Timeline for the RAF at Omaha Beach
- A.A. – Anti-Aircraft.
- A/C – Aircraft.
- A.E.A.F. – Allied Expeditionary Air Force.
- A.F.S. – Air Formation Signals (Army).
- A.I. – Airborne Interception (Radar).
- A.M.E.S. – Air Ministry Experimental Station.
- A.O.C. – Air Officer Commanding.
- A.O.R.G. – Army Operational Research Group.
- A/S/R – Air Sea Rescue.
- B.D.S. – Base Defence Sector.
- B.D.W. – Base Defence Wing.
- Casevac – Casualty Evacuation.
- C.O.L. – Chain Home Low (Radar).
- C.R. – Combat Report.
- C.S.O. – Chief Signal Officer.
- D.F.C. – Distinguished Flying Cross.
- D.S.O. – Distinguished Service Order.
- F.D.P. – Forward Direction Post.
- F.D.T. – Fighter Direction Tender.
- H.S.L. – High Speed launch.
- G.C.I. – Ground Controlled Interception (Radar).
- I.A.Z. – Inner Artillery Zone.
- I.F.F. – Identification Friend or Foe.
- L.C.I. – Landing Craft, Infantry.
- L.C.R. – Landing Craft, Rocket.
- L.C.T. – Landing Craft, Tank.
- L.S.T. – Landing Ship, Tank.
- L.W.S. – Light Wireless Set.
- M.C. – Military Cross.
- M.M. – Military Medal.
- M.N.O. – Medical Nursing Orderly.
- M.O. – Medical Officer.
- M.O.R. – Mobile Operations Room.
- M.R.U. – Mobile Repair Unit.
- M.S.S.U. – Mobile Signals Servicing Unit.
- M.S.U. – Mobile Signals Unit.
- O.R. – Other Ranks.
- O.R.B. – Operations Record Book.
- P.O.L. – Petrol, Oils and Lubricants.
- P.S.I. – Permanent Staff Instructor.
- R.A.F.V.R. – Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
- R.C.A.F. – Royal Canadian Air Force.
- R/T – Radio Transmitter.
- R.N.Z.A.F. – Royal New Zealand Air Force.
- S.A.S.O. – Senior Air Staff Officer.
- S.M.O. – Senior Medical Officer.
- S & T – Supply and Transport (Column).
- U.S.A.A.F. – United States Army Air Force.
- AA – Anti-Aircraft.
- A/C – Aircraft.
- AEAF – Allied Expeditionary Air Force.
- AFS – Air Formation Signals (Army).
- AI – Airborne Interception (Radar).
- AMES – Air Ministry Experimental Station.
- AOC – Air Officer Commanding.
- AORG – Army Operational Research Group.
- A/S/R – Air Sea Rescue.
- BDS – Base Defence Sector.
- BDW – Base Defence Wing.
- Casevac – Casualty Evacuation.
- COL – Chain Home Low (Radar).
- CR – Combat Report.
- CSO – Chief Signal Officer.
- DFC – Distinguished Flying Cross.
- DSO – Distinguished Service Order.
- FDP – Forward Direction Post.
- FDT – Fighter Direction Tender.
- HSL – High Speed Launch.
- GCI – Ground Controlled Interception (Radar).
- IAZ – Inner Artillery Zone.
- IFF – Identification Friend or Foe.
- LCI – Landing Craft, Infantry.
- LCR – Landing Craft, Rocket.
- LCT – Landing Craft, Tank.
- LST – Landing Ship, Tank.
- LWS – Light Wireless Set.
- MC – Military Cross.
- MM – Military Medal.
- MNO – Medical Nursing Orderly.
- MO – Medical Officer.
- MOR – Mobile Operations Room.
- MRU – Mobile Repair Unit.
- MSSU – Mobile Signals Servicing Unit.
- MSU – Mobile Signals Unit.
- OR – Other Ranks.
- ORB – Operations Record Book.
- POL – Petrol, Oils and Lubricants.
- PSI – Permanent Staff Instructor.
- RAFVR – Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
- RCAF – Royal Canadian Air Force.
- R/T – Radio Transmitter.
- RNZAF – Royal New Zealand Air Force.
- SASO – Senior Air Staff Officer.
- SMO – Senior Medical Officer.
- S&T – Supply and Transport (Column).
- USAAF – United States Army Air Force.
Operation Overlord - The Royal Air Force Landing in Normandy
The operation involving members of the RAF landing on Normandy beaches on D-Day, and the days after, began on 1st January 1944.
On that day, Group Captain William George Moseby was posted to RAF Church Fenton to set up 21 Base Defence Wing. Along with its counterparts 24 and 25 Base Defence Wings, this unit was tasked with supplying and maintaining a radar capability from D-Day onwards. Its purpose was to detect enemy aircraft movements over and approaching the invasion beaches, and direct Allied aircraft to intercept and destroy them. The aim was to maintain air superiority in the skies from D-Day onwards.
The following Timeline traces the activities of 21 Base Defence Wing (later Base Defence Sector) from January 1944 to late September 1944 when the radar element of 21 Base Defence Sector (21 BDS) was returned to England.
1st January 1944, Saturday (D-157, 157 days before D-Day)
Group Captain William George Moseby, DSO, DFC, service number 37327, arrived at RAF Church Fenton (North Yorkshire) to set up 21 Base Defence Wing (21 BDW)
1st February 1944, Tuesday (D-126)
Mobile COL (Chain Overseas Low Radars) 15073 arrived at RAF Staxton Wold (North Yorkshire).
Total strength of Other Ranks (ORs) posted to 21 BDW reported as 57.
First practice interceptions with mobile Ground Controlled Interception Radars (GCIs) carried out: two sorties by 264 Squadron with GCI 15082 (RAF Kirton, Lincolnshire) and one sortie by 264 Squadron with GCI 15081 (RAF Catfoss, East Yorkshire).
2 February 1944 (D-125)
Day and night practice interceptions carried out with mobile GCIs whenever the weather was suitable. 604 Squadron made two sorties with GCI 15081 (based at RAF Catfoss), 264 Squadron one sortie with GCI 15072 (RAF Church Fenton), one sortie with GCI 15081 (RAF Catfoss) and one sortie with GCI 15082 (RAF Kirton, Lincolnshire).
5 February 1944 (D-122)
Total strength of ORs (Other Ranks) posted to the Wing to date is 84.
All the Mobile GCIs carried out practice interceptions.
8 February 1944 (D-119)
GCI 15072 moved from RAF Roecliffe (North Yorkshire) to RAF Church Fenton. GCIs 15081 and 15082 carried out their usual practice interceptions.
10 February 1944 (D-117)
First practice interception carried out with GCI 15072 since being moved to RAF Church Fenton.
12 February 1944 (D-115)
Total strength of ORs posted to 21 BDW to date is 97. All Mobile GCIs did full training programme.
15 February 1944 (D-112)
Minutes of a meeting held at 10.30am in Room 18, Highmasters House, St Pauls
Wing Commander C M Stewart (Chairman)
Wing Commander W T Hend, (Representing Chief Signal Officer (CSO) 85 Group)
Wing Commander G Keighley, (Representing Signals Plans Allied Expeditionary Air Force)
Wing Commander P M Holmes, (Representing CSO 83 Group)
Flt/Lt W C Pahic, (9th Air Force).
Re: Build up of 85 Group in American Sectors
85 Group to have 3 Wings, each with 3 Ground Controlled Interception Radars.
One GCI would be built up as a Wing Headquarters and would control the other two GCIs. It would also have low-looking radar to provide cover in the port area.
It was agreed that the requirements for the second 85 Group GCI (American Sector of Beach 46) were less than for the first, as it would not be required to function as a Wing Headquarters. It was agreed, however, that it should be provided with communication back to the UK, to enable it to perform independently of the first if necessary. After discussion, it was agreed that there was a requirement for the following:
D-Day, 1st Tide
1 Recce Party for 85 Group Ground Controlled Interception Radar (GCI).
1 85 Group GCI.
1 Type 11 Set.
1 Type 21 Set.
1 Mobile Signals Unit Type “T”.
1 Mobile Signals Unit Type “C”.
1 Mobile Signals Unit Type “D”.
1 Mobile Signals Unit Type “Q”.
1 Mobile Signals Unit Type “J”.
There was then a discussion on the introduction of the third GCI which would be required for the defence of the port immediately it was captured.
The discussion also considered:
- The need for providing sufficient reserve of radar gear for the 2nd 85 Group GCI.
- The need for allowing enough Forward Direction Posts (FDPs) for the operational requirements which would arise to the south and in the peninsular.
- The need for getting the third GCI and its associated Chain Overseas Low Radars (COLs) in position as soon as possible after the capture of the port.
19 February 1944 (D-108)
Total strength of ORs posted to 21 BDW to date is 108.
GCI 15081 moved from RAF Catfoss to RAF Catterick (Yorkshire).
Captain Kyle (105 Anti-Aircraft (AA) Brigade),
Captain Parsons, Army Operational Research Group (AORG),
F/Off C F Birch (Intelligence Officer, 21 BDW),
Mr Humphreys (AORG).
24 February 1944 (D-103)
Visit by Air Vice Marshall John Beresford Cole-Hamilton from 85 Group HQ.
A full training programme was carried out with the Mobiles.
28 February 1944 (D-99)
Total strength of ORs posted to 21 BDW reported as 113.
1 March 1944, Wednesday (D-97)
Squadron Leader N Best, GCI 15082, received equipment from his Technical Development Group, (60 Group)
4 March 1944 (D-94)
No. 5131A Mobile Signals Unit (MSU) arrived at RAF Church Fenton (North Yorkshire).
The first sortie under COL 15073 RAF Staxton (North Yorkshire) control was carried out.
6 March 1944 (D-92)
HQ 85 (Base) Group Operations Record Book:
21 Base Defence Wing, RAF Church Fenton transferred from HQ, AEAF (Allied Expeditionary Air Force) to HQ (Base) Group w.e.f. 10 March 1944.
No. 15081 GCI transferred from HQ, AEAF to HQ (Base) Group w.e.f. 10 March 1944.
No. 15082 GCI transferred from HQ, AEAF to HQ (Base) Group w.e.f. 10 March 1944.
No. 15072 GCI transferred from HQ, AEAF to HQ (Base) Group w.e.f. 10 March 1944.
No. 15073 GCI/COL transferred from HQ, AEAF to HQ (Base) Group w.e.f. 10 March 1944.
No. 349 MRU (Mobile Repair Unit) transferred from HQ, AEAF to HQ (Base) Group w.e.f. 10 March 1944.
No. 5131A MSU transferred from HQ, AEAF to HQ (Base) Group w.e.f. 10 March 1944.
No. 309 MSSU transferred from HQ, AEAF to RAF Church Fenton.
8 March 1944 (D-90)
COL 15074 moved from RAF Donna Nook (Lincolnshire) to RAF Church Fenton.
9 March 1944 (D-89)
604 Squadron sent twelve aircraft on Exercise “Eric”.
10 March 1944 (D-88)
HQ 85 (Base) Group Operations Record Book:
No. 21 Wing was transferred from 12 Group to 85 Group.
14 March 1944 (D-84)
The Mobiles controlled aircraft from 604 Squadron in “Bullseye” Exercise and fighter affiliation, and aircraft from 264 Squadron were controlled by static GCIs.
Four aircraft from 264 Squadron were scrambled but no enemy aircraft entered their area.
15 March 1944 (D-83)
The Mobile Operations Room (MOR) arrived at RAF Church Fenton.
GCI 15082 moved from RAF Hibaldstow (North Lincolnshire) to RAF Church Fenton.
GCI 15072 and COL 15074 moved from RAF Church Fenton to RAF White Waltham (Berkshire).
Three aircraft from 264 Squadron were scrambled but “no joy”.
17 March 1944 (D-81)
Four A/C (aircraft) of 264 Squadron and two A/C of 604 Squadron were scrambled to intercept raids approaching the Humber area but they proved to be friendly.
19 March 1944 (D-79)
Head Quarters 21 BDW moved to The Poplars, Church Fenton.
Four A/C from 264 Squadron and four A/C of 604 Squadron were scrambled to intercept raids approaching Humber sites. One A/C of 264 Squadron had two combats under RAF Patrington (East Yorkshire) control and claimed one DO (Dornier) 217 destroyed. No claimed was made in the second combat.
20 March 1944 (D-78)
309 MSSU moved from RAF Church Fenton to Newtown near Chesham (Buckinghamshire).
21 March 1944 (D-77)
GCI 15072 and COL 15074 left RAF White Waltham for RAF Chigwell (Essex).
Four A/C from 264 Squadron were scrambled but enemy activity was too far South.
One A/C 604 Squadron (Ft/Lt Surman and F/Sgt Weeton) on attachment at RAF Castle Camps (Cambridgeshire) was scrambled under searchlight control, had two combats resulting in one JU (Junkers) 88 destroyed and one JU 88 damaged.
24 March 1944 (D-74)
Twenty-four aircraft took part in an exercise “Eric”, 124 Squadron being under control of GCI 15082.
27 March 1944 (D-71)
Both 604 Squadron and 264 Squadron sent A/C on Exercise “Eric”. GCI 15082 had four A/C of 124 Squadron under their control in this exercise.
28 March 1944 (D-70)
GCI 15072 and COL 15074 arrived at RAF Church Fenton from RAF Chigwell.
29 March 1944 (D-69)
COL 15074 left RAF Church Fenton for RAF Staxton.
GCI 15082 left RAF Church Fenton for RAF White Waltham.
A “Bullseye” exercise was carried out under the control of the Mobiles.
30 March 1944 (D-68)
Two aircraft from 604 Squadron and two aircraft from 264 Squadron were scrambled but the enemy activity did not develop in this area.
31 March 1944 (D-67)
COL 15073 left RAF Staxton for RAF Bempton (East Yorkshire).
A Command “Bullseye” exercise was under the control of the Mobile Operations Room.
1 April 1944, Saturday (D-66)
8 aircraft of 264 Squadron, 7 aircraft of 604 Squadron and 6 aircraft of 124 Squadron took part in Exercise “Eric”.
A meeting was held at “The Poplars” (Head Quarters 21 BDW, Church Fenton) with Gp/Capt Moseby presiding to appoint an Officers’ Mess Committee, a Sergeants’ Mess Committee and the PSIs (Permanent Staff Instructors) ready for the time when the Wing went “under canvas”.
The GCI was in training in Scotland.
3 April 1944 (D-64)
Air Ministry Experimental Station (AMES) No. G15073 arrived at RAF Bempton (East Yorkshire) from RAF Chigwell (Essex).
The Orders previously issued for the Wing to go “under canvas” were postponed on instructions from the Senior Medical Officer (SMO), 141 Airfield, on account of the weather conditions.
5 April 1944 (D-62)
AMES No. GCI 15082 arrived at RAF Church Fenton (North Yorkshire) from RAF White Waltham (Berkshire).
6 April 1944 (D-61)
Mobile Signals Unit 5140Q arrived at RAF Church Fenton from RAF Chigwell (Essex).
7 April 1944 (D-60)
Mobile Signals Unit (MSU) 5140Q attached to AMES 15073 at RAF Bempton.
8 April 1944 (D-59)
21 BDW went “under canvas”.
9 April 1944 (D-58)
MSUs 5141Q and 5142Q arrived at RAF Church Fenton from RAF Chigwell.
10 April 1944 (D-57)
MSU 5141Q was attached to the AMES 15081 at RAF Scorton (North Yorkshire).
14 April 1944 (D-53)
Sgt F M Adair promoted to Flight Sergeant.
AMES No. G15082 left RAF Church Fenton for RAF Patrington (East Yorkshire).
15 April 1944 (D-52)
The commencement of Exercise “Driver” in which 264 Squadron took part.
16 April 1944 (D-51)
COL No. 15073 moved from RAF Bempton to RAF Church Fenton.
AMES No. 15072 moved from RAF Church Fenton to RAF Patrington.
MSU No.5140Q moved from RAF Bempton to RAF Hunmanby (North Yorkshire).
17 April 1944 (D-50)
All Squadrons were occupied taking part in Exercise “Driver”.
18 April 1944 (D-49)
Gp/Capt W G Moseby and Flt/Lt I C D Clowes (Adjutant) left Church Fenton for a conference at 85 Group which took place at 10.00 hours the following morning.
AMES No. G15082 moved from RAF Patrington to RAF Church Fenton.
264 Squadron took part in Exercise “Driver” and had 5 aircraft scrambled at night.
20 April 1944 (D-47)
All Units recalled to RAF Church Fenton.
18 men and 4 vehicles of MSU 5131A went to Stapleford Tawney (near Romford, Essex).
604 Squadron and 264 Squadron took part in Exercise “Driver”.
6 aircraft of 264 Squadron were scrambled to intercept enemy aircraft approaching the Hull area.
P/Off Bines and F/Off Corre obtained a contact on an enemy aircraft which lead to a combat resulting in the destruction of a (Messerschmitt?).
21 April 1944 (D-46)
Wg/Cdr A M Anderson and Sqn/Ldr Frederick Joseph Trollope left RAF Church Fenton with Mobile Operations Room (MOR), GCI 15082 and certain personnel detailed from other units to take part in Exercise “Fabious”.
22 April 1944 (D-45)
All Units were busy packing up ready to leave RAF Church Fenton.
23 April 1944 (D-44)
The main convoy consisting of Wing HQ and the remaining Mobile Units left RAF Church Fenton for RAF Sopley (New Forest, Hampshire), spending the first night at Lutterworth Army Staging Camp (Leicestershire).
24 April 1944 (D-43)
The convoy left Lutterworth Army Staging Camp for RAF Zeals (Wiltshire) where it stayed for the night.
25 April 1944 (D-42)
Main convoy left RAF Zeals for RAF Sopley and a new camp was set up in Sopley Park (Hampshire).
26 April 1944 (D-41)
COL 15074 and MSU 5140Q set up at Spyway Barn, Worth Matravers (Dorset).
GCI 15082, MSU 5142Q, MOR & MSU 5131A attached to Exercise “Fabious”.
