Unit/ Formation: 46 Cdo RM
Period/ Conflict: World War II
Date/s: 8 July 1944
8th July 1944
No enemy activity during the day. By night, a recce patrol was sent forward to examine the obstacles in front of enemy FDLs at 141772. The patrol went out at 2000 hrs and returned about 2330 hrs with the information required.
Task To answer the following questions:-
(i) Is there any wire fwd of enemy's FDLs along line of hedgerow 142770 - 141772?
(ii) If so, what type and thickness of wire - is it a Bangalore task.
(iii) Distance of obstacle from line of FDLs.
(iv) Are there any indications of mines - in the wire, or fwd, or in rear of it?
(v) What is the best route for a small raiding party up to line of FDLs.
Time out 2245 hrs
Time back By 0200 hrs.
Strength of Patrol
1 and 2, with covering support of one LMG group (A Tp 46 (RM) Cdo).
Own FDLs to bridge 136767 along gulley to NORTH, EAST through orchard to hedge/track junc 138769. Thence fwd on own initiative.
In view of light being bad at 2245 hrs, permission was obtained to move out at 2000 hrs in order to study ground by daylight.
Patrol moved along route detailed to hedge/track junc 138769 where LMG group was dropped off, with one TSMG each NORTH and SOUTH of pt 138769 in track. LMG was placed of gate in hedgerow running EAST of pt 138769.
Recce Party (1 and 2) moved up the line of hedgerow running NE from pt 138769. Care was taken NOT to move along the hedgerow itself, but about 20 yds inside the orchard, crawling from one clump of nettles and weeds to the next: frequent pauses for observation. Corner of hedgerow 139770 was made without incident at 2115 hrs - a rifleman was left here in ditch along hedgerow to observe the two bomb craters in area hedge junc 140769, as these seemed a likely place for either an OP or an LMG Group to put down flanking fire. Own LMG was ordered to engage these craters if rifleman opened fire.
Tp Comd - TSM moved along line of hedgerow running NORTH from junc 139770 to gap about half way along - crawled into fwd orchard and went to ground in clump of nettles to observe with glasses. Remained static until 2200 - following points were noted:-
(a) Wire - triple strand horizontal wire running parallel with FDLs and about 30/40 yds fwd of them. Rusty barbed wire stretched from tree to tree. No mine indicators - though it gave the impression of a cattle fence.
(b) Diagonal wires stretched 1' from the ground fwd of cattle fence and secured to base of tree trunks and stakes.
(c) No obvious trip wires.
(d) No attachments to trees.
(e) No new digging, or possible fwd defence or OP posts in orchard itself.
(f) New fruit saplings recently planted in the lines of fruit trees. Earth at bases newly turned. Not noted on similar patrol two weeks previously.
(g) Newly turned earth observed along line of hedgerow containing enemy's FDLs but no LMG posns located.
Moved fwd covered by TSM testing ground for trip wires. Carefully examined base of two of the new saplings - prodded and scraped with jack knife; no indication of mines or trip wires. Moved up to diagonal wires and examined - no trips to booby traps or flares. No mine indicators visible along hedgerow of FDLs. Movement observed in corner 141772 at 2240 hrs. Fat German (previously seen) lit cigarette with lighter - showed up MG on earth bank of hedgerow apparently pointing at hedge junc 140769 or hedge/track junc 140767. Query fixed line? This man walked backwards and forwards along hedgerow in area of corner 141772. Moved back carefully to TSM, collected rifle man and withdrew (avoiding hedgerows) to LMG group.
Withdrew whole party into track. Very thick high hedges put track in complete darkness (2315 hrs). Movement heard coming towards patrol from SOUTH up the path itself.
Movement ceased at "Halt" being called. No reply was given to orders called in both English and German. Impression gained that those responsible for movement were creeping into undergrowth along hedgerows. Order given for three TSMGs to fire, LMG to stand by. Recce revealed dead cow fifteen yards up track in the undergrowth.
