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41 CDO - Raid on Douvres Radar Station

Updated: Jun 4

The radar at Douvres-la-Délivrande was the primary Luftwaffe radar station in the area—a fortified position of twenty acres—having been built by the Todt Organisation comprising five radars with thirty concrete works.


Minefields, tunnels, bunkers, five 5 cm anti-tank guns, a 7.5 cm field gun, a number of mortars, twenty machine guns and a ring of barbed wire 20 ft (6.1 m) in height made up the defences.


At 11:00 p.m. on the night of 5/6 June 1944, the Allies launched intensive jamming of radar frequencies which blinded the German radar network from Cherbourg to Le Havre. On the morning of the 6th (D-Day) the antennae at Douvres-la-Délivrande were destroyed by Allied naval artillery bombardment.


The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, who had landed nearby on Juno Beach, isolated the station but the Germans defended it for twelve days, awaiting a counter-attack by 21st Panzer Division; on one occasion it was supplied with food by a nocturnal paradrop mission from Mont-de-Marsan [Wikipedia]


7th June 1944

Place: Lion Sur Mer

 

1105 - All quiet except for snipers and occasional shell fire up to 1105 hrs.  At that time 3 Heinkels with Spitfires on their tails suddenly swooped out of the clouds and dropped 3 sticks of anti personnel bombs one of which straddled H.Q. orchard killing the FOB Capt. P.C. Dixon R.A. and 2 men, and wounding the Commanding Officer, Lieut. Colonel T.M. Gray, R.M., the Chaplain, Rev. Caradoc Hughes, R.N. and 9 others.  Major J.A. Taplin, R.M. then took over command.

 

1330 - Commanding Officer 5th LINCS visited H.Q. and informed us that 9 Bde. had put 41 under his command whilst the battle continued in and around LION.

 

1415 - Brigadier 9 Bde. ordered attack on Chateau by Lincs.  41 moved up behind in reserve.  The attack went in at 1536 hrs from the S.E. and was successful.  There was one casualty in the Lincs. and 1 or 2 prisoners were taken; the remaining Germans having made good their escape previously.  41 Cdo. was then ordered to occupy the houses at the N.E. end of the Chateau while the Lincs prepared a further assault upon the Strongpoint in LION.

 

1730 - At 1730 hrs. however, Brigadier 9th Bde. changed his intention and ordered 41 to push on to LUC SUR MER.  Accordingly, the unit moved on and at 1820 hrs. contacted 46 R.M. Commando in LUC SUR MER who informed us that PETIT ENFER had been cleared by them that morning.  Major J.A. Taplin then reported to H.Q. 4 S.S. Bde. and was ordered to occupy LUC SUR MER for the night.

 

8th June 1944

Place: Lion Sur Mer

 

46 moves to LA DELIVERANDE and 41 takes up positions for local defence of LUC SUR MER and PETIT ENFER.  Throughout the day and night parties were out searching for snipers and French 5th Columnists.

 

9th June 1944

Place: La Deliverande

 

1500 - By 1500 hrs. move up to La Déliverande and occupy a defensive position by the cross roads 023802 and road at 033868 with 48 on our right and 46 completing the perimeter round Douvres and La Déliverande.

 

10th June 1944

1700 - Believe a battalion of the Black Watch in area wood 9980 who had been containing the enemy at the RADAR STATIONS in 0080 and 0081 which were still occupied as strong points by the enemy. 


Troop positions were as follows:- The triangle of wood 002813 'P' Tp., 001810 to end of wood 'A' Troop, end of wood to clearing 998806 'B' Troop.  Remaining troops were in reserve.  The policy to be followed was to patrol to both Radar Stations and to generally harass the enemy.  48. Cdo from their positions in Douvre were adopting the same policy facing the Radar Stations from the N.E.

 

11th June 1944

0215 - Patrols in from the Radar Stations give reports on depth of wire and possible approaches.  Voices etc. were heard in the South Radar Station.

 

1700 - 4 SS Bde. (47 and 48 Cdos) come under command 6 Airborne Div. and move over the river ORNE to take up fresh positions.  'S' Troop 41 Cdo. was detached under command 48 Cdo.  41 remaining to contain Radar Stations under command 1 Corps.  46 Cdo. come under command 3 Cdn. Div. and move up into the Canadian Sector.  'P' and 'X' Troop occupy the area vacated by 48 in Douvre 015803.  30 A.U. about 50 strong also move into Douvre this day.