GCI 15081, MSU 5141Q and MSU 5226J set up at Swineham Farm, Wareham (Dorset).
GCI 15072 and MSU 5227J set up at Langford Waver, West Wellow (Hampshire).
21 BDW HQ, 349MRU, COL 15073, MSU 5131A, MSU 549P, MSU 5228J, Air Formation Signals set up in Sopley Park.
1 May 1944, Monday (D-36)
Sqn/Ldr N Best mentioned at RAF Sopley (Hampshire) as a GCI Specialist.
3 May 1944 (D-34)
AMES No. 15073, MSU 596F and MSU 5228J moved to Warren Hill, Christchurch (Dorset).
8 May 1944 (D-29)
AMES No. G15072 moved from Sturminster Marshall (Dorset) to RAF Sopley.
10 May 1944 (D-27)
MSU 5276D arrived at 21 Base Defence Wing.
12 May 1944 (D-25)
MSU 5159J moved to Llanassa, Prestatyn (Denbighshire, Wales).
13 May 1944 (D-24)
MSU 5293J transferred from 21 BDW to 24 Base Defence Wing.
14 May 1944 (D-23)
The night’s training programme was interrupted by hostile activity and the Mobiles being ordered to close down.
Four aircraft from 604 Squadron were scrambled which resulted in two contacts. Ft/Lt Surman and F/Sgt Weston claimed one DO (Dornier) 217 destroyed. F/O Macdonald and Sgt Baird claimed one JU (Junkers) 188 damaged.
488 Squadron had 8 aircraft scrambled which resulted in 5 combats.
15 May 1944 (D-22)
HQ No. 85 (Base) Group. (Air25-723, No. 85 Group F740)
W.e.f. 15th May 1944, the title “Base Defence Wing” was changed to “Base Defence Sector” and the title of “Airfield Headquarters” was changed to “Wing Headquarters”.
Two Mosquitoes of 604 Squadron had combat between Cherbourg and the Isle of Wight, claiming one DO 217 (Dornier) destroyed and one JU 88 (Junkers) damaged.
16 May 1944 (D-21)
Offensive patrols to intercept aircraft carried out by 604 Squadron north of Cherbourg claimed one JU 88 destroyed south of the Isle of Wight.
21 May 1944 (D-16)
Wg/Cdr A M Anderson left Sopley “with certain detached personnel”.
23 May 1944 (D-14)
A C (Archie) Ratcliffe (what follows is from a report or memoir written by this person): Encamped “somewhere in the New Forest for 2 weeks”. With a Canadian Regiment.
24 May 1944 (D-13)
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: left Sarum (RAF Old Sarum, Wiltshire). Arrived at Camp D2. (It is assumed that Camp D2 was, in fact, based at Sopley Park).
Five aircraft of 604 Squadron were scrambled on uneventful patrols.
25 May 1944 (D-12)
Gp/Capt W G Moseby meeting with Sqn/Ldr Norman Best and “Andy” (Editor: W/Cdr Anderson?).
Sqn/Ldr N Best: reported 859, kitted, learnt part of plans, back to (60) Group in evening. Thursday – Leighton Buzzard (Bedfordshire).
26 May 1944 (D-11)
Burns (Gp/Capt?) left for “S” (Editor: “S” not identified) in the afternoon with “Hitch” (Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock) and (Sqn/Ldr) Norman Best.
Sqn/Ldr N Best and Flt Lt Edward Hamilton, (Ned) Hitchcock (RNZAF) summoned by Air Commodore Reeve to be told they would be landing on D-Day.
Sqn/Ldr N Best saw Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) and Air Officer Commanding (AOC). Saw Gp/Capt and head of 1st Major IG re US and 85 (Group?).
27 May 1944 (D-10)
Wg/Cdr A M Anderson reported to be Senior Controller and CO (Commanding Officer) of the Landing Party of 21 BDS
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Saturday – At Camp D2, Sopley (New Forest) (which he also describes as a Transit Camp).
Instructed to attend a briefing at 22.00hrs with Gp/Capt Moseby and CSO from 85 Group.
Scheduled to leave with Gp/Capt Moseby for transit camp (Sopley). Went alone at 18.00hrs.
In his “15082 GCI Chief Technical Officer’s Experiences”, Sqn/Ldr Best states that “there were about 150 of us all told”.
Five aircraft of 604 Squadron were scrambled on defensive patrols.
28 May 1944 (D-9)
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Worked on convoy etc. Sunday – Camp D2, Sopley.
An aircraft of 604 Squadron (pilot, F/Off Miller, and navigator, Warrant Officer Catchpool) airborne with four others on defensive patrol at 22.45 hours on the 27th. Attacked an enemy HSL (High Speed Launch) in the Channel at 00.14 hours. Strikes were observed on the boat, but, when orbiting for a second attack the pilot was called off by the Controller (Ft/Lt Richards, North Matravers GCI)
29 May 1944 (D-8)
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Monday – Camp D2, Sopley; with “Andy” on recce.
An aircraft of 604 Squadron (pilot, Ft/Lt Harris, observer, Sgt Hopkinson) was scrambled in the early hours of the morning for a “bogey” in the Cherbourg area. The “bogey” was identified as friendly and on setting course for home our aircraft was engaged by one of our own night fighters, just north of Start Point and shot down. The pilot managed to bale out and was rescued by the Navy but the observer, apparently unable to jettison the door, was drowned. Our aircraft was showing (unreadable) lights and IFF (Identification Friend or Foe).
30 May 1944 (D-7)
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Tuesday – Camp D2, Sopley.
Five aircraft of 604 Squadron scrambled on uneventful patrols.
31 May 1944 (D-6)
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Wednesday – Camp D2, Sopley. Poole in morning. Visit from Chalk! Issued with rations.
1 June 1944, Thursday (D-5)
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Thursday – Collected gear together at Camp D2. On D-4, the whole camp received movement orders. We were not told where we were going or why, but we guessed.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Stated that he embarked on this day.
Cpl Smythe (US Rangers): Reported as acting as liaison on D-Day.
The Troops were employed getting everything ready to leave for Embarkation Port on the following morning. All British Maps were given in and further items of equipment were given to the men. Everybody was going to be briefed at 15.00 hours but this was postponed three times as Wing Commander Anderson was not available for the briefing. Eventually at 22.00 hours Squadron Leader Trollope gave the troops a talk as to what the job in hand was. He then briefed the Officers afterwards. Immediately after this, everyone retired in order to be ready for an early start in the morning.
2 June 1944, Friday (D-4)
Appendix No. 42, Royal Air Force Radar Units Under the Allied Expeditionary Air Force, June 1944:
Shows in chart format the composition of the three Base Defence Sectors, and 21 Sector is shown as comprising:
349 MRU (Mobile Repair Unit).
Four LWS (Light Wireless Set).
Breakfast at 06.30 hours and the first three craft loads left D2 at five minute intervals starting at 09.05 hours, the other two craft loads not leaving until the afternoon. The convoy moved at very slow speed to the embarkation port and all were embarked by 17.30 hours and the LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) pulled out and anchored in the harbour. As soon as the LCT had been anchored, rations were issued to the troops as very few of them had eaten since breakfast. They eventually bedded down for the night, some in vehicles and others sleeping on the top, there being an issue of two blankets per man. Very few of the craft had any conveniences or accommodation at the disposal of the troops, although one or two of the craft did manage to have some of the rations cooked in the cook-house.
Final two craft loads left Camp D2 in the afternoon.
2/3 June 1944 (D-4/3)
Wg/Cdr A M Anderson moved with Sqn/Ldr N Best from Camp D2 to an LCT at Portland, 15.00hrs – Type 15 Convoy. Settled down at 01.00hrs (D-3).
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Friday at dawn the trek started and from three o’clock in the morning, troops and lorries, transports and tanks, rumbled away from Camp D2. The Radar Contingent, small by comparison with the rest, went away in three convoys, the first with Flt/Lt Hitchcock at about 10.00hrs and the last with Wg/Cdr Anderson and myself bringing up the rear with our Jeep at 15.00hrs. At the gate, American police gave us local maps and route forms and told us to make for Portland, about thirty miles away. We had to travel very slowly on account of the waterproofing of our vehicles and even so, after fifteen miles a halt of one full hour was called to allow the engines to cool off. At Portland we scattered onto the beach and got a warm meal with an issue of “candies”, gum and periodicals. It was a fine sunny evening, the bay was full of craft, among which we picked out several small American LCTs carrying Part I and Part II of our Unit, already seaborne and further out in deep water, another of our old friends, the Fighter Direction Tender (FDT).
The organisation was magnificent and had been all along. Every move went to timetable and fitted in with every other move. Meals were issued just where and when they were needed. MTs (military technician) and waterproofing experts were now moving systematically along, vetting every vehicle, and mobile tankers followed them, filling up with POL (Petrol, Oils and Lubricants). We, the third and final convoy of 21 BDS, had been allotted to a British LCT and at nine o’clock we started running aboard. We finished at eleven. It was still light, there had been no hitches apart from a spot of obstinacy from the T21 (Type 21) Operations Vehicle – soon overcome with persuasion and a mobile crane, and we were very soon out in deep water, one more indistinguishable microcosm in the vastness of the invasion fleet. Five LCTs altogether were used to take the 15082 convoy plus the first Echelon of 21 BDS. The Types 11, 15 and 21 radar sets were in separate craft. Our craft had a crew of six, two officers and four ratings, British and Australian. The skipper was Australian.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft, (MO): (Diary) Removed from giving inoculations and put in to the Advance Party! Arrived at LCT, borrowed warm clothing from Flt/Lt Douglas Charles (“Duggie”) Highfield.
3 June 1944, Saturday (D-3)
Wg/Cdr A M Anderson: Led the third and last convoy with Sqn/Ldr N Best from Camp D2 at Sopley to Portland. (Editor’s note: This probably happened on the previous day, 2 June 1944).
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Saturday – On board LCT 611 all day.
Sqn/Ldr Geoffrey Clarence Harding, (Padre): Met with Flt/Lt R N Rycroft for the first time and they had a “gloomy discussion”.
Flt/Lt “Ned” Hitchcock: Reports as having led the first convoy from Camp D2 at Sopley to Portland. (Editor: Again, this is at odds with movement reported on 2 June 1944).
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Reports a “fake” (sic) start from harbour. (Editor: All others report the first attempt to start the invasion being on the next day, i.e. 4 June 1944).
F/Sgt Adair (from Muir Adair’s Story – Chapter 4 – D-Day): the final briefing at Portland F/Sgt Adair was advised that his LCT would lead the other four onto the beach at 09.00hrs on D-Day
Cpl W E (Bill) Adderley: Saturday – Embarked for France. (Embarkation point not given). Held up by bad weather.
Cpl E Heathcote: 1st Echelon of 21BDS embarked at Portland in 5 LCTs.
The day was quite uneventful. It was a beautiful, sunny day and most of the troops spent the day lying in the sun, there being nothing else they could do, although a few of them bathed off the LCT. The day’s rations were issued in the morning and they were in sufficient quantity, but became very monotonous after a day or two.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft, (MO): (Diary) Waiting all day. Very poor living conditions. Probably better than future however. Visited next boat in evening. Padre (Squadron Leader Geoffrey C Harding) met for first time. Not a good prognosis. Felt we were being driven to disaster. Sing-song between ships in cold. Reminder of last war. Depressing ++. Slept in back of lorry on netting. Luxury!
4 June 1944, Sunday (D-2)
At 04.00hrs the Armada left port, (Portland). Before reaching Poole (Dorset), the fleet turned back and was back in harbour by 07.00hrs.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Sunday – False start in the morning. Returned to Portland.
Sqn/Ldr Rev G C Harding: A few days later we were packed up in our lorries making our way to Portland harbour where we had to embark on to landing craft. The crew of the landing craft were nearly all solid Swedes. We packed our way in and started to make our way to France. We set off on the Saturday and I was lucky in finding a bunk and being able to retire to bed. When I got up early the next morning, on a sea which I suppose was considered slight, but which was upsetting me, I noticed to my surprise we were heading westwards back past the Isle of Wight on our return to Portland Harbour. Apparently, the invasion had been cancelled and we were told later that it had. We hoped it had only been postponed. Back in harbour it happened to be Trinity Sunday, our ships were all together so I had an Impromptu service on one of them and told my congregation that we should undoubtedly feel extremely frightened; this was entirely normal and nothing to be ashamed about, that we just had to keep our heads. I hoped that what I was saying was the truth. I had, of course, no means of knowing at all but my remarks went down quite well and next evening we sailed again.
Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock: Informed landing would be H-hour+5 (about high tide) on Sector Dog Red. Set sail in the late afternoon for France from Portland. Turned back on account of bad weather.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft, (MO): (Diary) Much the same. Wandering around. Waiting for meals – very poor when they came. Dirty weather. Would it be postponed?
Cpl E Heathcote: 04.00hrs the invasion fleet left Portland but turned back because of bad weather. Back in port by 07.00hrs.
A C (Archie) Ratcliffe: On the evening of June 4th, we were told to move out of the camp. I guessed that the time must have been about 21.30 to 22.00hrs. We picked up an Army chap of the 16th Air Formation Signals who was a King’s Corporal with a Military Medal, who was to travel with me. Bill Pilling had as his oppo another signal bod. Embarked as light was fading. I could just make out the Isle of Wight on our left. It was very wet and rainy and blowing like the devil. Once on the Channel it was getting very rough and stormy. Vehicles shifting about made some of the lads seasick, including the sailors. Suddenly, we were told that we were returning back to land.
5 June 1944, Monday (D-1)
At 04.30hrs again left Portland. Reached rendezvous off the Normandy coast just after daybreak on the 6th.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Monday – At sea. Set sail at 03.00hrs. Huge convoy. Heavy seas.
Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock: We spent the day pottering about in a borrowed dinghy, rowing around among the ships. Later, of course, we learned of the critical decision to postpone the landings for a day to minimise the effects of expected bad weather. That afternoon, we set off again and woke to grey skies and a barely visible French coast.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Moved. (i.e. left harbour for Normandy).
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft, (MO): Fairly rough all day. Lay on netting most of the time. Miles and miles of lumpy sea.
Cpl E Heathcote: Embarked in very, very bad weather in LCTs. They were seasick. 04.30hrs the invasion fleet left Portland.
A C (Archie) Ratcliffe: We sailed about the same time on the evening of 5th June 1944. Still rough and stormy. LCT really thumping about. I haven’t mentioned the names of the others. I shall have to rely on my memory. Bill Pilling, two Sandersons, “Dad” Sanderson from Blackburn, “Curly” Sanderson from Manchester, A Sullivan, “Tubby” Rowberry and George Forshaw. Sea running very rough; tried to sleep on top of the load but I did this unsuccessfully. I managed to get a little in the cab. A lot of apprehensive talk; some silly jokes from “Dad” Sanderson, but funny all the same. Underneath all the joking was a lot of serious thinking, nerves and apprehension, not to say what would lie ahead. The Commander of the LCT called us together and told us that we go to a beach named “Omaha” and that we would be landing in the American Sector at H+2 hrs. Had a couple of scares that there were some E-boats about and possibly a submarine. The sea was still running high and some of the lads were still feeling seasick and would be glad to get ashore.
As it turned out, there would be a change of mind later!
6 June 1944, Tuesday D-Day
HQ 85 (Base) Group Operations Record Book:
Air Staff Policy – The following units of No. 85 Group were phased in with the assault forces on D-Day:
1st Echelon of 21 Sector Operations with 15082 GCI into the American Sector.
Units which landed during the Assault Phase on D-Day:
1304 Mobile Wing RAF Regiment.
1305 Mobile Wing RAF Regiment.
104 Beach Section.
107 Beach Section.
15082 Ground Controlled Interception Radar, (Omaha beach).
15083 Ground Controlled Interception Radar, (Juno beach).
21 Base Defence Sector (21 BDS) Omaha beach.
24 Base Defence Sector (24 BDS) Juno beach.
51 Beach Balloon Flight.
Provost and Security Unit.
Emergency Landing Strip Echelon.
11 Air Formation Signals.
16 Air Formation Signals.
Mobile Signals Units (MSUs) 543, 554, 582, 5006, 5030, 5132, 5141, 5153, 5160, 5276.
(Note. Only those units underlined above are known to have landed on Omaha beach).
21 BDS Operations Record Book:
The first echelon of 21 (BD) Sector embarked in five LCTs (Landing Craft Tanks) on 2 June 1944 at Portland where they remained in harbour until Sunday, 4 June 1944.
At approximately 04.00 hours the Armada left port and set sail for the English (Editor: French?) coast but before reaching Poole the whole fleet turned around and was back in port again by 07.00 hours, where it remained until 04.30 hours on the following morning. This time the Armada set sail for the invasion of the Continent, and the rendezvous off the coast of Normandy was reached soon after daybreak on 6 June 1944. The sea voyage was completely without enemy interference. Enemy aircraft were conspicuous by their absence, none being seen at all during the voyage. The sea was rough with a south-west wind blowing.
The first attempt at landing was made at 11.30 hours on 6 June 1944; the convoy moved towards the beach, the vehicles, all with their engines running, ready to disembark when the ramps were lowered, but as the convoy approached the beach it was observed that this beach was still under machine gun fire and heavy shell fire, and it was obviously impracticable to land the convoy then, and without warning it withdrew until 17.00 hours. During this time, considerable shelling of the cliffs was being done by the Navy to try and silence the shore batteries that were established on the cliffs continually shelling the beach. This went on right up to the time of landing. At 17.00 hours the convoy again headed for the beach, an order having been given to land.
As the convoy drew close to the shore, it was observed that this beach, which was St Laurent (about one mile to the west of Colleville beach where it was supposed to land), was under heavy shell fire from 88mm guns; these guns had got the range of the beach and were consistently shelling the American vehicles which were lined up at the head of the beach and unable to get away as the exits were blocked, but nevertheless, in spite of this, it was apparently decided suitable to land 21 (BD) Sector. Most of the craft were landed in about 4ft 3ins of water so that immediately they (Editor: the vehicles?) struck a hole they were “drowned”. In all, 27 vehicles were landed but out of this lot, only 8 were driven off the beach, although a number were salvaged later in varying stages of disrepair.
