Longues Sur Mer - gun emplacement explosion - fact check

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by chingoo, Mar 26, 2018.

  1. chingoo

    chingoo Active Member

    Hi all,

    whilst working on my long running research project about 109 (Royal Sussex) LAA RA, I came across some info about a Captain receiving an MBE.

    The official write up for the incident leading to the award is as follows:

    "On the 6th July 1944, Captain Mitchell was in command of two guns of a light anti-aircraft battery sited on top of an old German coastal gun emplacement near Bayeux in Normandy.

    A fire broke out inside the gun emplacement and Captain Mitchell immediately took charge of the situation, although he knew there was a considerable quantity of ammunition stored below in the magazine which might explode at any moment. The fire spread to the gun pits but this officer succeeded in removing the 40mm ammunition from the loaded guns and other rounds from the pits, in spite of exploding small arms ammunition. Just after the gun pits had been cleared there was a tremendous explosion inside the fort, the back of which was blown out and the sides shattered, causing some casualties."

    I know that 109 (Royal Sussex), 358 battery were located at the airfield (B.11) which was situated i the fields next to Longues Sur Mer emplacements and would have been there at the time of the explosion, but the citation does not specifically say that it was here. I have also found other accounts about the damaging of the Longues Sur Mer emplacement from other sources:

    "The first gun was severely damaged. Not by gun or bombs but by the RAF at the nearby airfield stored munitions in here and an accident blew it up".

    "The heaviest damage was caused by the explosion of the ammunition for an AA gun, mounted by the British on the roof of the casemate No. 4, which killed several soldiers".

    I have visited Longues Sur Mer several times and never knew of this incident, and was told that that the damage was caused on D-Day due to off-shore artillery bombardments that had blown the ammo stores. Does anyone know of this incident and can confirm whether the MBE citation is indeed relating to the Longues Sur Mer battery or whether it is unrelated and is talking about another emplacement in Normandy.

    Many thanks,

    CL1 likes this.
  2. chingoo

    chingoo Active Member

    I think I've just answered my own question:

    "On the night before D-day, Bomber Command dropped 1,500 tons of bombs onto the site, most falling on the village nearby. On D-day when the allied attack began at dawn, the three serviceable guns here began to fire at the Allied fleet. Two British ships the Bulolo and the Ajax brought their 6 inch guns into action, firing over 100 rounds at the battery. Within twenty minutes the battery was silenced, two of the guns damaged, HMS Ajax claiming the prize. Later in the afternoon the third gun fired on the French Cruiser Georges Leyques and a duel followed. The guns were then silenced and the battery was taken by the 231st brigade the next day, over 180 prisoners being taken. It was estimated that the battery fired over 150 rounds at the fleet, doing no damage. The problem for the battery was that the bombing had destroyed the telephone cables linking the observation tower with the gun emplacements. They had a back up system of signal flags but the smoke from the guns made them impossible to see. The gun crews finally took their own visual sightings and used the traditional technique of "creeping fire" Not one Allied ship was damaged by these guns, the crews had not received adequate training, firstly because of lack of ammunition and also lack of time. They had spent many hours working for the Todt organisation finishing off the Casemates. Four hundred meters to the east is the site of the advanced RAF Airstrip B11 that was used from June 21st until the 4th of September. 125 Wing operated from here and included several foreign pilots including the French Ace Pierre Closterman who had 33 kills to his name. The first Casemate you see as you enter the site is badly damaged. This was not due to action on D-day but later when the site was used as a storage facility for the RAF site. The ammunition exploded killing four servicemen. The gun and its barrel can be seen in front of the Casemate."
    CL1 likes this.
  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Longues-sur-Mer (B.11)
    Inside the former German bunker they stored the ammunition for the airfield.
    An explosion in this makeshift magazine caused the deaths of four soldiers.
    The violence of this explosion was so great it led to the total destruction of a blockhouse built by the Germans and a twisted gun barrel in front of the casemate.

