused by holding back the small infantry landing craft, and if necessary deflecting them or ferrying from them, would in our case have been more than compensated for by our added effectiveness once ashore.

    As we moved through the landward part of St. Aubin, we found the Canadians, with a few tanks, vainly trying to fight their way into the esplanade strong point. I saw Lieutenant-Colonel D. B. Buell [CO of the North Shore Regiment], stopped and exchanged a few words, and then we were out of the village and on our own. A Troop was leading as vanguard and I sent B Troop off, to start clearing the sea-front houses.

    On the far and inland side of Langrune, we found the strong old walled farmhouse and garden, which I had selected from the air photographs to hold as a firm base for our house – clearing operations. I ordered Z Troop to organise its defence and X Troop to start on their sector of house clearing. At some time about then, I sent an officer’s patrol to our junction point with No.41 (RM) Commando.

    Apart from this, B and X Troops had met nothing but snipers and patrols, which withdrew before their advance; a little later, B Troop rejoined us at the farm, Captain Jim Perry confident and in command of the situation. X Troop reported that it was held up, and then the new troop commander came in to report. Moving along the sea-front, he had reached the St. Aubin or west side of Langrune, but could make no further progress. I pressed him for more definite information about what was holding him up, but all he could say was that he was losing a lot of men to snipers. Feeling rather futile, I told him to keep on trying to hunt the snipers out of the houses; and then told Perry, whose confidence I found reassuring as X Troop Commander’s lack of it was depressing, to take B Troop and work down the road leading to the sea-front on the east side of the village, so getting behind whatever was holding up X Troop. I gave him one mortar, under Lieutenant Mike Aldworth of S Troop, who had now reached us from the beach, in case he met opposition.

    Soon, he reported that he was in contact with the enemy, and Dan Flunder and I went down to have a look. We walked through the back gardens, scrambling over walls and pushing our way through side doors, passed Aldworth starting to range his mortar, and came up with the men of B Troop. They were having a good many casualties from light mortar fire, we could see the tails of the bombs lying about, and I told them to keep inside the houses until they were wanted. At last, we reached a house where we were told Perry was, and were directed upstairs to find him in the loft. I started to haul myself up through the hatch, but my arm and shoulder felt very sore from mortar bomb splinters, so I stood with my head and shoulders in the hatch, talking to Jim. He said he could see right into a German post, and was quite confident he could capture it as soon as he had a fire plan arranged. I was glad to leave things in his confident hands, and went back to Commando Headquarters to see what other reports were coming in.

    B Troop started well, supported by the Centaurs, which I watched from a little way down the street. Then, having run out of ammunition, the first centaur came back; and the other, going forward to take its place struck a mine, lost a track and blocked the road. The handful of B Troop men dashed across the lateral road, and tried to get into the houses on the far side of the crossroads. They seemed unable to get in. I watched them crouch under the ten foot wall which blocked the street, and saw half a dozen stick grenades come over it and fall among them. Miraculously, it seemed, there was no casualties. Shortly afterwards, they came back into the houses on our side of the road. Much later, I was to hear that some of them had forced an entry and then fallen foul of anti-personnel mines. I should have had more men close up, ready to back up their momentary success.

    We were nearly back where we started, one Centaur less, and the road blocked to tanks. Worse, we now knew that the enemy had built and wired themselves into the block of houses they were holding. It seemed that, until we could knock something down, it was physically impossible to enter; while, by demolishing the last house on our side of the crossroads, they had given themselves a clear field of fire to prevent our close approach. While I was digesting these unpleasant facts; ‘Jumbo’ Leicester came up and told me to call off further attempts on what we now began to call the Langrune strong point, and to organise the rest of the village for defence; German armour was moving up towards the coast, and Langrune was on its axis.
    It was now getting dark. The patrol had come back from our junction point with No.41 Commando, reporting that they had seen nothing of 41, but had met no enemy either; so we seemed to be on our own. We ate some rations and went to defence stations for the night. I was in the farmer’s pleasant ground floor study; I put my automatic pistol and torch handy and tried to find a comfortable position on the floor to sleep without hurting my sore places.