LCT 649 was landed considerably further out to sea than the other craft on a sandbank with about 4ft 3ins of water but the vehicles very soon dropped into the water about 6ft deep and were drowned. The men having to scramble on top of the vehicles to avoid also being drowned. All the vehicles from this craft were lost except one which never got off the craft as there was difficulty in starting the engine and the skipper refused to wait. It was noticeable that the skipper of this craft had only one interest and that was to get the vehicles off and to be away as soon as possible, having no consideration whatever for the fate of the vehicles and the troops he was disembarking. It is considered that this skipper did not look after his craft in the best interests of the men on board, as on no less than three occasions he got so far behind the convoy that one of the accompanying launches had to order him to close up on account of the risk he was taking. There was great difficulty in getting the men from this craft ashore as there was considerable distance to swim, but they were all safely got ashore in the end and nobody was drowned.
Very soon after the vehicles were landed, they came under further shell fire from an 88 and a number were destroyed in this manner as it was impossible to move them off the beach, both exits being completely blocked. This beach was more or less deserted except for the American wounded who had been lying about since the first assault, and the crews of American vehicles that could have been pulled out of the water with little ill effect to them or their equipment were left stranded in the water; the tide quickly came up and went over the top of them and they were lost to sight until the tide went down again. It was reported that, because the Emergency Medical Services were almost wiped out and the beach was still under heavy shell fire, it was decided not to land the elaborate beach organisation that was to be set up to deal with the disembarkation of the follow-up Units. In spite of this fact, however, it was apparently decided that it was a fit time to disembark 21 (BD) Sector.
The whole Unit came under heavy shell fire while they were on the beach. The troops were got to the top of the beach as soon as possible, they dug foxholes in the shingle and there they remained until the situation could be reviewed and a place found for the Unit to be moved to, it being obvious that the front line was just about a mile off the beach.
The Padre, Squadron Leader Harding, gallantly reconnoitred the little village of Les Moulins which was situated at the westerly coast (sic) of the beach; he came back and reported that this village was not under fire and also gave some cover. Squadron Leader Trollope then went over the beach and ordered everybody to move to this western end of the beach, the troops at this time being scattered in craft loads. For the next two hours, all personnel who were not wounded were employed at the exit of the beach, helping either to pull out some of the vehicles from the sea with a bulldozer which had now arrived on the scene, or with carrying wounded, both our own and the Americans off the beach. The doctor, Flight Lieutenant Ryecroft (sic), with the aid of the Padre, a lot of the time under fire, were continuously employed rendering wonderful medical aid to the wounded under the worst possible working conditions from the time of landing until late the following afternoon, when all the wounded were got to the American First Aid Post, overlooking the next beach. All the serious cases were evacuated to the UK that night except Wing Commander Anderson, who remained until the following day, to have his arm x-rayed and also to see what was going to happen to the Unit.
When this work at the beachhead was completed, the Unit moved up the road to this small hamlet of Les Moulins. Some of the wounded were taken to a courtyard of a house in this village, the rest being taken to a convenient crater on the beach, above high-water mark and were made as comfortable as possible under these conditions for the night. The rest of the Unit spent the night lying on the edge of the road at the entrance to the village which was situated between two thickly wooded hills and in most places, there was a low wall on the side of the road which rendered them some shelter from the continuous sniping that went on all through the night. These cliffs were full of snipers that had underground passages like rabbit warrens, honeycombing the whole area.
Soon after dark, 6 Junkers 88s, the only enemy aircraft so far seen or heard, came over and dropped two bombs on the beach, one of these named aircraft was shot down by the Navy. At intervals, throughout the night, there were odd bursts of fire, from the JU 88s bursting just above us.
US General Omar Bradley: Considered abandoning the Omaha landing because of stubborn German resistance.
Wg/Cdr A M Anderson: Wounded in action with 4 other officers and 31 ORs. Reported wounded in the arm. He waited until D+1 to have his arm X-rayed before casevac (casualty evacuation) to England.
Sqn/Ldr F J Trollope: Gathered together men scattered over Omaha Beach to its west end. Ordered troops to western end of the Omaha beach. Recce’d further inland from Les Moulins.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Tuesday – Left Portland at 0530. Tried to land 0930 pulled off. Lay off until 1700, ordered in. Tuesday – Omaha beach – the beach was already littered with dead and wounded and the wrecked vehicles of our Advanced Beach Engineering Party. It was going to be no walkover. There were two American patrol boats strolling (sic) up and down inshore watching all this. Traffic cops afloat, with the unmistakeable air of traffic cops, and they were controlling the shipping. We had had “landing tickets” issued to us on the other side; necessary documents no doubt – no modern war can be fought without documents – but the prospect of lining up somewhere and solemnly handing over tickets permitting us to invade in that holocaust was grimly funny, and gave rise to some ribaldry. Nine o’clock, the first low tide was our zero hour, but as we drew in we were met with concentrated machine gun fire, and patrol boats signalled us back. The beach was still in enemy hands, and we were to stand off about a mile until matters improved.
We tried again at 17.00hrs and this time with three other craft carrying small tanks and armoured cars, we made it. No-one else did. Mortar and shell fire became more intense than ever and not for another thirty-six hours, when the neighbouring beaches had linked up with us and cleared the Hun right out did anything else come ashore on Omaha Red. The offloading went smoothly and according to plan. Down the ramp with the engine racing in low gear, a slight thump on the sea bottom and the steady, seemingly interminable grind through three feet of water for some forty or fifty yards to dry land. The crane went first, with a Corporal, an LAC (Leading Aircraftman) and the Wing Commander. I went next with the Lieutenant AFS (Air Formation Signals) in the Jeep and the rest of the convoy followed. We drove standing up, remembering, as we had been taught, not to touch any controls except for the steering wheel! The beach obstacles, mostly concrete posts with mines fastened on the top, were all exposed by the low tide and were easily avoided, the sea bottom was fairly level, we just prayed hard about the mortar shells and snipers. And eventually the entire Type 15 GCI setup arrived safely on the beach, aerial transmitter, two diesels, crane, R-T (Receiver and Transmitter Units), one Jeep and four Crossleys.
Types 11 and 12 had not fared so well. One of their vessels had dropped its ramp on a concealed sandbank and, after running out a few yards, the vehicles had dropped, one after the other into eight or nine feet of water. The men clambered out and swam ashore but it was hopeless at that time to try to get the vehicles out. We pulled out two the next day with the bulldozer but lost the rest. The Type 11 aerial vehicle had to be blown up as it became a danger to navigation. The Type 13 aerial vehicle went into a very deep hole and was never seen again. The beach was not a healthy place – not by any means – and our immediate concern was to get off it and into the shelter of the little ravine that led away from the cliffs inland. This ravine was blocked by a solid barrier of earth some five or six feet high. The very first landing party of battle troops, the Beach Engineering Party, had been supposed to clear this obstacle with a bulldozer but on account of the heavy opposition, they had been wiped out almost to a man with their task unfinished. We were in line and good order, but trapped on the beach with the tide coming in, the barrier in front and American vehicles on both sides. We were trapped on Omaha Red, in as helpless and desperate a position as any writer of imitation war thrillers could have imagined. Also, we were suffering casualties. Our Wing Commander had been hit in the arm and the leg, and others had been killed or wounded.
Some of us copied the Americans and dug foxholes. Some others (myself included) thought that moving about upright was as safe as lying down static, and with our Medical Officer (MO) and one Medical Nursing Orderly (MNO) who did the most gallant work that day (ours were the only medicos on the beach – the others had been wiped out and the reserves had not been able to land), we began to organise what comfort we could for the wounded and get some cooperation from our American neighbours on a way out.
After half an hour – a lifetime of nightmare it seemed – we did at last find a working bulldozer with a driver, and got him up to the ravine. Here he bit into our earth barrier as nonchalantly as only a bulldozer can, and in a matter of minutes we were free and on the move. We got our vehicles off and up the valley into the quiet and comparative safety of a deserted village (Editor: Les Moulins?). Here we made an emergency casualty clearing station, and for the rest of the evening and most of the night went backwards and forwards to the beach collecting wounded. We, ourselves, had lost 12 men dead and 40 seriously injured. The Americans had suffered terribly and the beach was strewn with dead so thick that it was impossible to move a vehicle without crushing bodies. I think four thousand troops landed altogether on Omaha Red, and from that number over half of them became casualties. Refused permission by “Andy” (Editor: identity unknown but logically a senior officer i.e. Wg/Cdr Anderson) to leave beach with convoy. Salvage operations on Omaha beach with other Tech Officers.
Sqn/Ldr G C Harding (Padre): I was told that I was going to join the invasion of France. I was summoned to a meeting at Uxbridge with my immediate superior old Bill Wilkie, who died not so long ago, and he said he’d chosen me to go with a small RAF Radar unit which had been lent to the Americans because the American unit had not been able to get over from America. I was to go with them, land on Omaha beach on D-Day itself at 11 o’clock in the morning, by which time the beach would have been completely cleared, and our instructions were to drive 11 miles inland, set up all our apparatus – things called half cheeses which were located on the backs of trucks – and got ready to cover the beach after nightfall from the attacks of German bombers.
This time next morning the sea was still unpleasantly high and I’ve never woken up to a stranger spectacle: here we were, I should guess about two miles or three miles off Omaha beach in the weirdest and strangest collection of ships that I’ve ever hoped to see. A few regular warships, the rest were every conceivable kind of auxiliary vessel, large landing craft, small landing craft, the lot: sitting there completely unmolested from the air, apparently out of range of the guns on the French coast just waiting for our chance to go in and land. It was certainly a sight which I shall never forget. It was of course a miracle of a naval operation that everyone arrived apparently at the right place at the right time. And so we sat down to wait.
The RAF officer commanding my unit had suffered very, very badly indeed from seasickness and asked me if I would mind taking his place on the first truck out while he would retire to the fourth or fifth. I was quite prepared to do this, but of course it was long past 11 o’clock. As we were to know later, the American forces had had an appalling time on Omaha Beach. The first wave of the American 1st Division suffered something like 90% casualties, and the ones that came after did not do very much better.
The Texas Rangers performed prodigies of valour scaling the cliffs over on our right to silence the heavy guns only to find later that they were not actually manned. That was why we had not been molested at sea.
We were finally landed, I suppose, at about half past six in the evening. We were fully prepared for this. One of the minor incidents which amused me and my fellows was we’d all been issued with American condoms, or French letters, in order to preserve our watches and other valuables and I took the opportunity to seal a box of communion wafers in one of these things which served me well later on. It caused enormous amusement to my officer friends. So we went in.
We were landed a fairly long way from the shore in fairly deep water. We touched down and went ahead. The exhaust pipe protruded through the roof and somehow the engine kept going. Suddenly we went down into a deep hole – a covered shell hole – and had to get out as fast as we could. I got out and found I could stand on the bottom with the water just up to my chin, while my driver who was rather shorter than myself took my hand and he swam and I waded ashore together. I never think the English Channel is a good place to bathe in the best of time, but early in June it is still extremely cold and I felt extraordinarily cross.
The reason why the Americans had had such a bad time was almost immediately apparent. The underwater defences had been pierced in only two places on our stretch of the beach. We landed opposite the cliff which now contains the enormous American cemetery. We made our way through these gaps in the wire – the wires were still very much in evidence – and collected on the beach wondering what we were supposed to do next. We certainly had no opportunity of proceeding eight miles inland. I managed to change my clothes and put on something dry before we were then picked up by an 88 millimetre (field gun), firing from somewhere over the cliffs, guided I presume by some spotter in a hole in the cliff face. In quarter of an hour, we had lost all of our extremely valuable radar equipment and were not left with even a radio set to communicate our troubles to the people still at sea. So, we then had to do our best.
Just along the high-water line was a long line of American wounded who managed to creep up above the high-water line. Those who had not been able to do so had presumably been washed away by the tide. We had with us a young, very capable MO (Medical Officer) who had been plucked away from his honeymoon 3 days after his marriage to come and join us, and a very hard-working medical orderly, and they gave me one or two things to play with like a tourniquet and one or two little tubes of morphine to inject. Well, we were plagued by that 88 millimetre. In fact, in the end, we had 25% casualties. We rushed up and down the beach one way or the other but we couldn’t get out of the range of the beastly thing. I thought we really had had it. I was giving myself up to an early grave and I must admit that most of my remarks on the previous Sunday to the congregation now felt rather thin.
But it came to me very strongly indeed, almost as though a voice spoke in my ear that we must off that beach at all costs and take refuge under the shadow of the cliffs. So, I went forward, found a suitable site in the 3rd house up on the left, where there was an open courtyard. The few Germans ran away and apparently hid themselves in the house next door. This proved to be no trouble to us. And I then waved forward everybody I knew, to get off that blasted beach – I use the word in its proper sense – as fast as we could. Technically I think I committed mutiny, though technically (sic) I think I made the proper choice. But, somehow, we got off the beach, and got our wounded off too.
And our Medical Officer and his orderly worked right on through the night, tirelessly patching up our wounded and American wounded. I simply don’t know how they did it. I was of extremely little use. There were a number of people obviously in pain and making a great deal of fuss on the beach. I went to them and comforted them and then found that they were the people who survived, whereas the people who were actually dying around me were the people who were not making any sound at all.
A second time round I’d have known better what to do, but with no previous experience I don’t think I can be blamed for doing the wrong thing. Somehow or other we got off the beach – an American bomber did come over us overnight and drop a few bombs and fortunately didn’t succeed in hitting anybody. And then rather like St Paul on a famous occasion we prayed for the dawn.
Well, when dawn came there wasn’t much relief; the night before, an American Colonel and his Aide had come past our post complimenting us on what we were doing. I asked him whether we had much chance of surviving the night. He said he thought we would be alright as they were holding the enemy a quarter of a mile up, at the crossroads. It did not sound extremely reassuring but it was at any rate the best news we had. Luckily, we found a small American truck full of medical supplies that had got stranded in a ditch and we got a lot of valuable stuff for the use of our doctor. But it wasn’t until about 11 o’clock the next morning that a full medical team arrived and took over. Unfortunately, through lack of communication, the people at sea had no idea what was really going on at our end of the beach. It was a short experience, my own short experience of real warfare. I’ve no desire whatever to repeat it.
In our recent Falklands battle I shared to the full the emotions of the people who went ashore. The night before we landed, I must admit I spent a few hours of extraordinary disquiet and dismay and I wasn’t so afraid of being killed or even dangerously wounded. I was afraid of showing fear. What would have happened if my nerve had broken and I tried to run away? Of course, in practice I needn’t have worried because there was nowhere to run to. I certainly had no intention of dashing back into the English Channel, and as I said before the only thing to do on an invasion beach is to go forward and get as close to the enemy as you possibly can. I say that with the benefit of hindsight.
Flt/Lt Effinberger: Recce’d for site to find a parking site for the convoy. Ended up in an American compound (bit too much like a German?)
Flt/Lt D C Highfield (variously known as “Hoppy” or “Duggie”) reported killed in action along with 9 ORs. The MO, Flt/Lt R N Rycroft, states “Duggie killed next to me under lorry”.
Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock (Ned): At about 09.00 hours our LSTs suddenly set off from the middle of the invasion fleet – straight in – ours leading, the other four following. The recce party was third. A patrol craft tossing about in the rough seas came close: “What wave are you?” I didn’t hear the reply, but the patrol seemed satisfied: “In you go!” As we neared the beach, we could see clearly that it was not yet captured. The men ashore were taking cover from enemy fire; there was a vehicle burning; as we watched, an explosion blew a figure high in the air.
Aboard our vessel was a US observer, who had experience at Pantellaria. He, we heard, had assessed the situation and concluded that the last thing needed ashore at this stage was a collection of technicians armed with radar aerials. Rather relieved, we turned seaward, presuming we could land next day. We stood off while naval guns pounded the shore. We saw the Vierville clock tower destroyed (we later learned it was suspected of housing German artillery observers). Mercifully, we knew nothing of the desperate battle by the American infantry to gain a foothold (this was the sector eastward of us, where the Americans had been carried by strong tidal currents). Nor did we know of General Bradley’s debating whether the Omaha landing should be abandoned.
About four o’clock in the afternoon we were concluding that it would be useless to land now – no chance of working that night. Then, suddenly, in we went! It was now low tide, so we could be landed below the beach obstacles which the Army engineers had not yet been able to clear, because of enemy fire. Then followed the débâcle. The unplanned landing at low tide instead of high had disastrous results. Some vehicles were landed on sandbars and stalled as they drove into deeper water. Others sank in patches of soft sand on the long run up the beach and were immersed as the tide rose. Those reaching the shoreline found that the wire and earth barriers had not yet been breached and there was no way off the exposed beach. They became sitting targets for enemy shellfire, and shrapnel-punctured diesel oil drums fed the flames.
On our LCT, the ramp splashed down as the vessel grounded; the vehicles roared down the ramp, the water rose steadily around our waists; the engines gave up, and we sat – thinking the thoughts with which I began this tale. Suddenly, past us there surged a Thorneycroft – great bow wave, cab high above water – and leaning out, a grinning face under a tin hat, hand-signalling to us what might have been charitably interpreted as a V-sign (Victory). Just the irrepressible humour needed to jerk us back to practicality!
I waded ashore to where our rescue Diamond-T crane waited, and managed to drag a cable back and grope under water to hook up. By the time it became clear that the surging sea had embedded the wheels too deep for retrieval to be possible, the water had risen to cab-top level. There was no way ashore except a swim in full kit, made possible by two factors – nightly keep-fit runs back at 60 Group, and that assault respirator, giving buoyancy!
The crane crew already had one man wounded, and after I staggered exhausted up the beach between the obstacles, I could see nothing and no one – no beachmaster, no medics – just dead and wounded, and abandoned vehicles.
After a brief rest, leaning against one of the vehicles, it seemed to me best to get busy, the urgent task being to save what equipment we could. Flames threatened an undamaged truck. I managed to pull out a wounded GI from his doubtful shelter underneath it, and drove my first-ever heavy transport clear of the flames. Then a bulldozer suddenly appeared and cleared away the barriers; there was a way off the beach, and our group seemed to come together again, rescuing what vehicles could be driven up to a field in the narrow valley and collecting wounded for evacuation.
