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45 Cdo Royal Marines - D Day

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Unit/ Formation: 45 Cdo RM

Location: France

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1944

Date/s: 6 June 1944

On the afternoon of the 5th June, preparing for the invasion, Lord 'Shimi' Lovat made this address to his commando brigade. First in English but then in French he said

” I wish you all the very best of luck in what lies ahead: this will be the greatest military venture of all time, and the Commando brigade has an important role to play. A hundred years from now your children’s children will say “they must have been giants in those days””

After this 45 Commando RM moved to Warsash at the entrance to the Solent where they embarked in five LCI(S)s, Landing Craft Infantry (Small).

At 1700 hours, they slipped anchor and formed up in the Solent, to take their place in a vast armada of craft destined for the Normandy beaches.

Captain H N Smith RAMC and Marine Bott watching the unit embark

The voyage through the night proved uneventful, though the sea was rough.

The secrecy over the Commandos' mission was finally broken, when the precise details of their landing beach were revealed; 0910 hours on "Queen Red" beach, two miles west of Ouistreham in Normandy.

45 Cdo (Lt Col N C Ries) landed alongside No 6 (Army) Cdo at H +90 near Le Breche on Sword Queen Beach which had been taken earlier by 8th Infantry Bde.

They pushed South and East across the Orne River and Caen Canal penetrating as far as Salanelles and the outskirts of Merville by dusk. [1]

Men of 45 Royal Marine Commando, attached to 3rd Infantry Division for the assault on Sword Beach, pass through Grand Rue, Colleville-sur-Orne, 10 Km NE from Caen, on their way to relieve forces at Pegasus Bridge. Normandy, France.

(IWM B 5067 colourised by @colour_history)

1 SS Bde was to push inland and contact the 6 Airborne Div who were holding the bridges across the CAEN CANAL and the R ORNE. 

By 1415 the Bde had reached the bridge over the CAEN CANAL and contacted the 6 Airborne.  Snipers were proving themselves a nuisance in this area and while 45 RM Cdo was between the two bridges LT.COL. RIES was wounded in the left leg by a sniper and MAJ GRAY took command of the Cdo. 

After crossing the R ORNE 45 RM Cdo now swung NORTH to its objective, to clear the enemy out of FRANCEVILLE-PLAGE and hold a defensive position to the EAST of the village. 

On entering SALLENELLES the Cdo came under fire from a strong point in the area of the SPIT 135773. 

As time was getting on the C.O. decided to by pass this position and push on to FRANCEVILLE.  Word was then received from Bde not to proceed further than MERVILLE but to dig in and consolidate for the night. [2]

News was now received that the Brigade was to come

under command of the Sixth Airborne Division, and that

the 5th Parachute Brigade had captured their objectives-

the bridges over the Orne and Caen canal-intact. The

Brigade Commander, Lord Lovat, therefore decided to pass

us over the bridges as soon as possible in order to link up

with the Airborne troops.

The men of the Airborne Division had been hard

pressed: there was no doubt about that. When, at a

quarter past twelve that afternoon we finally crossed the

bridges, we found them tired, grimy, but still cheery, after

twenty-four hours' continuous fighting.

It was an historic meeting. The first inkling they had

of our coming was the sound of Lord Lovat's piper playing

a lilting Highland march as we advanced to meet them.

They cheered us, a ragged cheer, broken with the wicked chatter of machine-gun fire in the distance: and then, quite suddenly, we found ourselves among them. The green berets mingled with the red.... Yes, it was a great moment; but we, for our part, had not got over the bridges without casualties. There had been a German sniper covering our particular bridge who had succeeded in picking off every alternate man with deadly accuracy. Machine-guns had harassed us from a flank, too. Our most serious casualty at the hands of this sniper was our Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel N. C. Ries, R.M., wounded in the thigh. He had to be evacuated, and we heard later that he was wounded a second time whilst lying on a stretcher on the beaches, waiting to be taken off to a ship. With the C.O. out of action our second-in-command, Major Nicol Gray, took over. His task was unenviable, since he had been thrust into command in the middle of a battle, with scant knowledge of how many men in the unit had survived the landing and the fighting so far. However, he proved more than equal to the task, and although we did not know it then, this was the man who was destined to lead us across Normandy, Holland, and Germany. 4 In the original landing plan, 45 Commando's first task after crossing the Orne was to capture a certain heavily defended gun battery at Merville-providing such a capture had not already been achieved by the 9th Parachute Bat- talion of the Airborne Division. We still did not know whether the gun enemy hands or not, for no word had be in om

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[3] COMMANDO MEN Bryan Samain

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