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  • Writer's pictureSi Biggs

41 Cdo - Sword Beach - D Day

Unit/ Formation: 41 Cdo RM


Location: France


Period/ Conflict: World War II


Year: 1944


Date/s: 6 June 1944


The most experienced unit in the Brigade, 41 RM Commando, departed Southampton Water at 2130, 5 June, aboard five LCI(S)s to go ashore at Hermanville-sur-Mer and move west to Lion-Sur-Mer then link up with their fellow commandos at Luc-sur-Mer.


As the commandos came ashore they faced moderate fire, loosing several men including their RSM, Naval Forward Observation Officer, and second in command, Major Barclay, but once they cleared the immediate beach defences the commandos found themselves in a relatively quite sector. From their assembly area they marched down the coastal road toward Lion-sur-Mer joined by three AVREs. As P and Y troops approached the town a well-concealed German PaK 38 gun ambushed the tanks destroying all three and stalling the assault.


The commandos scurried for cover taking up positions on both sides of the road. Their location revealed, the Germans fired a dizzying mortar, rocket, and artillery bombardment, but the commandos were unable to respond as they had expended all their mortar bombs in the initial push on Lion.


Meanwhile A and B troops had been moving ahead on their second objective at the Chateau, but were pre-emptively attacked as they made their approach and were forced back towards their comrades. Facing overwhelming defences and artillery, the commandos dug in and awaited reinforcements.


At 1330 battalions of the Lincolnshire and Royal Ulster Rifles regiments came ashore then moved up to the Commando’s position bringing with them a replacement Naval Observation Officer. As soon as he arrived, the destroyers off shore began a one hour-long naval bombardment battering the strong point and chateau. Yet it was too late in the day for the commandos to launch an effective assault so as the sunset they dug in for the night. Through the darkness they observed German aircraft raking the beaches with fire and wondered how their comrades were fairing on the other beaches.


When dawn broke the German artillery fire began once again pinning the commandos and supporting infantry for another two hours. From over head came the awful drone of three approaching Heinkel bombers.


As a flight of Spitfires raced to intercept, the commandos looked up in horror as the Luftwaffe planes opened their bays and rained anti-personnel bombs directly on their position killing several men including their royal artillery observer and severely wounding their commanding officer, Lt Col Gray. Having already lost Major Barclay, command fell to the 23 year old Adjutant John Taplin. Under his command the Commando joined the Lincolns in the final assault on the strongpoint and chateau. Once the two units had defeated the position that had long frustrated their plans, 41 Commando moved out alone to Luc-sur-mer. Fortunately, they found the town undefended and dug in to wait for their comrades to join them from the Canadian beach. [1]



41 Cdo (Lt Col T M Gray) landed at H+90 near Luc-sur-Mare under heavy fire:


0845 - Touch down about 200 yards out to sea on Red Beach with our proper Beach, White, 300 yds. away on our left. Whilst still coming in, Lieut. Colonel Gray had foreseen this and did his best to get the craft to slew right on to the proper beach which was in fact drawing less fire than Red.


In the general confusion, however, his efforts were unsuccessful.


'P' Troop commanded by Captain B.J.B Sloley with a nucleus Advance H.Q. moved swiftly across to White Beach and within about 5 minutes were off the beach almost complete.


Within another 5 minutes a section of A. Troop with Captain C.N.P. Powell, DSO, Troop Commander had followed. Lieut. Colonel Gray then decided to move this body up to the first lateral and to find a more suitable spot for assembly.


41 Cdo took part in the capture of Douvres Radar Station on 17 June. It later took part in the battle of the Scheldt in 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

Related RM 'Dits'

References


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National Archives catalogue number ADM 202/103

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