We had suffered heavy casualties – ten dead and forty wounded. The Americans had suffered horrific casualties, and the beaches were strewn with their dead. In the midst of all this, some of us found a place to sleep, under a hedge in the grounds of a seaside villa. I managed to borrow a blanket, and I don’t recall discomfort from wet clothes. There was wry compensation in that the only air attack on our location came from a lone JU88 flying very low to avoid the hail of fire from the assembled shipping. (This uncontrolled ack-ack fire was to make the night-fighter task more difficult).
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Landed Moulins (Editor: Les Moulins).
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (Medical Officer): The movement to France was done in three main bodies. One GCI plus attached bodies landed on D-Day (total 190 Officers and Other Ranks). After waiting offshore since 09.00hrs the LCTs were sent in at 17.00hrs. Under fire after 5 minutes. LCT 649 touched down too far out. Was next ship to MOs. In centre LCT craft; vehicles reached the shore without difficulty; vehicles on each wing “drowned”. LCTs on either wing did not come under shell fire until about an hour had elapsed. Reported tending to the wounded on the beach assisted by the Padre (Sqn/Ldr G C Harding). Serviceable vehicles moved through gap in wire to a small hamlet ¾ mile inland (Editor: Les Moulins?). All wounded attended to by 21.30hrs and carried up the beach away from the advancing tide. GCI landed on D-Day unable to do the job it had been landed for, due to heavy losses of material.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft: (Diary); Awake 7.30. Up and about 8.00. French coast in sight. Seemed about 10 miles away. Nearly landed at 11.30. Not a sign on the beach. Suspected a trap. No food provided. Anxious looking people. Reading “Kings Row” in lorry cabin just before we set course. Still no trouble. Ship (LCT 649) next to us touches down too far out. Jeeps fail to make it. Abandoned. Another LCT (Landing Craft Tank) crashes into back. Occasional shell on beach. All I expected. We do good landing. Blocked very soon. Lie on sand near LCT trap. Abandoned rifle nearby. No casualties seen. Bombardment commences after ten minutes. Not taken seriously at first. Odd gun probably not spotted. Hole in shingle would be “safe as houses”. Quickly disillusioned. American wounded too. Dashing about everywhere with panniers. “Only a matter of time”. No plan. No exit. Duggie killed next to me under lorry. Miraculous escape. Shell hole wounded. Very hard to get help. Tide coming up. Village [Les Moulins] safe. Sure to be shelled during night. Bomb near water – dirt everywhere. Felt it to be last night on earth. Dreaded morning. Working all night at first aid.
After waiting off shore since 09.00 hrs, approximately, the LCTs were sent in at 17.00hrs. I was in the centre of the landing craft and our vehicles were able to reach the shore without difficulty. We came under shell fire five minutes after reaching the beach. The LCTs on either wing were less fortunate and a large percentage of the vehicles were drowned. The wings were not subjected to shellfire however until about an hour had elapsed.
We had been given to understand that when we reached the beach we should be told immediately where our transit area was, and should be sent there without delay. In point of fact the beach was without any visible organisation and, since there was no exit, the vehicles remained strung out for about three hours. The German Artillery took full advantage of this and shelled us with great accuracy for several hours. The men took refuge under vehicles and in hastily dug fox-holes in the line of shingle at the upper limit of the beach area. The majority of wounds were compound fractures of the limbs, although the men were all lying down when injured. During the treatment of these freshly wounded personnel, it was discovered that there were about twenty American Soldiers, who had been wounded in the early morning assault, lying in holes in the shingle. They had only received elementary first aid and after twelve hours in the open were in some cases severely shocked. Their dressings were checked and measures taken to keep them warm. (The American wounded could give us no idea where we could contact American Medical Units.) The first American Medical Officer seen by me was seen at 22.00hrs. I saw no more until 12.00hrs June 7th.
At 21.30hrs all the wounded had been attended to and had been carried to the shingle away from the advancing tide. The shelling had ceased except for spasmodic bursts. The vehicles remaining were slowly moved through a gap in the wire and put in a small lane leading to a cluster of houses ¾ mile inland. The problem of disposing of the wounded was next tackled. A radio van was cleared and used to transport some of the wounded to the small village, where they were put beside the road and in the gardens of the houses. There were no houses fit to accommodate them. In all, thirty wounded were thus moved. It was considered likely that the Enemy would shell the village during the night or early the next morning so another thirty wounded were accommodated in a large gun emplacement about four feet deep. This afforded protection from anything except a direct hit. This emplacement was a hundred yards inland from the beach. The night was fortunately mild and, except for one bomb dropped fifty yards away from the emplacement, was quiet. The hours of darkness were spent in moving around the wounded adjusting dressings and applying dressings to wounds that had not been discovered in the early hours of the landing. (Since the wounded were so numerous, it was not found practicable to attach labels to each patient since the time was fully spent doing first aid.) Considering the severe nature of many of the injuries and the elementary anti-shock measures taken, it was expected that many patients would die during the night. Actually, three patients died out of about sixty wounded and these were severely wounded and would probably have died in hospital had one been available.
The expected attack did not materialise when dawn came, but there was much sniping from close range and half a dozen people were hit, none seriously however. When searching above the village for hot water at 07.00 hrs, I came across three US Medical Orderlies in a trench. They had apparently left their first aid post in the village during the previous evening, discretion being the better part of valour. After some minutes they were persuaded to leave their security and during the rest of the morning did very valuable work in the village giving plasma transfusions to about a dozen selected cases while I was attending sixteen US Soldiers who had evacuated themselves from the beach on the previous evening and were under the shelter of a wall half way up the village. They were discovered accidentally by one of our party at about 08.00 hrs. Except for one head injury and two abdominal wounds the patients were not seriously injured. The first abdominal wound case died soon after I had reached the group, while the second case had his rectum involved and was passing blood frequently. He was given a plasma transfusion on the spot and recovered sufficiently to be taken to the village by stretcher. At about 12.00 hours, several US Medical Officers appeared in the village from a casualty Clearing Hospital about a mile and a half away. They took over from the Medical Orderlies and were able to look after the wounded in the village generally. They apparently had not been aware of the position on this smaller beach and were surprised to see the number of casualties. The wounded were moved off in available vehicles during the afternoon to the Casualty Clearing Hospital at Omaha Beach. The operation was slow because of traffic blocking the narrow lanes, but the last patient was removed from the vicinity of the beach by 17.00 hrs – 24 hrs after we had landed.
I. The expected medical organisation on the beach was not present because of heavy US casualties (assault forces and Medical Officers) earlier in the day. No information was obtainable about casualty clearing posts.
II. Our own casualties were much higher than expected (25% approximately and added to those were the American soldiers left on the beach from the early morning assault)
III. Available Medical supplies were soon used (25 Tubonic ampoules were followed by Morphine Tartrate tablets used sublingually). Shortage of stretchers and bearers was felt acutely.
IV. First Aid was carried out remarkably well by individuals. The Unit Padre did a Medical Officer’s work under very difficult conditions. Without the aid of these people the casualties would have been considerably higher.
V. The absence of an ambulance was probably the most severe set back. The type of vehicle in a Unit of this kind is not readily converted into a stretcher carrier.
VI. The transfusion outfit carried was unable to be used owing to pressure of work and lack of assistance.
VII. The most remarkable clinical fact was the number of patients surviving after severe wounds. Long periods in the open under very noisy and terrifying conditions, and with only elementary first aid and anti-shock measures. This, I think, is strong evidence that the human organisation benefits from rest rather than too energetic “resuscitation” methods.
VIII. The American personal first aid pack was very useful and much superior to the English counterpart. Local sulphonamide and general therapy were possible in each wounded American.
IX. Haemorrhage in the majority of cases was adequately controlled by a tight dressing. Tourniquets were duly used in a few cases and then under supervision. One Officer with a severe foot injury (complete destruction of the tarsus) seemed to get reassurance from doing his own tourniquet adjustment until he was transferred to hospital.
I should like, in conclusion, to refer to the work done by the sole Medical Orderly LAC Reid, J (15082 GCI Unit). His assistance given throughout the twenty-four hours cannot be rated too highly.
The Padre, Sqn/Ldr G C Harding, states that Flt/Lt R N Rycroft carried out a Medical Officer’s work under very difficult circumstances.
F/Sgt F M Adair: 5 LCTs contained 21 BDS and kept close together at all times. He speaks of a rough crossing, seasickness, no galley or messroom – American crew.
1st Echelon of 21BDS attempted a landing at 11.30hrs but as it drew closer to the beach it was evident that the beach was in a shambles. No control had been established, cleared areas had not been identified and exit routes were not marked. They were later to learn that the Beachmaster and his troops hadn’t even been landed. The beach was littered with debris, burnt-out vehicles and dead bodies. Anyone still alive was attempting to take cover behind or under whatever wreckage existed. The sky was lit up with shell bursts and the noise was eardrum shattering. It would have been impossible for the Sector to have gone operational under such conditions and they were ordered back to sea to stand by while naval guns pounded the shore. They withdrew under machine gun fire and by mid-afternoon, not having heard otherwise and since no other landings had taken place, it was concluded that they would probably not be going ashore until the next day. However, at about 17.00hrs, their coxswain advised that the Senior Royal Air Force Officer, “Officer i/c Troops”, had ordered them in. They headed for the beach. It was by then low tide and beach obstacles laid by the Germans were fully exposed. On approaching the shore, it was apparent that the whole landing area was a disaster, not only the beach itself. Some vehicles were stranded on sandbars, others simply “drowned” as they drove off the ramp of the LCTs. Those that landed on sandbars dropped into several feet of water as they moved forward. Others bogged down closer to the shore and as the tide rose, were also “drowned”. There were shattered trucks, German tank obstacles and many bodies. The whole front was pounded by 88mm guns, heavy artillery and other assorted weaponry. Some time later, having gathered together a motley assortment of Airmen, US Marines and Rangers, a Medic and a Naval Petty Officer, a Rangers Captain received a signal to the effect that consideration was being given to abandoning the beach. He suggested that they all remained where they were until dawn on D+1 at which time they would attempt a break out in order to make contact with the British on the eastern flank or with the Americans to the west on Utah beach.
F/Sgt R Eckersall: Recce on beach with Sqn/Ldr Norman Best.
Sgt Hamble (or Humble): Reported as having been blinded.
Cpl W E Adderley: Tuesday – Landed on Omaha (Dog Red) with US Army. Pinned down on the beach.
Cpl John G Stevens (RCAF): (Editor: a Royal Canadian Air Force radar mechanic on GCI convoy 15082). At the end of D-Day, 47 of the 120 men from our Unit were casualties, including our Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Trollope. It would be a couple of days before our destroyed convoy vehicles would be replaced from England.
Cpl Bill Firby: He was not in a lorry. Even though he was a driver, his orders were to leave the landing craft on foot and make his way ashore to join up with the rest of the 21 BDS group. When he left the landing craft, he immediately was up to his chest in water. He had his rifle and a respirator. He also had a bottle of brandy! (May have been Scotch). He walked towards the shore, but instead of getting shallower, it actually got deeper. He could just touch the bottom, but was beginning to be pulled along the beach by the tide. He was completely wet and to keep afloat, he lost some of his equipment. He saw that the all the lorries from his LCT were drowned out and most were beneath the surface. He was particularly mad as he lost his bottle of brandy. Bill was able to just keep his head above water and had his rifle held above his head to keep it dry and described it as “moon hopping”. Bill drifted eastwards and was at least 200 yards away from the point o the beach that they landed, and was separated from his unit. He remembers the noise of the guns and the mortars coming in. He landed and recognised another from his group, an RAF type who was another Radar Operator. Bill thinks this man’s name was Love. Both of them found some shelter in a crater, some yards from the shingle wall. Bill said he felt a flash of relief, as he was on his own and free from Authority. He could do what he wanted and no one could argue with him. It was his rebellious nature coming out and he was pleased. Even though he was under fire, Bill thought it fun and was amused that he had no one ordering him around. It was a type of freedom. He saw many Americans around him, some dead and some injured but the bulk were lying along the shingle wall. Once he got their bearings, he called out to them asking what was going on. He remembers not getting a reply. He called out again, and still no reply. This got him mad, and so he went up to the shingle bank, and was close to them when he saw that they were all dead.
It was at this time that he became aware of the danger and the isolation. He became aware that they were on their own, and he and the RAF Operator decided to walk along the beach towards where they could see trucks from 15082. There were many shells landing and they (the Germans) obviously could see what they were shelling as they hit many trucks and troop concentrations. They were now cold as their uniform was soaking wet and they had lost much of their equipment. They were now becoming less sure of themselves. After walking about 200 yards, they saw some of their equipment shelled out but then came across a Padre. Bill has no idea where he came from and has no recollection of seeing him before, but he was a tall, thin, straight upright man. Calmly this Padre called out to them: “This way boys”, and guided them off the beach, through a gap and through barbed wire. The Padre was amazingly calm and assured, and just guided them off beach. He told them what to do and they followed his instructions. They walked a short distance off the beach and passed a few houses. Shelling was still taking place and Bill had to jump into a shell hole. He saw a part of a pig in the crater, and jumped out of it and into another crater. There he hid and realised that what he had seen was not a pig but the rump of a man, burnt and dismembered. This shocked and scared him. In a lull in the shelling, he moved up the road a bit. There was a shallow wall on the left and he walked, passed an American Infantryman kneeling in the prone position, with his rifle pointing up the valley. Bill called out to him “What’s going on”? No reply. Bill called out again, keen for an answer. No reply. Bill flipped and lost his temper. “Why can’t this guy tell him what’s going on?” He left his cover and went across to this GI and nearly reached him, when he saw his face was grey, covered in dust and motionless. He was dead. This made Bill very scared and remorseful.
Not much further on, he was walking past one of the lorries and was called to crawl under it by some others from his section. “Get under here. There’s room for you.” At that point he felt lost, bewildered and scared. He cannot remember seeing any NCOs or Officers and felt incredibly alone. He said that he stood his rifle up against the wall and crawled in under the lorry with his mates. Bill said that the gesture of standing his rifle up was like a sign of resignation of his position and the guilt he felt about being mad with the poor dead American. It was here that Bill spent D-Day night. He heard a man moaning all night long on the far side of the road, and was told that the Medics were with him. He heard that he died that night. He also remembers the burnt-out lorries on the beach and thinks that there were about 6 or 7 lorries lined up where he was taking shelter. His NCO was Muir Adair.
Cpl E Heathcote: In first 21 BDS Echelon on D-Day. Dawn – arrived off the coast of Normandy unmolested by the Luftwaffe. First attempt at landing made at 1130. Attempt impractical and LCTs withdrew. The warship “Texas” bombarded Omaha beach. 21 BDS held up for about 5 hours. Second attempt at landing made at 1700. Beach was near St Laurent not intended for Colleville. LCT landed too far out on a sandbank. All vehicles “drowned” except one which would not start. Reported the Padre, Sqn/Ldr G C Harding, assisting the MO, Flt/Lt R Rycroft in tending to the wounded on the beach reconnoitred the hamlet of Les Moulins. Reported it not under fire. Sqn/Ldr Trollope ordered all 21 BDS Troops to move to western end of beach. The unit took up position at Les Moulins village. 21 BDS Operations Record Book reports the Padre, Sqn/Ldr G C Harding, assisting the MO, Flt/Lt R Rycroft in tending to the wounded on the beach.
Cpl E.F. Middleton: Stated by A C (Archie) Ratcliffe – Lost his life by “driving up and down” until “shot up” by heavy machine gun fire.
LAC J. Cubitt: His passenger on disembarkation was the Unit MO (Flt/Lt Rycroft). States that everyone in his LCT was seasick. Also states that they “must have been three or four hours late as the tide was well out when the ramp was dropped”. I was rather surprised to (see) columns of water rise here and there as shells burst around the ramp, not too near fortunately. Our engines had been warming up for some minutes. In front of the boat there was a Diamond “T” breakdown truck followed by the CO’s Jeep. Jeeps were floating we noticed so ours was tied to the Diamond “T” to stop it floating into the beach obstacles which were mined. Off they went and I engaged the four wheel drive lowest gear and stamped on the accelerator. The engine must not stall under water.
I pulled round the Diamond “T” while the Jeep was being untied. I now had the dubious honour of leading the column. The Unit Medical Officer was my passenger for the trip. On reaching the head of the beach I turned right. My way up the sand was through the debris of war. Bodies in various attitudes, radios, vehicles, rifles, equipment, tanks and half tracks blown up as they left the boats, and I was leading a column of “soft” vehicles into this carnage. We stopped, there was no way off the beach and there we had to stay under a steady barrage of 88mm shells. There was a long, curved line of vehicles stretching down to the water’s edge. They began to take direct hits. We had some diesel generators on lorry chassis, each had 40 gallon drums of diesel oil on board. A direct hit on a drum of diesel sent smoke a hundred feet up, quite spectacular.
Men began to get hit and the MO and his orderly were getting to work. I dived under my vehicle, a rather foolish move as two tyres were soon flattened by shrapnel and I moved out again. The Padre walked into some dead ground looking for somewhere to move to and saw that there was a road out blocked by a bank of shingle. Somewhere or other he found an armoured bulldozer and got the driver to doze away the bank. On my right one of our airmen was lying on his face, his toes beating an agonised tattoo in the sand. I found out later that he had been hit in the kidneys and he was in great pain.
Further down the line a squadron leader was lying with his foot blown off. A Flight Lieutenant (Editor: D Highfield) assisting him heard another shell and shielded him by throwing himself on top of the wounded man and was killed by the shrapnel. Quite close, propped up by another vehicle wheel was a sergeant also named John (Editor: Hamble or Humble), with a field dressing over his left eye. He subsequently lost that eye. Later on, came the Wing Commander and he took a piece of shrapnel in the wrist. The day was drawing on. The Padre came along and told us there was now a gap in the shingle bank and we could move off the beach. By now I had been joined by my driver Corporal, and John (the wounded sergeant) begged to go with us so we helped him into the cab. My front offside tyre was flat and so was my nearside rear. The drag of the front tyre pulled us to the right. It was impossible to turn left off the beach, so assisted by the Corporal I drove past the exit and described a wide circle to the right and with the expenditure of a lot of sweat came back to the exit, just managing to straighten the wheel to get us on the road.