 

11th and 12th June 1944

Patrols were out nightly to the Radar Stations.  C.S.M. O. O'Neill (10 I.A. Cdo) was particularly valuable in this work.  During daylight the Radar Stations were harassed by LMG fire, 2" Mortar, PIAT, Snipers etc and by the fire of the 2 Centaurs commanded by Capt. Cannier R.A. who came under command 41. 


On the morning of the 12th and because from patrol reports it seemed likely that the small Radar Station was unoccupied, it was decided that a fighting patrol commanded by Lieut. Stevens from A. Tp. should make an attempt to enter the small station and depending upon success occupy it. 


For this purpose support was provided by Corps in the shape of the 5th Assault Squadron R.E. and a plan was made in conjunction with Major Simpson C.R.E. as follows - At 0100 hrs. a gap was to be blown through the minefield and outer wire surrounding the station at about 005810. 


On completion of the blowing 6 Avre tanks would approach from the North to the edge of the minefield and engage concrete targets within.  On completion 'A' Troop about 20 strong we to enter and mop up.  It was directed by the Corps Commander, Lieut. General J.R. Crockett that should the station be occupied by the enemy, the patrol was to withdraw and not suffer unnecessary casualties.

 

13th June 1944

0100 - C.S.M. O'Neill and party commence to blow gap; this was successfully completed and at 0200 hrs. the Avres had moved up and were firing off their Petards.  On completion 'A' Tp. entered the outer wire and Lieut. Stevens with two men went forward to blow the inner wire, on the explosion of the Bangalore the enemy who up to the time had not fired a single shot opened up with M.G. and Machine Carbine fire from 4 directions.  A fire fight then went on for about a quarter of an hour, the enemy firing very wildly.

 

0300 - At about 0300 Lieut. Stevens withdrew his patrol as had been laid down.  No casualties were suffered.  The enemy retaliated on completion with Mortar and Shell fire.

 

14th June 1944

1700 - Lieut. Colonel E.C.E. Palmer, R.M. arrived from U.K. to take over command of Unit.  Unit continues to harass both stations.  Recce patrols out.

 

15th June 1944

0300 - Two parachute containers dropped by German aircraft over Radar stations; fell outside wire and were got in by 'P' Tp.  They contained - Spare breach blocks for PAK 38, SAA, Booby traps, instruments etc.

 

16th June 1944

Harass each station.  Commander 1 Corps orders an attack to be put in on both station on the following day. 


For this purpose 5th Assault Squadron R.E. and the 22nd Dragoons were attached to the Commando. 


The plan for the attack was devised as follows - 3 teams of flails should go forward to the main wire under cover of an artillery barrage lasting 1/2 hr. and should make 3 gaps through the wire and minefields at the following points 006803, 007802, 010801. 


The gaps having been made, the Avres were to move through inside the wire covered by fire from the flails and engage any targets presented.  After 10 minutes they were to lay smoke and lay hand placed charges on those targets unsuitable for their Petards. 


The Commando was then to follow in with 'B' Tp. on the right through 006803, 'P' Tp. through the centre 007802, 'X' Tp. through 010801 and to mop up, 'Y' was to be held in reserve.  A similar and smaller team of flails and Avres was to make a breach in the Northern Station at about 005811 and 'A' Tp. to follow in.  Zero hour was fixed for 1700 hrs. on the 17th.

 

17th June 1944

1400 - 'A' Tp. moves to FUP area orchard 003815.  B. X. and Y. to Douvre with FUPs in orchards facing the Radar Station in square 0180.

 

1630 - Barrage commences intense.

 

1700 - Flails commence clearing minefields.

 

1720 - Avres move up and into Radar Station.  Avres suffer two casualties (in tanks) and one flail.  According to plan, yet a little behind time, troops go in at about 1740.  By this time the enemy had been dazed, shocked or frightened into surrender and came out in large numbers with their hands up. 


The assault was similarly successful on the small station which was found to contain 38 Germans.  The bag in all was 5 Officers and 222 O.Rs.  'A' Tp. suffered the only casualty, 1 man wounded.  In all 44 tanks had taken part in the assault, all was over by 1830 hrs.  Our troops withdrew to the positions previously occupied in the wood.

 

18th June 1944

All quiet.


41 Cdo went on to take part in the rest of teh Battle of Normandy and later the battle of the Scheldt (November 1944). It then served on the Meuse (Maas) for the remainder of the war and then occupation duties in Germany. On 20 January 1946, 41 Commando was disbanded.


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References


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National Archives catalogue number ADM 202/103

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