    The problem of the strong point had now resolved itself into that of somehow forcing an entrance. As the Germans had so arranged things that they could shoot at us while we were doing so, it was not going to be simple for us, and could be very costly.

    The Brigadier came up and confirmed that we were free from the threat of counter-attack and that our job was to finish off the strong point. I realised our duty, both to the military world at large and to our own self-respect, to capture it ourselves and not to leave it to someone else; it would make a great deal of difference to the Commando’s future morale to finish the job – and we all, by now, had a personal score to settle. But the weakness: the strong point was beginning to seem impregnable; and it would be nice to stop and lick our wounds, without the prospect of more casualties, more danger and perhaps another failure. Jumbo Leicester’s matter-of-fact order was just what I needed, and I recognised not only its correctness, but the moral stiffening, which I needed, and which it gave me. I tried not to show all of this, as I acknowledged his order in what I hoped was an imperturbable way.

    The Brigadier also gave me some tanks to replace the Centaurs: Two Canadian M10’s and a troop commanders Sherman from the Royal Marine Armoured Support Regiment. It would be more correct to call both the newcomers and the Centaurs self-propelled guns. The M10’s were anti-tank guns on a tank chassis. The Centaurs were obsolescent tanks, which had been brought into the invasion operation to fire from tank landing craft, thus making them into improvised support craft to increase the volume of fire for the landings. This was the reason for the Marines manning them. It had been intended to de-engine them and leave them in the craft; but Monty heard about it, and very reasonably said that a tank was a tank and he might be short of them, so they must keep their engines and come ashore in case they were wanted. So Royal Armoured Corps drivers were added to their Royal Marine crews, and come ashore they did. They were a great help to us, but they could hardly be as good as a fully trained armoured unit, especially in this most difficult job for armour, street fighting.

    The tanks, for that is how we used them and how I shall continue to call them, could blow us a hole in the masonry and thus get us into the strong point, but we must first get them past the disabled Centaur. Luckily there was an open field on the far side of the road; it was mined, but we would use a Bangalore torpedo to cut a lane through the mines. A Bangalore torpedo is a metal pipe, filled with high explosive, primary intended to cut barbed wire, but also effective in detonating mines over which it exploded. We used some smoke; Lieutenant R. G. Mackenzie, with some of A Troop, rushed across the road behind the Centaur and into the field, placed the Bangalore torpedo, checked it’s placing and lit its fuse, then rushed back into the cover of the houses, and the Bangalore exploded with an almighty bang.

    Covered against possible anti-tank weapons by our men in houses, one of the M10’s went forward, swung clear of the Centaur, followed the line of the Bangalore past it, then swung back into the road. I watched, heart in mouth, fearing to see another mine go up under it; but nothing happened, and now it could blow us a hole in the masonry. It started to fire at the wall across the street. Yesterday, the Centaurs’ high-explosive shells had burst on the thick, concreted wall and hardly dented it; now’ the M10’s solid, high-velocity anti-tank projectiles went right through it.

    One thing we had to do was clear up the St. Aubin beach. It was a shocking sight. Many corpses, some of them badly dismembered, were lying among the rest of the debris of the assault; wrecked and burnt-out tanks; equipment and stores of every sort, scattered on the beach or drifted up along the water’s edge; wrecked landing craft broached-to on the beach or in the sea among the beach obstacles. Three of our landing craft were still there, wrecked and abandoned; I never heard what the squadrons casualties were in men. Among all this, several French women were walking about, picking up what tinned food they could find – incredibly they had small children with them, who gazed with indifferent curiosity on the shattered corpses, the broken equipment and the scattered tins of food.

    Skinner took charge of a burial party, set up a cemetery in a little garden near our assembly area, and buried, of ours, the Canadians and the sailors, about eighty. He hung the green berets won at Achnacarry on the rough wooden crosses of our men, and the French people brought flowers for the graves, which later we were to find renewed whenever we revisited the cemetery. It was our first burial party, and they must have been glad when it was over; but the seemly burial of the dead had a noticeably good effect on morale.

    Lieutenant-Colonel James Moulton

    CO 48 Royal Marine Commando
    Juno Beach

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