About a hundred yards off the beach in a protected sunken road we stopped in front of a house. We put the wounded in the garden of the house and tried to make them comfortable. It was obvious that we were not moving far until morning and the evening was approaching. There was no question of going further as yet so I busied myself trying to help some of our wounded. Personnel were gathering in twos and threes, and odd vehicles joined us as the evening wore on. Some American medics paid a visit on their way through and helped with dressings and sulphur and penicillin which was unknown to us at the time. Our own medical staff were still fully stretched elsewhere. We huddled by the garden wall all night. I suppose we slept on and off, the day had been endless. I had no sense of time, things just happened. It took all night to gather the unit together and account for everyone. During the night the front moved slowly inland and by morning we were over a mile behind the action.
LAC J (John/Jock) Reid: Commended by his MO for work carried out as Medical Orderly during Beach landing on D-Day.
LAC R (Dickie) C Parr – Landed with Eric Heathcote. Killed on the beach.
A C (Archie) Ratcliffe: We sailed about the same time on the evening of June 5th, 1944. Still rough and stormy. LCT really thumping about. I haven’t mentioned the names of the others. I shall have to rely upon my memory. Bill Pilling, two Sandersons, Dad Sanderson from Blackburn, Curly Sanderson from Manchester, A Sullivan from Brighton, Tubby Rowberry, George Forshaw. Sea running very rough; tried to sleep on top of the load, but I did this unsuccessfully. I managed to get a little in the cab. A lot of apprehensive talk, some silly jokes from Dad Sanderson, but very funny all the same. Underneath all the joking, was a lot of serious thinking, nerves and apprehension, not to say some of what would lie ahead.
The Commander of the LCT called us together and told us that we were to go to a beach under the name of Omaha, and that we would be landing in the American sector, at H+2 hours. Had a couple of scares that there were some E-boats about and possibly a submarine. The sea was still running high and some of the lads were still feeling seasick, and would be glad to get ashore. As it turned out, there would be a change of mind later.
We had been at sea for 9 hours or so. As it was getting towards dawn, we could hear lots of aircraft again, having previously heard a large number during the night. An hour later, we could hear a lot of either bombing or heavy gunfire. As it got lighter, we could see nothing but ships and boats of all sizes; battleships, destroyers, LSTs, LCTs, LCIs, and hundreds of them. What an incredible sight. As we came in sight of Omaha beach, the noise was tremendous. We could see the American lads in LCIs and LCTs going ashore. The scene was terrible. We could see there must have been a lot of trouble on the beach. There was heavy shelling and mortar fire, plus very heavy machine gun firing. The Commander of our LCT told us that we were to delay going ashore as there was quite some trouble for us getting ashore with the Yankee infantry through Jerry shelling and mortar fire, very heavily at all sea craft that were trying to get in.
Now everybody aboard our own LCT were getting more than a little anxious. We had had several near misses already as we had been under fire for a few hours. We had been very close to an American battleship for most of the time, I think it was the noise of its guns that was so deafening. Also, there was a couple of LCRs (Landing Craft Rocket) close by that kept up an unholy noise. I think the time was getting on for about 11:00-11:30. (Editor: Hand-written note added – “PROBABLY LATER”). We had been hanging about for several hours, when we were told that we had to go now, or we would miss the tide and have to be dropped too far out. I happened to be the first one in line that was to go ashore. As we got nearer to the beach, we could see the mayhem. There were bodies everywhere in the sea, in burning LCTs and LCIs. We were dropped about 100 yards from the shore.
As I came off the LCT, the sea filled my cab almost to the top of the steering wheel. The Corporal CPL with me said “Don’t you dare take your ‘so and so’ feet off that ‘so and so’ accelerator.” My mind was in quite a whirl during the run in. The mortaring and shelling was getting heavy again. The Corporal CPL said he could see and hear shrapnel and bullets hitting all around. With my load of line poles, I was concerned that we might lose traction, and float, so being a sitting duck. Eventually, we arrived on the beach. The beach master was going potty signalling to come on, so I did through a large lake of water that was on the beach, which was either an old shell hole or a hole left by a mine as there was a lot of debris and bodies scattered about. My 2 front wheels of the lorry went in and stopped very abruptly. As I was trying to get out, an ambulance cut in front of me; he unfortunately hit a mine and blew up, also taking some others at the same time. I never realised just how deep the beach was, I reckon it must have been between 400-600 yards deep. There was utter carnage all around.
I didn’t know where the other lads were; I didn’t know if they”d even got off the LCT. The noise was terrible, very smoky and smelly. The Corporal said he could see a large Yankee recce vehicle up near the bluffs to his left and suggested we make for it. I can’t remember having said anything all the time from leaving the LCT. We managed to get to the recce vehicle but he said I was swearing and shouting all the time, and that none of the Germans had no mothers and fathers… We dug in, in between the recce vehicle and my Crossley. Somebody must have been looking out for us as we all survived the landings; Bill Pilling was dug in about 30 yards away. We were at various parts of the beach, but had managed to get up under the bluffs. Most had lost their vehicles during the mortar fire and shelling as the morning went on. Only mine and Bill’s were serviceable, but both had received plenty of shrapnel attention. Several times during that morning we went out to get the wounded under these bluffs for attention by the medics. Things had quietened down for a while, but there was still plenty of activity about.
It seemed to be bad a bit further along the beach, about 600 yards or so. We could see more LCTs trying to get ashore. They were getting a hell of a beating. We could see that they were in battle dress, so we knew that it was the RAF Special Signals Unit that we were to join at the same map reference that we were given. It was 15082 GCI Unit. We had been with them for a couple of days before we sailed, so we knew all of them. There was nothing we could do to help them. We could see them trying to get off the beach with their vehicles, but were getting heavily mortared and machined gunned. We knew they were getting casualties and losing vehicles; that’s how it went on for most of the day.
Grateful that our lads had survived without any really serious injuries or wounds. Most of us had a few cuts and bruises. I had something stuck in my knee, a cut on my arm plus a bloody nose and very sore eyes. Most had very similar cuts etc. 15082 were not so fortunate. They lost 8 killed and several wounded, some seriously. I think most of 313 lads were resigned that we wouldn’t survive the day. We were mostly in a state of shock during the first few hours. We didn’t get off the beach until about 10.00 hours when the Padre got us off to a concentration area on top of the beach. That is where the American Cemetery is now, at St Laurent-sur-Mer.
Having got to the concentration area, we found we only had 3 of our vehicles that were able to get there. We had settled down for the night RAF personnel and the Americans altogether. The Americans had managed to get a few half-tracks and tanks ashore. They were all very concentrated; blokes with vehicles were sleeping under their wagons, others were lying beside the half-tracks or in hastily dug slip trenches.
S (Stan) Mallet: He and a colleague captured two “Jerries”, who said they had had enough and threw away rifles.
Arnold Palin: Early in 1944, Arnold found himself attached to the American 1st Division (The Big Red One), his job being Ground to Air Communications. It was in that role that he landed on D-Day on Omaha Beach in Normandy. He was in one of the first waves of landing craft but as we now know the Americans were not able to get forward from the beach for some hours. All that Arnold and his American colleagues could do at this time was to get under whatever cover was available to them. This happened to be their own truck which contained all their radio equipment. It was soon clear that it would be safer to be further along the beach, so they made a dash for the next vehicle a few yards away. Arnold was the first to scramble under the truck with the Americans crowding behind him, but almost instantly, a mortar round hit the truck that they had just left and the explosion killed the American lads and wounded Arnold in the left knee.
At the time and in the circumstances, he did not think much of it, his only thought being to get off the beach as there was no way back. When the Americans eventually began to force their way off the beach, he decided to go with them, even though he had lost his radio equipment and as a result would not be of much use. It was clearly safer than remaining on the beach. His knee was not troubling him at the time. He attached himself to a group of Americans and moved inland with them for a few days, but in the end his leg gave out and he could no longer walk on it. An American Parson found him laying by the side of a road and he stopped a truck so that Arnold could be transported back to the beach. Killed on 11th May 1945 in Germany.
7 June 1944, Wednesday (D+1)
HQ 85 (Base) Group Operations Record Book
Records: No.15082 GCI sustained casualties to both vehicles and personnel during the landing and is not yet operational.
21 BDS Operations Record Book:
At 05.00 hours, Squadron Leader Trollope went up the road to see if it was possible to move the Unit further inland as it was obviously in a very dangerous position where it was, apart from the fact that it was blocking the road should further transport be disembarked. Actually, nothing was disembarked on this beach after 21 (BD) Sector till late the following afternoon. The result of the reconnaissance showed that it appeared possible to move a mile or so up the road but just before this move took place, Flight Lieutenant Effenberger, who was sent up this road to find a position to park the convoy, came back and reported that the road was now under cross machine gun fire and that he had been fired at a number of times, on one occasion having his steel helmet knocked off. From later experience, this fire is considered to have come from the Americans, who were trigger conscious and repeatedly mistook the RAF blue for the enemy.
At about 11.00 hours, the 88mm guns opened up on the beach with greater determination, as the Unit, after a further reconnaissance, moved up the road and pulled into a field about ¾ of a mile up as Transit Area No.3 was still not open. This field was full of American snipers, who were firing over our heads into the wooded hill at random. There was also a certain amount of return fire from the enemy snipers but nobody was seen to be hit. At approximately 14.00 hours, Major Kelakos, Intelligence Officer, 49th AA Brigade, contacted us in the field and he told us that General Timberlake suggested that the Unit pulled into Transit Area 2, at the top of the hill overlooking the next beach to the east and adjacent to his Headquarters. This was the first official contact of any sort that had been made with the Americans since landing.
The convoy moved out of this field almost immediately, through the village of St Laurent where terrific rifle fire was taking place and went to Transit Area No. 2 where it settled down for the night. This place was pretty crowded but the troops managed to find room to dig foxholes for themselves to sleep in. It was an extremely noisy position as there was cross shellfire going on overhead between the Navy and the 88mm guns which were again shelling the beaches.
The military position during the whole of this period was extremely precarious, the bridgehead reported not to be anywhere more than two to three miles deep. Wing Commander Anderson, who had been wounded in the wrist, and Squadron Leader Trollope contacted General Timberlake of the 49th AA Brigade in the evening and the position was reviewed. It was decided to move the convoy next morning, June 8th, to fields nearby so that the equipment could be examined to see if it was possible to get any of it operational.
By that time, Squadron Leader Best and the other technical officers, who had worked unceasingly by salvaging equipment of all sorts from the beaches, ranging from vehicles down to small items of equipment from derelict vehicles, considered that it would be possible to set up and become operational if another site was selected, the original site still being in the hands of the enemy. Squadron Leader Trollope again saw General Timberlake and a site was selected overlooking the cliff, just behind No. 2 Transit Area. The convoy moved there in the afternoon and the equipment was set up ready to become operational on the following night.
Wg/Cdr A M Anderson: Contacted Gen Timberlake re precarious position of the GCI. Wg/Cdr noted as wounded.
Sqn/Ldr F J Trollope: At 05.00 reconnoitred road further inland from Les Moulins. With Wg/Cdr Anderson. Saw Gen Timberlake, twice, re site for radar.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Wednesday – SE of St Laurent.
After a few hours’ sleep (we were dive bombed in our village about midnight by ten German planes – two of them shot down by Ack-Ack on the boats) we were about at first light (05.30). No further landings were being made. Although there were plenty of craft standing out at sea getting ready to come in. Some shelling and sniping was going on, but we did a bit of salvaging and with the aid of our friend the bulldozer, managed to pull out two diesel vehicles of the submerged Type 11. One of ours had been hit – indeed all our vehicles had been more or less damaged on the beach, and standby diesels seemed very desirable additions to our convoy. We also salvaged the Type 14 aerial vehicle which had got stuck in the sands and suffered from sea water damage. The front line was said to be half a mile ahead of us but some of the American troops un-bottled from the beachhead had now fought their way round to the west until they had linked up with our neighbouring beachhead. This positively ended our isolation and made us all feel a good deal better. In the afternoon our convoy lined up and we left our village making east where, by the other beachhead, a transit camp had been formed and the landings were going well to schedule, complete with tickets, permission to invade and all.
We met an American General there who had the radar outlook alright. He wanted us to get on the air right away and showed us a flat field on the cliff overlooking the beachhead where we could set up. Our proper site, some six or seven miles inland, was still in German hands. It was now the evening of D+1 and that night we slept like logs. Our wounded had been cleared and taken back to England, we had the main part of the convoy, safe but battered, a couple of spare diesels (waterlogged) and a site. 50 yards away, one of the first emergency runways on what had been enemy territory, was being constructed.
Flt/Lt E H (Ned) Hitchcock: Up at dawn, some sodden biscuits, and off to rescue our Type 14 transmitter, caught in soft sand and then by the tide. A dead American leaned against the wheel; seaweed draped over all. We requested help from a bulldozer which was busy rescuing other bulldozers. Shelling started, and the engineers removing beach obstacles took over. The LST was shelled. The bulldozer arrived, extracted the Type 14 like a cork from a bottle, and towed it, still sinking into sand, past the LST wreck. Then came the sniper fire from the bluffs, and the driver prudently abandoned the tow: he was too good a target. (We soon learned that walking briskly from cover to cover baffled the snipers – don’t stand still!) It appeared that further landings had been abandoned. Had it all been a failure? Were we just a few stranded on an enemy shore? Then came relief – American tanks advancing from the next sector (misnamed “Easy Beach”). Then a little later came one of those indelible moments in the memory – a group of men crowded round a vehicle listening to the BBC news – to be told that the invasion had been successful and that men and materials were pouring ashore on the other beaches. We carried on collecting our battered remnants and started the task of putting together what we could to become operational. Later, we moved to a camp site nearby.
Flt/Lt Effinberger (Polish Technical Officer): Looked for choice of site to set up GCI 15082 on D+1. Fired at by the enemy after going up a road inland from Les Moulins.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Arrived at St Laurent Transit area.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Up road from village in search of water. American orderlies in slit trench. 7 o’clock. Not anxious to leave after a few minutes. Snipers everywhere. Wounded round wall. Unable to leave because of snipers – just about to take my chance when they were rounded up (27 of them). May be a chance of living now. No food. Water for wounded only. No sign of evacuation facilities. Would they ever get away? Five o’clock last wounded away. Americans had turned up at last and had clearing station. Plasma with NCO. Away up road (my first visit) in Jeep with medical supplies. Transit area at last. Seemed dangerous. Few dead Germans on roadside. No sign of serious battle. “Minen” [Mines] signs. Some civilians. DUST. Dug in for night. Shared hole with [Flight Officer] Elias – very cramped. Good to be alive however. No great amount of vehicles to be seen. Shells overhead → beach. Extent of Invasion unknown. Wounded moved by Jeep to a Casualty Clearing Hospital at Omaha beach. Left Les Moulins village in search of water. Water available only for wounded. Several US Medical Officers appeared and took over looking after the wounded in the village.
Major Kolakos (US Intelligence Officer with 49th AA Brigade): visited with a message from General Timberlake.
F/Sgt F M Adair: About 09.00hrs, cleared orchard of snipers under the US Rangers Captain and about 20 assorted troops. Asked for volunteers to salvage “drowned” equipment. Came across some of the Second Echelon of 21 BDS who had come ashore after the First Echelon. 2nd Echelon had a reasonably successful landing. The planned location of their first few days of operation was found to still be in enemy hands. There was an attached Signals Unit which, although in a shambles, had a nucleus of personnel and enough open channels to report to the off-shore radar control unit (presumed to have been one of the Fighter Direction Tenders), that there was no way that 21 Sector (i.e. GCI 15082), could go operational or accept responsibility for fighter control until further notice.
By this time, a US American Ranger (Cpl Smythe), who had been allocated to 21 BDS as Liaison, was able to establish spasmodic contact with his HQ who advised that the beach areas, whilst still under some fire and subject to considerable sniper activities, were pretty much under the control of the Allies. F/Sgt Adair gathered together enough volunteers to go back to the beach and salvage anything that they thought might be useful. Technical gear, rations and clothing could all be used. An assessment was also made on all vehicles to see which were able to be saved or salvaged.
On the way down to the beach, medics were observed hard at work and the wounded were being assembled for possible evacuation. Officers and NCOs were also in the process of organising fighting units. Under a certain amount of small arms fire on occasion, three General Purpose trucks were located that were still serviceable and were loaded with whatever was found to be useful, including jerry cans of water and petrol. They eventually withdrew with their salvaged equipment when they were “found” by two 88s and a 81mm mortar. During this visit to the beach, it was confirmed that many GCI 15082 vehicles had been lost.
Upon regrouping, the Unit was advised by a US Rangers Colonel to remain where they were and to go operational from that location. Technical staff were working to get equipment repaired and operational, fitters were trying to get vehicles serviceable and the Orderly Room Sergeant had started business with reports being prepared re damage, missing persons etc. One of the Controllers had been named as Acting CO (Wg/Cdr Anderson had by then sustained his wound) and technical staff were attempting to use semi-workable Type 15 equipment. In addition, the General Duties Sergeant (Editor: Tommy Spears?), had got some sort of a domestic site prepared in an adjoining field, beside a hedgerow; a field kitchen of sorts had been set up, and basic food and “C” rations were made ready. Some semblance of order had been established. The expected counter-attack had not materialised and the beach was in Allied hands. Many of the Airmen got their first sound sleep in three days!
It was established at this time that, of a total complement of 64 (plus an unknown number of attached personnel), there were 47 either killed or wounded. Most of the telecommunications equipment and all of the Radar equipment, with the exception of the Type 15 GCI was lost, as were 26 of the 34 vehicles. Reported no further German shelling in this area after the night of D+1.
Sgt T Spears (Regular RAF NCO i/c General Duties): Responsible for kitchen on D+1 and provided hot meals for remnants of 21 BDS.
