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47 CDO RM - GOLD BEACH D Day - 5 LCA's sunk

Updated: Jun 3

In order for the Commando to land at the designated section and start their mission for Operation Aubery, the German defences were to be taken out by troops of the Dorsetshire Regiment. Unknown to the Commando, the 1st Dorsets met heavy resistance and were therefore unable to silence the German guns. Naval bombardments had little effects on the German positions hidden in their thick concrete bunkers and pillboxes.

As a result, the planned removal of the beach obstacles by the Beach Engineers, which was planned at low tide also failed. By the time the Commando set out to start their approach towards the landing beach, the sea water level had already risen, concealing the intact underwater obstacles.

On 6 June 1944 at approx. 0800 hours, 47 Royal Marine Commando set out in 14 LCA to land at ‘Gold-Beach’, in the sector code-named JIG near the town of Asnelles at a place known as Les Roquettes.

They were launched from two transport ships; HMS Princess Josephine Charlotte, a former Belgian ferry boat incorporated in the Royal Navy and transformed into Troops Transport, and the SS Victoria, a former Merchant ship. Both ships were equipped with Landing Craft Assault hanging from davits; HMS Princess Josephine Charlotte carrying eight, SS Victoria carrying six LCA.

Most of the 420 men in the Commando were divided over the two mother ships.

The landing did not go well, in the approach to the beach the CO came to the conclusion the LCA were heading for the wrong beach. As a result the order was given to head east sailing parallel to the beach. This action provided the German defenders with clear view of the LCA allowing them to pick their targets.

Five of the Commando’s LCA were sunk, another seven crippled, with 76 casualties out of a unit strength of just 420

Of the initial 14 Landing Craft, only two were able to return to the mother ship. Over fifty per cent of the men lost everything when they landed in the water. Most lost their weapons and equipment to save themselves from drowning, while others came ashore wearing nothing but their underwear.

At the beach still under fire from mortars, machine guns and snipers and from the gun

emplacement and other nearby enemy positions the Commando regrouped.

The beach was a shambles and the Commando had landed over a space of some 1.500 yards between 09.45 and 10.15 hours. As had been planned the Commando in small groups of boat loads moved west along the small road running parallel to the beach to the RV at the church in Le Hamel.

When the leading elements reached a point, just short of the road in land to Les Roquettes, it became obvious that Le Hamel was in enemy hands and that 231 Bde were heavily involved in attempting to clear.

By about 11.00 hrs the majority of the Commando had assembled and were sorting themselves out on either side of the road. Contact was made with Lt. Spencer and the commander of 231 Bde who suggested a move via Les Roquettes and thence to the original route beyond Le Hamel.

The first roll call was about 250 ranks, but this did not include A-Troop who arrived a little later, with the CO among the missing, 2i/c Major Patrick DONNELL took command.

Of the 431 men who set off, 28 were killed or drowned, 21 wounded and 27 missing. One more man was killed soon after leaving the beach.

256 men left the beach at 12:15 next objective Port-en-Bessin

We swam ashore, about fifty yards, under machine-gun fire and at one point I heard someone say, "Perhaps we're intruding, this seems to be a private beach"
Sergeant Gardener

The beach was upon us, orders were barked by the Naval crew—suddenly there was a tearing crunch and we came to an abrupt halt. The spike of a hedgehog appeared through the bottom the craft—we had hit an anti-invasion obstacle—iron stanchions like railway lines, set at an angle in concrete at intervals all around us the low water mark. Fortunately for us this one wasn’t mined.

Down went the ramp, the water rushing round our feet, we quickly fastened our rucksack straps, grabbed our weapons and filed down to the water—centre fist, then left and finally right. I jumped into the water and to my surprise found it shallower than that in the LCA. I don’t remember if the water was colder than that we had used for washing a few hours previously, but as I scampered (or lumbered) up the beach a tumult of thoughts flashed through my mind. One was uppermost—the real fame had begun!
Mne John Wetjen, Q-Troop:

My landing craft hit a mine and I was knocked unconscious for a while. When I woke up, I found myself in the water. I had a broken leg and a broken arm and attempted to swim ashore but only ended up going around in circles. A sergeant saw me and, despite the awfulness of the situation, said, ‘You won’t get anywhere fast like that, Sir. You had better think of something better.’ I eventually made it ashore where my MOA, Marine Woodgate, met me on the beach with the words, ‘I thought you’d like a cup of tea, Sir’. I can tell you that no cup of tea ever tasted better. The doctor could do little for us wounded, as he had few orderlies and they had lost all their medical equipment when their landing craft was sunk. It took me three days to reach hospital in England.
Lt Peter ‘Frosty’ Winter, Y-Troop:

Related Royal Marines 'Dits';

  1. 47 Commando - The Advance to Port-en-Bessin

  2. 47 Cdo RM - Battle of Port-en-Bessin 7-8 June 1944 - "It is doubtful whether, in their long, distinguished history, the marines have ever achieved anything finer 

  3. D DAY Royal Marines

  4. Embarking 47 Cdo at Southampton

  5. D Day from an LCA 

  6. The Last Man Standing, the story of Dennis Donovan, 48 Royal Marine Commando Juno Beach D DAY Royal Marines 

  7. Cpl George Tandy - Gold Beach - 'The Human Rudder'

  8. 46 Cdo RM - D Day - Capture of Petit Enfer  

  9. 48 Royal Marine Commando - July 1944 - Sallenelles

  10. Joseph Kelsey - 5th RM (Independent) Armoured Support Battery 

  11. Royal Marines Armoured Support Group 

  12. 30 AU in Normandy - 'You can't behave like Red Indians any more' 

  13. 46 CDO RM - The Attack on Le Hamel and Rots - 12 SS Pz Div

  14. Supporting the Rangers at Pointe Du Hoc 

  15. 47 Cdo RM - Sallenelles - Orne

References/ Further Reading:

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