    Interesting to see that Wiki does not verify its details on its own sites - Ooooops :

    Longues-sur-Mer battery
    "The heaviest damage was caused by the explosion of the ammunition for an AA gun, mounted by the British on the roof of casemate No.4, which killed several British soldiers.[5]"

    Longues-sur-Mer battery - Wikipedia
    "The heaviest damage was caused by the explosion of the ammunition for an AA gun, mounted by the Germans on the roof of casemate No.4, which killed several German soldiers.[5]"

  4. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    I'm not sure of the reference but I've seen an aerial photo of the Longues Battery taken just after D Day and the thing that struck me is that the Gun Emplacements and the cliff-top Control Bunker appear intact even though surrounded by 100s of bomb craters. I could be wrong for various reasons but might be something worth you researching?
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    Germans bunkers were cleverly built on a reinforced concrete "raft" that resisted the blast from near misses that might have overturned bunkers of an inferior design.
  6. DannyM

    DannyM Member

    Between the 12th and 17th June 1944 a team carried out a survey of various batteries that had been bombed/shelled prior to the landings. Below is the section on the Longues battery.

    Here is a link to some footage of the battery. I believe this was taken at the same time as the survey and ties in with some photos that I have seen that were taken at that time.

    The ground footage starts at 3.20 mins in.



    Longues. Map ref. 797871.

    Target bombed H Br - 40 mins. to H Br + 10 mins. and CT - 1 hour, day and fight, heavy bombers, with 500 lb. and 1,000 lb. fuzed .025 sec. delay.

    The target was a four gun (150 mm.) battery in R.C. emplacements type C, a more elaborate emplacement than any of those seen elsewhere.

    The most easterly emplacement had a near miss on the S.W. corner. The bomb (500 lb.) exploded almost in contact with the wall mining the foundations. Three other 500 lb. craters were seen within 30 feet of the North side, but no serious damage was done to the emplacement. The gun breech had been damaged by a demolition charge.

    The next emplacement to the west had two direct hits on the roof from 500 lb, bombs, and two very near misses from 1000 lb. bombs. One of the 500 lb. the N.W corner produced a crater 12 feet diam. by 4 feet deep, the other striking the S. W. corner produced a crater 15 feet diam. and spalled through into the shell store below. The shell store was wrecked. Both 1000 lb. bombs exploded almost in contact with the wall and undermined the foundations, one, striking immediately in front of the embrasure lifted the gun platform and cracked it round the edge. The floor was cracked through from front to rear of the emplacement. The second 1000 lb. bomb, striking half-way along the east wall, probably accounted for some of the damage This gun received a direct hit from a shell and was out of action.

    The third emplacement was surrounded by bomb craters. The edge of a 1000 lb. bomb crater touched the NE wall, a 500 lb, crater stood 10 feet away from the N.W. corner, and a second 1000 lb. crater bared the foundations of the S. corner of the emplacement. Debris had obscured the embrasure and some attempt had been made to clear it,

    The piece received a direct hit from a Naval shell and was put out of action.

    The fourth emplacement had only just been completed. The 11 inch earth cover on the roof had not been put on. This emplacement was outside the main area of bomb strikes and it and the gun were quite undamaged.

    The auxiliary buildings behind the battery, i.e. living quarters, magazines, trenches, etc. , had not been completed but such as were in existence at the time of the attack had been badly hit and almost completely obliterated.
    Tolbooth likes this.
  7. SDP

    SDP Incurable Cometoholic

    These are the photos I mentioned in post #4
    Not sure where the web site themselves sourced the photos.

    The Control Bunker is very cleverly located and has direct views over both Omaha and Gold Beaches. A great pity that it has now been 'modified' to allow easier tourist access although it still allows for that Pluskatt moment (hope I've spelled his name correctly: reference the film 'The Longest Day').

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