Cpl E Heathcote: Major Kolakos “suggested” that the Unit move in to Transit Area No. 2 as Transit Area 3 still not open.
Cpl W E Adderley: Wednesday – Moved forward to St Laurent.
Cpl Bill Firby: On the morning of D+1, Bill cannot remember any type of organisation or orders. He seems to recall that they moved into a field and soon after that his NCO, Muir Adair, joined up with them and helped to organise the set up. He recalls that some time on D+1, Muir asked for volunteers to go down to the beach to reclaimed drowned-out equipment. Muir asked Bill and another Canadian Jack (John) Stevens to go with him. It was still a dangerous place, subject to mortar and sniping attacks. He seems not to remember any Officers being involved.
Eventually, that night they had a crude camp set up in this field and he slept in a bivouac. During the night he was awoken by a terrific bombardment, and such frightening and terrifying noise. On D+1, Bill recalls that their Technical Officer was a Pole called Effenberger (or the like). He was a good technician and was friendly and helpful. He recalled that he carried out a reconnoitre up the lane on D+1 to see if they could move the convoy further away from the beach and to a safer ground. He recalls that whilst carrying out this task, he was shot at and that it came from his own side.
Bill cannot recall himself being shot at but the problem was that their uniform was too much like the German uniform. He recalls that they moved up from their overnight position to a field where he met up with Muir Adair. That night sleeping in a tent and being woken by a terrifying barrage of shells and noise. From inside his tent, the flashes and light was terrifying and the noise unbelievable. He thought at any second he would be killed and was frightened. He had a strange sensation, as all he could think of was to grab his steel helmet and try and pull it as tight as possible over his head. He definitely had the sensation of trying to make himself into a ball and actually crawl into his helmet; such was the fear and terror of the occasion. This sensation has stayed with Bill ever since.
Only later did Bill find out that the noise and shelling was from his side going outbound, as a US Artillery Company was in the next field to them, and it was they who had mounted an Artillery barrage. Scarily for Bill, there was no sign of them in the morning.
A C (Archie) Ratcliffe: I don’t know what time it was, but sometime in the very early hours, Jerry decided to give us a call by way of the Luftwaffe who started bombing and strafing The noise was incredible, not only from Jerry but from all the half-tracks, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns that the Yanks had got ashore. All the boats at sea were joining in as well. The amount of shrapnel that was falling was unbelievable. It just showered down. Some spectacle after crawling out from under my lorry. Dick Sullivan called me to the back of my truck to show me that a cannon shell was embedded in the iron stay of my tailboard.
The first thing in the morning was to bury our dead. Not a very pleasant job. The worst of the wounded had been taken to the casualty clearing station. The rest of that day was spent trying to sort things out. Our unit (313 Supply and Transport Column) had lost six out of 8 vehicles. 15082 GCI had only 1 signals van and 1 recce vehicle. News had reached us that 2 of our lads had been taken prisoner by the Americans because like us, they were wearing gas impregnated air force blue plus all the muck and dust that the uniforms had picked up during the fighting on the beach. They were thought to be Germans infiltrating. One was Tubby Dyer and the other was Titch ??? – I forget his surname. Apparently, they were sent back to England.
After that episode the eight of us with other members of GCI 15082 were sent to the Yankee HQ where we were kitted out with American uniforms i.e. shirts, vests, jackets, pigskin boots and blankets. We were also supplied with full cases of their compacts, cigarettes, chocolate etc. They were very generous towards us, especially when they knew what our job was, that the unit was calling in airstrikes to cover their infantry. Detailed to be the driver for F/Off Pine (Editor: Pyne?) who was a Signals Officer. Panzers and Tiger tanks no more than 300 – 400 yards away at this time. States route taken from beach as Isigny, Carentan, St Lo, over the Mederat. Floods at St Mere Eglise, Monterborg, Valognes and St Pere Eglise (main base until Cherbourg taken).
(Dick) Sullivan: Found a “cannon shell” embedded in the tailboard of Archie Ratcliffe’s lorry.
Mrs Moyna Heathcote, (wife of Cpl Eric Heathcote): Relates that a full range of equipment turned up! (before they had exited the beach).
8 June 1944, Thursday (D+2)
HQ 85 (Base) Group Operations Record Book:
No. 15082 GCI, having lost all its communications vehicles and equipment with the exception of Type 13 (Editor: 15?) GCI and 2 VHF receivers, an attempt was made to take in by sea No. 1 Air Transportable Signals Unit in order to supply skeleton communications, pending the arrival of replacement vehicles. This attempt failed owing to the length of time after the Unit was loaded, in clearing the ship from Southsea.
21 BDS Operations Record Book:
Convoy moved this morning to “a field nearby” so that the equipment could be examined. Convoy moved in the afternoon from Transit Area 2 to a cliff behind it where the equipment was set up ready for operational use on the following evening.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Thursday – St Laurent-sur-Mere. On beach salvaging. Field site checked for mines!
Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock: The American commander said that we’d better get out of that RAF blue – it was too much like German field grey, and he couldn’t guarantee that his own men might not mistake us for the enemy! And miraculously – in the middle of an invasion – our American allies produced from nowhere a miscellany of assorted khaki and we were instantly transformed into Americans – gum-chewing and all!
A suitable operational site has been selected and tested for mines by carefully backing of the Crossleys, some replacement gear arrived and we were on the air! On the night of D-Day plus one, 1½ enemy aircraft were shot down – the first GCI-controlled interception from the American beachhead. (Editor: It sometimes happened that two aircraft or ground-based units attacked and brought down the same enemy aircraft, each claiming a kill. Because it was impossible to decide whose fire had been the more successful, the credit was divided between them. Hence a score of half an aircraft.)
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Moved to nearby (unidentified) site. Bill (Sqn/Ldr F J Trollope) joined them.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft: (Diary) Cramped everywhere. Jeep towed from beach. Washing in yard with dead American. Discovered wound in back (got with Duggie). Later to Casualty Clearing Station. Talk of evacuating me? Searching for water cans on beach – exhausted. Very noisy night. Further units landed. Wetting due to inefficient LCT command!
Flt/Lt A G McLeod, (Officer Commanding GCI 15073): Loaded 15073 Mobile Unit on to an LCT in Portsmouth. Left at 03.00. Landed D+3.
F/Sgt F M Adair: First night slept in tents and had a proper meal. Two “very good” Corporals began repairing equipment.
Cpl W E Adderley: Thursday – Close to St Laurent.
Cpl E Heathcote: Unit moved to a field near to Transit Area 2. Sqn/Ldr N Best and others salvaging on the beach. New site selected overlooking the cliff and equipment was set up for operational use.
9 June 1944, Friday (D+3)
By the afternoon of the 9th, the military position in this Sector had improved to such an extent, the bridgehead now being seven to eight miles deep, that a signal was received ordering GCI 15082 to start packing up immediately before moving the following morning to the original site selected for them to come to on D-Day, this area now being cleared of the enemy. The work of packing up was started immediately, hence the Unit did not operate on the night of 9 June 1944 but moved to the new site on 10 June 1944.
Our camp was organised and the equipment was all put in order to operate at night. Salvage work was still in progress on the beaches and personnel were employed obtaining equipment of all sorts to carry on with. The water problem was still difficult as we had no water cans and the drinking water was some way off. A certain amount of clothing was obtained for the troops, as a number of them had lost everything they had, and stood up in the clothes in which they had swum ashore. The Americans continuously sniped at the RAF blue, so denims were given to as many of the troops as possible to avoid this.
There was considerable improvement in the Military situation during the previous 24 hours as a result of an Armoured Division having been landed and gone into action and the bridgehead was said to be something like 7 or 8 miles in depth and both Trevieres and Isigny were reported to have fallen and the Americans were still pushing on. Reports from the British beaches were also encouraging, stating that Bayeux and Caen had both been captured by the British but all reports on the military situation are stated to be very unreliable and vague.
At approximately tea time a signal came in ordering GCI 15082 to pack up at once, preparatory to moving first thing in the morning to the original site selected for the Unit to proceed to on D-Day. The packing up was commenced and the Unit was non-operational that night. There were the usual odd raids at intervals approaching the beaches and a terrific barrage of fire kept going up and one or two enemy aircraft were reported to be destroyed.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Friday – St Laurent-sur-Mer. More beach salvage. Location St Pierre du Mont. On the air! By nightfall two Hun shot down – 1st GCI interceptions from American beachhead.
Flt/Lt A G McLeod: Arrived Omaha 1000 and landed all vehicles safely and stayed overnight in a park.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary.) Saw American Sick Quarters. Some chance of liaison. So much better set up. Typewriter etc. Landing strip. Our food very dirty. No real organisation. Prisoners. Wounded US Correspondent John Chancellor (Editor: Chancellor was then serving in a public relations unit).
F/Sgt Muir Adair from “Canadians on Radar: RCAF 1940-1945)”: The remnants of the initial landing party from D-day, reinforced by members of the 2nd Echelon of GCI 15082 who had moved ashore some time after the 1st Echelon, located replacement vehicles for those they had lost on D-Day, parked on a secondary road that led to the French village of Carentan. They knew that they belonged to them since they had GCI 15082 scrawled on the side of each vehicle, but they did not know how they got there or who put them there!
Cpl E Heathcote: Signal to move to new site and set up again.
10 June 1944, Saturday (D+4)
The technical equipment of GCI 15082 which was serviceable, left first thing in the morning for the new site (the one originally selected for D-Day) and the rest of the convoy followed on, after lunch, a distance of about 8 miles, leaving the Wing Operations room behind to remain until GCI 15072 arrived. The main convoy arrived at approximately 05.00 hours (Editor: 17.00 hours?) and the domestic site and cook-house were prepared.
A liaison visit was made to 70 Wing and the Type 14 was operational that night. A few small raids kept approaching and in the course of the night, a score of one destroyed and one damaged was obtained. Altogether, there were 16 contacts obtained, but 7 of these turned out to be friendlies and the rest of the contacts were lost. The new site was greatly appreciated by everybody as the Unit was completely on its own and free from the everlasting letting off of rifles by the Americans which was going on at the other sites.
D-Day Landing Report:
Set up at the new site and operated that night and claimed one enemy aircraft destroyed and one enemy aircraft damaged.
Up to and including the 9th of June, there were large numbers of snipers in the area around St Laurent and sniping was going on almost incessantly day and night, there was also a terrific barrage at intervals every night from the heavy guns when enemy aircraft were reported in the area. On no occasion was there reported to be more than (unreadable) enemy aircraft over the beaches during the night. These snipers were firmly established, some in underground tunnels, others in thick, jungle-like woods surrounding the village. It is reported that some of these had secured themselves in trees by the means of nets and were firing smokeless ammunition and hence almost impossible to find until they gave themselves up when their ammunition had run out. The total casualties of the Unit were one Officer, Flight Lieutenant Highfield, and 9 Other Ranks killed; one (unreadable), five Officers (Wing Commander Anderson, Squadron Leader Harrison, Captain Rowley, Flying Officer Williamson and (unreadable) Barnes, US, and 31 Other Ranks wounded.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Saturday – St Pierre du Mont. Site recce with Ned (Hitchcock).
Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock: Replacement radar put into use near Omaha and he was then sent to Utah with a similar task.
Flt/Lt A G McLeod: Reported sniper fire to CO of the de-embarkation area. Change to US khaki ordered. 1000 moved out north, passed through Carenton, St Mere Eglise to “a small village” 10 miles away.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Arrived at Longueville site.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Not able to clear much up. Muddle. Pilots in odd Spitfires give us a touch of home. News in evening at American Medical Officer (Captain Ballou). Another noisy night. Dust real menace. No attempt to get clean – not worth it.
F/Sgt F M Adair: Set up radar near Pierre du Mont on a site chosen by Flt/Lt Effinberger. Stayed there until July. GCI 15082 finally became operational in the hamlet of Les Moulins.
Cpl W E Adderley: Saturday – Les Moulins, St Laurent, Longueville.
Cpl E Heathcote: Became operational and claimed first enemy aircraft destroyed and one damaged.
11 June 1944, Sunday (D+5)
The day was more or less uneventful. Sundry liaison visits from and to the Americans were made.
The military situation in the American Sector had improved considerably and the Foret de Berlay, where a Panzer Division was reputed to be, was captured. There was no enemy activity from the air during the night in this Sector.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Sunday – St Pierre du Mont. Set up Wing Ops Room. Worked on “drowned” Type 14.
Flt/Lt A G McLeod: Returned to St Mere Eglise area and remained overnight.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Awful breakfast. Service at 10.15 – very moving. Dust everywhere to make it foul again. Trip [with] Padre to ’82, (GCI 15082). Wrong direction so saw much of countryside. Masses of troops marching. Fog of dust. Front much nearer than expected (10-12 miles). No sound however. I seem to have nothing to do now, but time goes quickly.
12 June 1944, Monday (D+6)
The military situation continued to improve and a straight line was now established from a point around Caen to a point north of St Lo. In the course of the night, GCI 15082 were successful in having 3 enemy aircraft destroyed. There were no big raids but odd single enemy aircraft kept coming up. There was a certain amount of confusion at the beginning of the night as the FDT (Fighter Direction Tender) handing over the fighters had R/T trouble and could not contact the fighters, thus, the first raid was over before this Unit was given a fighter. Wg/Cdr Brown, Sqn/Ldr Best and Sqn/Ldr Tothill nearly got into the enemy lines near Carentan on their way to Utah beach, through taking a wrong turning. The beachhead here is very narrow and these officers had grenades thrown at them as well as being sniped at.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Monday – St Pierre du Mont. On recce near Carentan. Tried to get to Utah beach with Flt/Lt Hitchcock and W/Cdr Brown. Machine gunned and grenaded in Carentan.
Sqn/Ldr Tothill: On recce near Carentan.
Flt/Lt A G McLeod: 0800 headed north again to an unnamed French village 10 miles away from St Mere Eglise. Headed for Cherbourg. Found a suitable site about 4 miles south of the town. “On air”.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft: (Diary) Quiet everywhere. Dust everywhere. Will there be a strong counterattack? We should leave here as soon as possible. Food noticeably better but still very primitive.
Cemetery service. Thousands of graves. Smell. Black troops guarding. 14 graves. Dust terrible all day. Main worry now.
Worried about driving into German lines. (Still very ignorant of general position). Patches of really heavy warfare and then calm countryside. I don’t look forward to arrival of Sector Headquarters. (Editor: He does not explain why, except for the comment that follows.) They will be so much better equipped and cleaner.
13 June 1944, Tuesday (D+7)
Various liaison visits from and to the Americans took place. In the evening, Gp/Capt Moseby, Sqn/Ldr McGrath, Ft/Lt Evans and Lt Madder (of Air Formation Signals) arrived as the advance party of the second Echelon. The night was quite uneventful, there being very few enemy aircraft about. GCI 15082 carried out nine patrols but all proved to be uneventful. The military position in the American Sector continued to improve, and the Utah and Omaha fronts were joined, but there was only a narrow bridgehead in the Carentan area, the front line being within 3 miles of Carentan. The other forces were within 3 miles of St Lo.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Tuesday – St Pierre du Mont. New centimetre gear arrived from England to replace Types 11 & 21 “drowned” on D-Day. Erected Type 13.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary.) War still seems on small scale – small front and not very deep and yet it cannot be heard. Trip to Bayeux in Jeep. Isolated signs of battle only – burnt out cars (one with “J” registration). Villages all blitzed. Bayeux untouched. Dust bowl was not pleasant to return to. Our camp one further step down the grade. Getting organised.
14 June 1944, Wednesday (D+8)
Sqn/Ldr McGrath went on a recce visit to the Cherbourg peninsula to find a site for GCI 15072 on which to set up if the military situation warranted it. The AOC (Air Officer Commanding) paid a visit to Sector Headquarters and spent most of the evening in GCI 15082 Operations Room watching the Controller. It happened to be a night with a fair amount of activity going on all the time and in the course of the evening, Operations got a JU 88, one FW 190 destroyed and one FW 190 damaged. In addition to this, there were a considerable number of contacts on friendlies.
The second Echelon of 21 Sector and the remainder of the first Echelon which had remained at the original set-up near the Omaha Beachhead moved into the site at T.595905 where GCI 15082 had set up and this became Sector Headquarters for the time being. The Sector Operations set up but was unable to become operational that night.
The military situation in the American Sector continued to progress and considerable advance was made in the Sector, east of St Lo and the position was also improved considerably in the Carentan area which had been an enemy stronghold, and up to this time more or less in the hands of the enemy who were now pushed out about 3 miles from the town which closed the route to the Peninsula.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Wednesday – St Pierre du Mont. New Type 14 arrived with 15072 convoy.
Found site near St Mere Eglise.
Sqn/Ldr McGrath: Carried out recce in Cherbourg peninsula.
Lt Mills: Controlling GCI 15072.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) War seems distant and less vital. Sudden news of move. Expected some fuss over us at new site [82s] but were greeted coolly. General disillusionment. Terrible feeding conditions made situation worse. Very noisy night to my surprise and dismay. Seemed to be target on several occasions.
15 June 1944, Thursday (D+9)
Wg/Cdr Ian Herbert Arthur Hay posted to Sector (Operations) as replacement for casualty, (Wg/Cdr A M Anderson). Flt/Lt Tasker Posted to Sector (Ops “G”) as replacement for casualty. Flt/Lt William Douglas (Bill) Wiseman Posted to Sector (Ops “G”) as replacement for casualty.
GCI 15072 moved out to a position in the Cherbourg peninsular, T.375940, but were non-operational at night due to VHF trouble. The day was uneventful except word came through that the two LCTs which were missing from the second Echelon had landed safely on Utah beach and were to proceed to Headquarters the following day. There was considerable enemy activity but unfortunately the weather was bad over in England and 264 Squadron appeared to be about the only squadron which was operating. There was a great shortage of fighters in the pool, it being impossible to get the fighters required. The results were very disappointing as, out of 7 contacts on enemy aircraft, one only resulted in a combat and that a “damaged” and all the rest were lost.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Thursday – St Pierre du Mont. All now working to original plan and timetable.