Patrol withdrew without further incident - except for dead German Paratrooper (located by smell) in orchard between track and gulley.
Answers to questions:-
1. Three strand rusty barbed cattle fence stretched between trees about 30/40 yds from and parallel with line of enemy FDLs. Forward of this diagonal wires are stretched about 1' from the ground - again rusty barbed wire. Cattle fence approx 3' 6" from ground.
2. No. Not a bangalore task. Obstacle could easily be vaulted, climbed or tackled by wire cutters.
3. Total distance of furthest forward wires from FDLs about 50 yds.
4. No visible indications of the existence of mines anywhere in orchard 140770. But MG (? fixed line) located in corner 141772 - certainly manned (though not efficiently) at 2240 hrs. (previously located at 2005 hrs). (Temptation to throw grenades and use TSMGs after dusk in order to draw fire from and locate other MG or LMG posns was resisted). Craters at 140769 were unoccupied during the whole period of patrol observation.
5. Best routes for raiding party would seem to be through the centre of Orchards from track up to FDLs. Hedgerows to be avoided. The NORTH/SOUTH hedgerow 139770 - 139772 is in a depression - i.e. the track and enemy's FDLs are both rather higher; hence movement between the two would be in lower ground and fire is likely to pass overhead if tps keep low.
1. Hedgerows avoided for several reasons:-
(a) Possible fixed line task.
(b) Easy place to fix booby traps.
(c) in low ground with clumps of weeds about to screen crawling one is protected from observation by the low overhang of the orchard foliage; and one is therefore less liable to observation than if using the cover of hedgerows (which are so obvious that observation is concentrated on them).
2. Fruit trees harbour a lot of birds which set up a noise if disturbed and will give away ones posn. Great care must be taken - it was found that slow steady shuffling through grass did not worry them, but the slightest tinkle of metal (rifle slings etc) caused a great flurry and commotion. Cattle will amble over and, as in this case, will lick one and "MOO" - only solution is to lie on ones back and milk the damn things sufficiently to make them more easy - this was tried successfully.
3. Cover -
(a) keep the sun behind you - dazzles observers and enables one to control ones own shadow and merge it with other local shadows. If own shadow is in front, one knows what it is doing.
(b) never pause to observe unless you are confident that you cannot be observed in return. Suddenly, to locate an enemy, is to make one feel exposed and naked. Know that you are invisible and you merely get excited with a satisfying sense of superiority.
(c) in moving forward, select next local cover (if only ten yds away) with the certainty that you can completely disappear into it. Selection of route should be devious (so that you can study flanks during movement forward without having to switch body round in uncomfortable contortions.) Get comfortable before observation is taken up - you may need to hold posn for a long time if anything of interest is to be studied.
4. Unless an individual stalk is contemplated recce patrol should consist of 3 - it is the ideal number. Two can cover the observers flanks and if one becomes a casualty, two can get him out satisfactorily.
5. Essential to have a firm forward base (one LMG group). Men will not go forward with confidence unless rear is protected.
6. The excitement of a patrol which has been successfully completed its task has dangers:-
(a) Carelessness in withdrawing.
(b) Over-confidence in wanting to play pranks on enemy before withdrawing.
(c) Keenness to do more than was laid down in briefing. These must be held sternly in check. Withdraw one man at a time, other two covering. Leap frog back whole way to own FDLs. Over-confidence is a real danger.
7. Give thought to local conditions before going out. Flies, mosquitos, can cause such irritation that one is forced to move in order to flick them away. Solution - denim trousers over B/D with creosote sprinkled on bottom of legs. Gaiters worn - face veil well sprinkled with creosote over entire head and face; Leather gloves. Mosquitos can "prod" through one thickness of wool or cloth easily. Creosote and two pairs of trousers foxes them completely.
Cattle will amble over and, as in this case, will lick one and "MOO" - only solution is to lie on ones back and milk the damn things
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