Met (Wg/Cdr?) Brown and AOC 85G. New site at Ravenoville.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) We seem to be back in England in our backwater. No sign of any war. Met Air Officer Commanding – very charming. Congratulated us coyly, I thought. He knows now what happened. Commanding Officer’s meeting at 4.00. Nothing very much decided. Breaking up into units. Complications in sanitation expected. No materials (applies to cooking also). Things will gradually settle if only we can get basic utensils etc. Visit to US Hospital on motorcycle. As usual very nearly as good as civil hospital. Radio, electric light, nurses etc. etc. How I wish I could be attached to one instead of doing nothing. No sign of ambulance of course. Complete waste of time medically
16 June 1944, Friday (D+10)
The remainder of the second Echelon arrived at HQ and the Wing Operations Room became operational. It was also hoped that the GCI 15072 at O.3904 would be operational by night but this was not so as there were communication difficulties with the lines. The night was a quiet one with very little enemy activity but GCI 15082 were successful in having one JU 88 and one FW 190 destroyed.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Friday – St Pierre du Mont.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Feeling less settled since muddle seems to grow rather than get less. Can’t do anything constructive because there seems to be no one in charge of sections to advise. New Wing Commander arrived today – Ian Hay [Wing Commander Anderson had been wounded and evacuated]. It hardly seems possible (Rycroft had known him at Cambridge). He’s very charming and doesn’t try to put it across me. Seems very efficient too.
17 June 1944, Saturday (D+11)
Flt/Lt Tasker, Operations; Sqn/Ldr F J Trollope, Controlling; Flt/Lt W D Wiseman, Controlling. The day was spent trying to improve communications with the Operations Room which, up to that date, had been very restricted. The night proved to be a record as, with enemy activity estimated at 15 to 20 aircraft, the Sector were able to claimed 7 destroyed. About 50%. 6 victories went to GCI 15082, 3 JU 188s, 1 JU 88 and 2 FW 190, 5 of these while Sqn/Ldr Trollope was controlling and 1 while under the control of Ft/Lt Wiseman. Sector Operations claimed 1 FW 190 (Ft/Lt Tasker).
The military position was continuing satisfactorily. About the only Sector of note, where there was any appreciable change, was in the Peninsula where St Saviour to La Vicento was taken early in the day, the troops were pressing on to cut the Peninsula. An advance was also made in the Gaumont area, east of St Lo, where there was apparently very little opposition. The position at Carentan was still rather doubtful, the enemy still being within 1½ miles of the town. GCI 15082, who had set up in the Cherbourg Peninsula, became operational but only obtained one contact on an enemy aircraft which was lost.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Saturday – Ravenoville.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Sick parade at 9.30. Very few people. Scabies rather a problem. Sanitary round showed that conditions are slowly improving. Can’t do anything about it yet because of lack of materials. I think it will gradually shake down. No news of war. No mail. Complete isolation,
Sick Quarters virtually complete. 2 Medical Officers. It didn’t seem fair! Given me ideas but shall I be able to do anything with such a small staff? My outfit is a travesty I’m afraid. Wizard meal waiting for us, well up to American standard. Missing Americans badly now – they add leaven to our life.
18 June 1944, Sunday (D+12)
Flt/Lt Nodes (Jerry) controlling GCI 15082.
There was very little enemy activity during the night, the estimate being ten to twelve enemy aircraft over the area out of which one JU 188 and one JU 88 were destroyed by aircraft under the control of GCI 15082 (Ft/Lt Nodes).
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Senseless pottering about in the morning. Away in Jeep from 21 Wing (21 Sector?) after very good service. Carentan approached until warned about shelling. Beginning of counterattack. Hurried retreat by 3 Medical Officers. Shell on second bridge as we went back
19 June 1944, Monday (D+13)
This was again a quiet night, the estimate being 12 enemy aircraft. Five contacts were obtained but all were lost before combat took place, due either to “window” or excess speed.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Monday – Ravenoville.
Sqn/Ldr G C Harding (Padre): Leaky tents – visit with Flt/Lt R Rycroft, MO, to St Laurent. Found Flt Lt D C (Duggie) Highfield’s grave.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Rain all day. Serious problem with outside cooking and leaky tents. Cemetery very muddy and cheerless. (Duggie) Highfield’s grave found. War situation not being followed closely owing to lack of radio and papers. Still no mail – serious inequality with rest of forces (US and British).
20 June 1944, Tuesday (D+14)
Gp/Capt W G Moseby went on recce run up Cherbourg peninsula to see GCI 15072, also to ascertain how near the proper site had been cleared of the enemy. The military position was going ahead in this area and the Allied troops were within 4 miles of Cherbourg, Valognes having already fallen. There was slight enemy activity at night amounting to 12 sorties, GCI 15082 (Ft/Lt Wiseman) got 1 FE 190 destroyed. Three contacts were obtained and well held on enemy aircraft but all had to be broken off as the hostiles entered the IAZ (Inner Artillery Zone). The gunfire was so intense and could not be stopped that on all occasions the fighter was forced to break away – nearly reached the Barfleur site. Flt/Lt W D Wiseman controlling GCI 15082.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Tuesday – Ravenoville. Gp/Capt (Moseby) went nearly up to Barfleur site.
Sqn/Ldr G C Harding (Padre): Tea with Capt Ballou (US Medical Officer, MO) and Flt/Lt R Rycroft, (MO).
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Contact with “82” (GCI 15082), at tea. Wg/Cdr Hay very friendly. Couldn’t be more pleasant. War news vague. Slow progress. Future still seems pretty hopeless. (21 Wing. Cinderella of Allied Expeditionary Air Force.)
21 June 1944, Wednesday (D+15)
Preparations were made for moving some of the Signals Units up into the Cherbourg Peninsula as the military situation in that area was fast being cleared up and Cherbourg was likely to fall at any time. The night was an extremely quiet one, this being the first night since the Unit set up that no raids entered the Sector although a few raids were seen in the adjoining sector to the east. The following are now the locations of the various Units: 21 Sector HQ, MSU 5131A and GCI 15082 near Longueville, Ref T.595905; GCI 15072 and COL 15073 near Ravenoville, Ref O(?).03904; COL 15074 near Longueville, Ref T.595865. Preparations made to move Signals Units in to the Cherbourg Peninsular.
Rumour that Cherbourg had fallen but turned out to have been false.
Gp/Capt W G Moseby: Recce, am, with Sqn/Ldr N Best and “Mac” (otherwise unidentified but possibly S/Ldr McGrath).
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Wednesday – Ravenoville. Montebourg (ruined), Valognes (taken earlier – on fire), to within 10 miles of Cherbourg. Find COL site near Quettelou, St Vaast, Barfleur, Tocqueville.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Away in Jeep to British lines collecting NAAFI packs. Base Headquarters looked very efficient. Offices with phones and lights. Contrast to our place. Attempt to settle mail question not successful. Only unit without mail in Invasion. No real war news. Good to have seen some of English part – very much better than I had anticipated. Maybe we’re not so bad at war.
Had to take patient round to Captain Ballou as I had no materials for suturing. Rumour that Cherbourg had fallen was false.
22 June 1944, Thursday (D+16)
Further recce’s were made to the Cherbourg Peninsula. Flt/Lt Chapman, Flt/Lt Fountain and Mr Cox Recce went to Tocqueville to make the final arrangements for setting up the Sector Headquarters. A chateau near Tocqueville selected and requisitioned for the Headquarters. Cherbourg had, as yet, not actually fallen, but the fighting in that area appeared to be comparatively light.
The night was again a quiet one, out of 6 raids reported as entering the Sector, one JU 188 was destroyed by an aircraft under the control of GCI 15082 (Sqn/Ldr Trollope).
Wg/Cdr I H A Hay: Met with R Rycroft MO in his tent and went on trip together to Bayeux
Stated by MO as “unable to eat – due to gastric pain”.
Sqn/Ldr F J Trollope: Controlling GCI 15082. With Wg/Cdr Hay, Flt/Lt R Rycroft and Flt/Lt Tasker on Bayeux trip.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Thursday – Ravenoville. To Barfleur. Rethoville. Quettehou, Rethoville site, Chateau Tocqueville, (future HQ site).
Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock: Recce with Mac (Sqn/Ldr McGrath?) and Sqn/Ldr Best towards Barfleur site.
(Wg/Cdr?) Brown: Recce with Mac (Sqn/Ldr McGrath?) and Sqn/Ldr Best towards Barfleur site.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Feel lack of definite work badly. Small sick parade – very little I can do for them unfortunately. Lack of desk and room in tent makes it awkward for working. Watched our light bombers going through flak. One hit but appeared to put out fire well.
23 June 1944, Friday (D+17)
GCI 15072 moved to their new site at Rethoville. The third Echelon of 21BDS arrived at Utah Beach and went up to the site which was to be Sector Headquarters near Tocqueville. The following morning, Gp/Capt Moseby and an advance party proceed to the Chateau to arrange the layout of the new headquarters.
There was very little enemy activity at night, the official estimate being 5 in this Sector, out of which “Jungle 25” claimed to have shot down a JU 188. This was considered to have been a friendly aircraft, “Jungle 41”, which was seen to go down in flames at approx. the same position and time.
Gp/Capt W G Moseby: Went with MO to visit Chateau near Tocqueville to arrange layout of new HQ.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Friday – Ravenoville. Moved to Rethoville; set up at Fermanville; back to Ravenoville.
(Wg/Cdr?) Brown: Message to Sqn/Ldr Best that he had found a new site 1¼ miles west of Tocqueville.
(Flt/Lt?) Chapman: At new HQ Chateau near Tocqueville.
Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock: Returned to Ravenoville at 2300 with Sqn/Ldr Best and Mac.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Wandered round to “82”, (GCI 15082), and as usual I picked something up immediately – Group Captain Moseby wanted me to visit the new Chateau at Tocqueville. Drove his heavily loaded Jeep after tea through Carentan. Very quiet in spite of the nearness to battle. Up coast road east side of peninsula. Many smashed gliders – impressive and depressing. Didn’t seem to have had a chance. Later came to site of naval bombardment – complete devastation. Towards Barfleur we were practically the first Allied troops. Bouquets – people almost hysterical. Small boy came in car to show us way to Reville. Wanted cigarettes badly. Chateau very impressive. Dusty. German notices. Villagers had plundered. Library intact – ancient mostly. Sick Quarters fair. Smell queer. Feathers everywhere. Some beautiful rooms. News heard in garden when we could also hear battle noises from Cherbourg. Living in midst of history. Slept in camp kit on mahogany bed in large room. Canopy above in gold. Very incongruous. (Polish prisoner.) Chapman, (Officer Commanding cleaning etc.).
24 June 1944, Saturday (D+18)
Third Echelon arrived at the new Headquarters and commenced to settle themselves in, although it was known that the enemy were only about 4 miles east and there were no friendly troops between them and the enemy. Various members of the Unit from the present headquarters went up to the chateau to see the lie of the land and to make arrangements for the setting up of their own sections.
The night was again quiet, the official estimate of enemy aircraft being about 6 in the Sector, out of which COL 15074 claimed one ME 410 destroyed (F/O May) and one JU 188 damaged (Sqn/Ldr Ross)
Gp/Capt W G Moseby: Suggests trip to Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO), to England to see about an ambulance.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Saturday – Rethoville. Hun in strength at Fermanville – pulled back to HQ. Entire convoy moved to Rethoville.
Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock: Salvaged personal gear from shelled site with Sqn/Ldr Best.
Sqn/Ldr Ross: Controlling COL 15074.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Up at 07.30. Hot water. Tea. Scrappy breakfast. Group Captain (Moseby) suddenly suggests England to see about ambulance. Sudden complete change of outlook for me. When? Where? How? 11.30 back to original site in Piper Cub. Excellent view of front. Felt slightly sick. Told to await instructions by Group Captain. Went to 9th Tactical Air Force to arrange trip. O.K. Still waiting for instructions.
25 June 1944, Sunday (D+19)
In the course of the night the enemy in the Cherbourg area started shelling in the direction of GCI 15072 and the new Headquarters. GCI 15072 were forced to pack up and make a hasty retreat during the night. The shelling continued during the day and headquarters were ordered to disperse, which they did, leaving only a holding party. In the course of the day, the military position was well in hand and word came through in the evening that the Americans who had previously surrounded Cherbourg were now fighting in the streets from house to house. The enemy activity at night was almost negligible, only 4 hostiles entered the Sector but no interceptions were made.
Gp/Capt W G Moseby: Informed MO OK to go to UK to seek an ambulance.
W/Cdr I H A Hay: Went to St Laurent airstrip with MO.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Sunday – 73 (GCI 15073?) moved to Quettelou.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft: (Diary) Waiting anxiously for news of my job. Group Captain (Moseby) came at eleven and gave me OK. Hurried packing – parcels, letters and scents for people. Could I manage all this in the time? No definite plans possible because I didn’t know where I was going in England. Down to St Laurent strip with (Wg/Cdr) Ian Hay. Everyone very vague – 9th wouldn’t play. A Colonel gave permission for his plane, however – to Newbury.
26 June 1944, Monday (D+20)
Wg/Cdr Maxwell of 604 Squadron arrived by air in the evening at Sector Headquarters at Longueville where he spent the night. The evening was spent between GCI 15082 and the Operations Room but was quite uneventful, largely due to the weather conditions as it rained in deluges for most of the night and was really non-operational.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Monday – Went to the outskirts of Cherbourg with Flt/Lt Hitchcock and “Mac”.
Flt/Lt E H Hitchcock: Looking for site for COL (Chain Overseas Low), near Cherbourg with “Mac” and Sqn/Ldr Best.
27 June 1944, Tuesday (D+21)
Wing Commander Maxwell went up to see Gp/Capt Moseby at the new Sector Headquarters near Tocqueville and spent the night. News came through to this headquarters at approx. 17.00 hours that the batteries and pockets had been cleaned up and that Cherbourg was now in our hands, except for the mopping up of a few snipers and an odd machine gun nest. In consequence of this information, Sector’s Headquarters personnel who had evacuated to Ravenoville were immediately moved back to Headquarters and GCI 15072 moved back to their site and became operational at night.
The Commanding Officers of 410 and 488 Squadrons arrived at Sector Headquarters at Longueville in the evening and spent a considerable part of this night in the Operations Room, but there was practically no activity in the area during the whole night except for one or two odd raids which appeared.
Gp/Capt W G Moseby: Met Wg/Cdr Maxwell (604 Sqn) at new Sector HQ near Tocqueville.
28 June 1944, Wednesday (D+22)
Sqn/Ldr Trollope: took the Commanding Officers of 410 and 488 Squadrons up to the new HQ at Tocqueville and then all returned in the evening including Wg/Cdr Maxwell who went on to visit COL 15074 and 24 Sector, where he spent the night.
There was again very little activity in the Sector, only 3 enemy aircraft estimated to have entered it, out of which a fighter controller of GCI 15082 (Ft/Lt Wiseman) destroyed one JU 88. Considerable activity was observed to the east in 24 Sector.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Wednesday – Rethoville – Moved 21 (BDS?) convoy back to Rethoville site. Visited Fermanville radar station.
Wg/Cdr Maxwell: Visited COL 15074 and 24 Sector.
Sqn/Ldr F J Trollop: Took COs of 410 and 488 Squadrons to new HQ at Tocqueville.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Controlling GCI 15082.
29 June 1944, Thursday (D+23)
Nothing of interest occurred during the day and there was no activity at all during the night although a few raids were observed in the adjoining Sector to the east.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Thursday – Rethoville. Set up Type 11 of 15072 at Fermanville.
30 June 1944, Friday (D+24)
Gp/Capt Moseby went from the new Sector Headquarters near Tocqueville to the old site at Longueville to look around with Sqn/Ldr Trollope for a new site on the coast on which to set up GCI 15082 as the patrol line for fighters controlled by GCI 15082 was now over the sea instead of being south of the IAZ where it originally was before they first set up. The site was selected at T.577937 which is between St Pierre du Mont and Grandcamp.
During the night there was slight enemy activity on the eastern boundary of the Sector. 3 minelayers just entered the Sector. A JU 188 was shot down by a fighter controller of GCI 15082 (Ft/Lt Nodes).
Gp/Capt W G Moseby: Accompanied by Sqn/Ldr F J Trollope went from new HQ at Tocqueville to old site at Longueville to seek a site to place GCI 15082.
Gp/Capt Stewart: Permitted Sqn/Ldr Best, Mac and Flt/Lt Hitchcock to leave on 1 July 1944.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Friday – End of ops duties; cleared from 21 Sector; to St Pierre Eglise.
Flt/Lt Nodes: Controlling GCI 15082.
1 July 1944, Saturday (D+25)
GCI 15082 moved their technical equipment to the new site selected for them between St Pierre du Mont and Grandcamp at (T.5496) and were on the air and fully operational by night.
There was more activity by night than there had been for some time, waves of hostiles appeared believed to be mine-laying. There were estimated to be 6 aircraft in the first wave and 20+ in the second, but unfortunately the weather had closed in very badly and there were no fighters on patrol at the time. One fighter (219 Squadron) did arrive during the course of the raid and obtained a contact, but due to the fact that he was in cloud all the time, he was never able to obtain a visual.
Sqn/Ldr N Best: Saturday – Left 15073 for Utah beach. Boarded US LST 316 at 1200.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Moved Technical site to Grandcamp.
Cpl W E (Bill) Adderley: Saturday – Grandcamp.
2 July 1944 (D+26)
The weather was again bad but the number of enemy aircraft was estimated at three aircraft out of which one JU 188 was destroyed (Ft/Lt Nodes) and an unidentified probably destroyed (Sqn/Ldr Trollope) by fighters under the control of GCI 15082.
3 July 1944 (D+27)
The day at Longueville was spent in packing up everything except the equipment that was wanted for the night’s operations, preparatory to leaving the site as soon after 0600 hours as possible for the new Headquarters at Tocqueville. The advance party of the WING were fully employed getting the new Operations Room rigged up ready for operations the following night.
The night was again fairly quiet with enemy activity estimated at only 6 aircraft, one of which, a JU 188, was shot down by a fighter controlled by GCI 15082 (Sqn/Ldr Trollope).
4 July 1944 (D+28)
Sector Operations left Longueville at 06.30 hours for their new Headquarters at Tocqueville and arrived at 13.00 approx. The rest of the day was spent unpacking and getting all the equipment ready for operating at night. This was to be the first night of the changeover from the Mobile Ops to Transportable Ops. Set up in a large room in the Chateau Tocqueville. COL 15074 moved from Longueville to a new site near La Parnelle, (O.3620) where they set up and were operational at night. The night was a quiet one with only a few minelayers in the Sector but no interceptions were made.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) After much talk was allowed a plane (4 GIs came on later!!). Smooth journey. Reading John O’London’s. Coast appeared sooner than expected. Barfleur seen first. Shaky landing in heavy weather. An hour arranging a lift on truck. Last vehicle just leaving as I arrived old site. Just my luck. To “82” instead. Papers given out in lorry. (Not seen again.) Captain Ballou 7 pm. Glad to see me. At Field Hospital with Graves. Compared evening with last evening. Anxious to get to 21 Wing. Quite cheerful. Slept on paliasses with only two blankets. Slept well in spite of everything. Tired.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Moved Domestic site to Grandcamps.
Cpl W E (Bill) Adderley: Tuesday – Domestic site (not identified).
5 July 1944 (D+29)
The day was spent working on the Operations Room as there was still a lot of work to put in and improvements to be made to get things working to the fullest advantage. Personnel were working all the time under considerable disadvantage due to the lack of communications with outside units. There were the makings of a first class set-up when everything was brought to perfection which only time and experience could do.
The night was an extremely quiet one, the only enemy activity reported coming from COL 15074 who reported that a fighter under their control had a visual on a DO 217 but lost it.
Wg/Cdr I H A Hay: MO, Flt/Lt R N Rycroft, waiting all day for him to arrive. He arrived 19.30.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Up 7.30. First to breakfast – just about edible. Waiting all day for Hay. Very wearing with nothing to do except read. Completely without kit for eating. No one seemed to worry about my return. Just given up hope of reaching Wing when Hay turned up (19.30). Good run back – ran over dog near Chateau. Everyone pleased at Chateau. Arrived 10.30. Search for kit. Managed to find bed roll. Slept in Padre’s room on Cox’s bed.
6 July 1944 (D+30)
A very quiet night and no enemy aircraft entered the Sector.
Locations of Units at the present time:
Sector HQ, Air Formation Signals and 5131A in O.3626 Tocqueville.
GCI 15072 – O.3229, Renaville;
COL 15073 – O.2626, Carnville;
COL 15074 – O.3620, La Pernelle;
GCI 15082 – (T.5493).
Gp/Capt W G Moseby: Wanted written report from MO.
Flt/Lt R N Rycroft (MO): (Diary) Surprised at good food at breakfast. Group Captain wanted written report at first, then I explained. Very busy moving into Sick Quarters. Cherbourg afternoon. Chateau on way back.
7 July 1944 (D+31)
GCI 15081 moved to their new location T.053993 near Barneville and expect to be operational on the 8th. It was estimated that approximately 6 enemy aircraft operated in the area out of which GCI 15082 destroyed a JU 88 and ME 410. “Jungle 28” who destroyed the JU 88 was apparently hit in combat and was forced to bale out over the sea but nothing was heard of him afterwards.
8 July 1944 (D+32)
No enemy activity appeared in the Sector at all during the night. GCI 15081 became operational. Sqn/Ldr (Rev) C J O’Mahoney posted in to 21 Sector.
9 July 1944 (D+33)
There was no enemy activity in the Sector but enemy aircraft which appeared to be mine-laying could be seen in the adjoining Sector to the east but we could not get much information about them as the telephone line was out and the only means of communication was over the R/T.
10 July 1944 (D+34)
There were the usual patrols but no enemy aircraft activity occurred in the Sector during the night.
11 July 1944 (D+35)
There was originally reported to be enemy activity in the Sector but it afterwards transpired that one enemy aircraft apparently approached GCI 15081 and dropped one bomb about half a mile from the site.
12 July 1944 (D+36)
There was slight enemy activity during the night estimated at 3+, probably mine-laying about 20 miles east of Barfleur. A fighter of 604 Squadron obtained a contact but lost it and no further assistance could be given by control on account of the concentration of “window” in the area.
13 July 1944 (D+37)
There were no enemy aircraft plotted in the area but it is possible that there may have been two or three minelayers in the Sector. A type 15 was set up south-east of Jobourg.
14 July 1944 (D+38)
No enemy activity seen in the Sector.
15 July 1944 (D+39)
There was no enemy activity in this Sector though a considerable amount could be seen to the east in the adjoining Sector with a fairly heavy concentration of “window”.
16 July 1944 (D+40)
Nothing of interest occurred during the day. There was slight enemy activity estimated at three or four aircraft which entered the Sector but no interceptions were made. A considerable amount of “window” was observed in 24 Sector and there was a certain amount in this sector.
17 July 1944 (D+41)
Rather more activity was seen during the night than there had been for some time. It was difficult to state the number as they were plotted as X-raids but the bulk of them proved friendly. One JU 188 was shot down by an aircraft of 604 Squadron when under the control of GCI 15081. A fighter of 410 Squadron had a combat but the result is not known due to R/T failure immediately after the combat. The official number of raids was 10+ appearing singly.
18 July 1944 (D+42)
The AOC 85 Group visited the Sector arriving for lunch and stayed the night. He first looked round Sector Headquarters and then accompanied by Gp Capt W G Moseby, paid a visit to GCI 15072 during the afternoon and spent some time in the Sector Operations Room during the evening.
The night was quiet, one only enemy aircraft being definitely plotted and this was damaged by an aircraft of 604 Squadron while under the control of GCI 15081. It is possible there may have been one or two more hostiles during the night which were plotted as X-raids and never identified. COL 15074 moved to a new site at O.960287 which is south-east of Jobourg.
19 July 1944 (D+43)
There was considerably more activity during the night than there had been for some time. At 22.45 hours 6+ enemy aircraft were seen by GCI 15081 approaching from the south but in spite of the fact that a request had been made for fighters to be sent to the pool earlier, there were none available. Between 23.10 and 23.40 hours, GCI 15082 reported enemy activity off the beaches estimated at 8-10 aircraft dropping fairly extensive “window”. These were considered to be chiefly mine-laying. At 23.50 hours GCI 15082 reported “window” being dropped by an aircraft going west towards Barfleur and shortly afterwards bombs were reported being dropped in the vicinity of GCI 15072.
20 July 1944 (D+44)
The weather turned to rain about 16.00 hours and continued to rain off and on most of the night. There was no enemy activity at all during the night partly due to the weather conditions.
21 July 1944 (D+45)
9th Air Force Planning Document for “Overlord”, 1st April 1944:
This is the date at which it was planned that the 21 Sector involvement would cease and hand over to the IX Air Defense Corps (ADC).
21 BDS Operations Record Book:
Bad weather conditions continued and it rained hard most of the day with low cloud. There was no enemy activity seen in the Sector during the night and only 4 fighters operated due to the weather being almost non-operational. At 22.45 hours a low flying aircraft was reported north of this Headquarters and at 22.50 hours GCI 15072 reported hearing a bomb drop but no damage has been reported.
22 July 1944 (D+46)
A gradual improvement in the weather as the day went on and by nightfall conditions were reasonable and fighters flew uneventful patrols. At approximately 02.45 hours, 4 enemy aircraft entered the Sector from the east where considerable enemy activity had been seen with extensive “window”. The enemy aircraft had approached shipping from the direction of the Seine and mine-laying was suspected but no interceptions were made.
23 July 1944 (D+47)
Weather conditions had returned to normal and the normal patrols were flown. There was rather more enemy activity during the night than there had been for some time. At approximately 01.00 hours 10+ enemy aircraft entered the Sector from the east. The aircraft appeared to be mine-laying over the battle front. Extensive “window” was used and no interceptions were made. One fighter while under the control of GCI 15081 should have had a contact as he was with an aircraft plotted as hostile for 20 minutes but at the end of this time, he said his weapon was bent.
24 July 1944 (D+48)
The first detachment of 6 aircraft of 604 Squadron arrived at A.15 during the afternoon and had a state of readiness during the night, out of which two went off on uneventful patrols. The crews came to Headquarters, 21 Sector, for accommodation. The night was another very quiet one, no enemy aircraft having been seen to enter the Sector. There was “window” seen in the extreme east of this Sector but it is extremely doubtful whether any hostile entered this area.
25 July 1944 (D+49)
A quiet night with only one enemy aircraft seen to enter the Sector. This enemy aircraft entered the Sector from the east, dropped “window” and went straight out again. Two fighters based at A.15 went on patrol.
26 July 1944 (D+50)
A little more hostile activity was noticed during the night. At 22.30hrs a single JU 88 suspected of minelaying was intercepted by a fighter of 604 Squadron (F/Off Truscott and F/Off Howarth), under the control of GCI 15072, (Flt/Lt Tasker), and was destroyed. Very soon after it got dark, at 22.40hrs, 3+ enemy aircraft approached from the south but no interceptions were made. It is possible that there were a few isolated raids in Isigny Bay later in the night but it was impossible to identify them. Sector tried to home to Maupertus a Bomber Command Mosquito, which had run short of petrol due to it going off course when his instruments became u/s from the effects of lightning. This aircraft, however, had insufficient petrol to make it, so the pilot ditched the aircraft about 4 miles from land, 12 miles east of Cherbourg. The pilot and navigator were both picked up by the Navy with only minor cuts and bruises.
27 July 1944 (D+51)
A lone raider, a JU 88 was destroyed by a fighter of 604 Squadron (Ft/Lt Miller and W/O Catchpole) which was based at Maupertus; this was the first combat of night fighters based in France. This aircraft was controlled by GCI 15081 (Ft/Lt Smith). A few other scattered raids intermingled with friendly bombers were observed in the Sector, but it was impossible to say how many.
28 July 1944 (D+52)
This marked a revival in the activity shown by the Hun. At 22.40 hours 4+ enemy aircraft appeared from a south westerly direction and from this wave 2 JU 88’s were destroyed in T.24 and T.25 by “Dorval 21” while under the control of GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross). At approximately 22.40 hours the largest wave of enemy aircraft that had been seen for some time appeared from the east and operated over the battle area and the sea. This wave was estimated at about 30+ out of which three were destroyed by fighters under the control of GCI 15082. Dorval 23 claimed a JU 88 destroyed (Sqn/Ldr Trollope), Limestone 27 claimed a JU 88 destroyed (Ft/Lt Nodes) and Jungle 33 claimed a JU 88 destroyed (Ft/Lt Wiseman). At 05.00 hours hostile tracks appeared north of Isigny but owing to “window” it was impossible to estimate the number of enemy aircraft. Three fighters stationed at A.15 carried out uneventful patrols and Jungle 21 landed at A.15 due to engine trouble.
29 July 1944 (D+53)
The Hun was again active during the night. At 22.30 hours 5+ appeared from a southerly direction but no interceptions were made. There was then a long quiet period until 05.15 hours when a raid estimated at 25+ appeared and attacked the battle front south-east of St Lo. Dorvel 44 while under the control of GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross) claimed 2 JU 88s and 1 DO 217 destroyed and 1 JU 88 probably destroyed. Jungle 23 (P/Off MacKenzie) while under the control of GCI 15082 (Ft/Lt Nodes) claimed 1 JU 88 destroyed and as he was short of petrol landed at A.15. Three fighters based at A.15 flew uneventful patrols. Dorval 14 (Sqn/Ldr Bunting) while under GCI 15082 was hit by enemy flak and crashed in T.8242 at 00.46 hours.
30 July 1944 (D+54)
There was considerably less enemy activity during the night than there had been on the two previous nights. The only enemy activity noticed in this Sector was at 01.00 hours when 5+ enemy aircraft were seen to operate over the battle area; out of these (Sqn/Ldr Maitland-Thompson) 604 Squadron claimed 1 JU 88 destroyed while under the control of GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross) in T.46. Three fighters based in France flew uneventful patrols. Dorval 38 landed at A.15 at 22,43 hours with slight engine trouble, and Tessa 23 and Nursemaid 29 landed at A.15 due to bad weather at base.
31 July 1944 (D+55)
A reduction in the scale of enemy activity probably due to the weather conditions. After a very hot sunny day, fog started to rise just before dark and these conditions spread to the U.K. At 23.50 hours 10+ enemy aircraft appeared from the south and operated mainly in the Cherbourg area and were reported to be dropping flares. A Mosquito of 410 Squadron, ( F/Off Maday and F/Off Walsh), claimed a JU 88 destroyed while under the control of GCI 15082 (Ft/Lt Nodes) at 00.01 Hours. Between 00.30 hours and 01.00 hours a number of X-raids were plotted but none of these were actually identified as hostile. At 01.00 hours all fighters were recalled as the weather in the UK was closing in fast. Altogether 10 fighters operated but none of these were based in France.
1 August 1944, Tuesday (D+56)
The Hun showed signs of becoming more active again probably partly due to a spell of bad weather in the UK and Northern France and the fact that he knew we should have difficulty in putting many fighters in the air. Two waves came over of 10 and 15 respectively, the first wave operating in the Cherbourg area at about midnight, and the second wave over the battle area at 03.00 hours. An aircraft of 488 Squadron (Ft/Lt Hall) while under the control of GCI 15082 (Sqn/Ldr Trollope) destroyed a JU 88. At 01.50 hours all fighters were recalled due to the weather deteriorating in the UK. Another 9 fighters from the UK and 3 based at A.15 (604 Squadron) of which Ft/Lt Perry and F/Off Wall crashed on landing and both were killed.
2 August 1944 (D+57)
Considerable enemy activity during the night and weather conditions even more in favour of the Hun than on the night before as his bases in Holland and Germany were reasonably clear while the UK and Northern France closed right in. The first wave of enemy aircraft estimated at 20+ appeared from the south at 22.50 hours and out of this lot 2 fighters of 488 Squadron claimed a DO 217 destroyed (Sqn/Ldr Somerville) while under GCI 15081 control (F/Off May) and Dorval 22 while under the control of GCI 15082 (Sqn/Ldr Trollope). The second wave of 12+ appeared at 04.00 hours. A fighter of 488 Squadron (W/O Maclay), while under the control of GCI 15081 (F/Off May) claimed a JU 188 and Ft/Lt Plumar, 410 Squadron, while under GCI 15082 (Sqn/Ldr Trollope) also claimed a JU 188. Before this activity had ceased, fighters were recalled due to the weather closing in at base; one fighter was sent off later but had no joy. There were two further bits of activity of approximately 6 enemy aircraft operating over the battle area. The Flight of 604 based at A.15 moved to A.8 but nothing took off during the night owing to the weather.
3 August 1944 (D+58)
The night was fairly active mostly consisting of small raids of 4 to 6 A/C which operated over the battle area. The total estimate for the night was 28+, one raid just after midnight estimated at 10+. One Mosquito (604 Squadron) based at A.8 (Ft/Lt Foster and F/Off Newton) claimed one Do 217 destroyed while under GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross). Ft/Lt Crossby (264 Squadron), W/O Patrick (488 Squadron) and Ft/Lt Jameson (488 Squadron) each claimed one JU 88 destroyed and Ft/Lt Dinsdale (410 Squadron) claimed one Me110 damaged all under the control of GCI 15082 (Sqn/Ldr Trollope and Ft/Lt Nodes). Ft/Lt Corbett, (219 Squadron) landed at A.8 uninjured after being with 24 Sector and shot up by a Stirling. Ft/Lt Beverley and his operator after being in combat with a JU 88 under 24 Sector, baled out successfully on their way to A.8. Both pilot and operator were uninjured.
This was the first night that “Black Widows” of 422 Squadron based at A.5 operated under our control. They had nine uneventful patrols.
4 August 1944 (D+59)
There was a considerable decrease in the enemy effort compared with the previous nights. The first wave of 3 enemy aircraft appeared at the extreme south of the Sector just after midnight and out of these, F/Off Dinsdale of 410 Squadron, claimed one Feisler Storch destroyed while under the GCI 15081 (F/Off May). At 00.45 hours, the second wave of enemy aircraft appeared, estimated at ten, from the south-east and out of these, F/Off Shaw of 488 Squadron, claimed one JU 188 destroyed and one JU 88 damaged and Wg/Cdr Haine (488 Squadron) claimed one JU 88 destroyed, both under GCI 15082 control (Ft/Lt Wiseman). The third wave of three enemy aircraft operated S.E. of St Lo about ¾ of an hour later. Night “Black Widows” flew uneventful patrols.
5 August 1944 (D+60)
GCI 15081 moved to new site situated at T. 133327 and COL 15074 moved into 15081’s site at T.055933.
The activity during the night was again not very extensive; what there was, being in the St Malo area. Ft/Lt Haddon and F/Off McIlvenny of 604 Squadron under GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross) claimed one JU 188 destroyed. Two Mosquitos of 488 Squadron, Dorval 21 & 27 claimed one DO 217 each while under GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross).
Eight “Black Widows” flew uneventful patrols.
COL 15074 moved the site vacated by GCI 15081 (Barneville?). GCI 15081 moved to an unidentified site.
6 August 1944 (D+61)
There was a revival in the enemy activity and it turned out to be a pretty busy night. GCI 15082 plotted 20+ enemy aircraft in this area and due to communication difficulties, it was impossible to estimate the number of enemy aircraft in 15081’s area but there was considerable activity over the battle area. Ft/Lt Surman and P/Off Weston claimed two DO 217s and one ME 110 destroyed, F/Off Macdonald & F/Sgt Baird claimed one JU 188 destroyed, Ft/Lt Hooper and F/Off Hubbard, all of 604 Squadron, under GCI 15082 (Sqn/Ldr McGrath) claimed one ME 410 damaged. But was hit himself and has not been heard of since. Wg/Cdr Hughes & Ft/Lt Dixon of 604 Squadron under GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross) claimed one JU 88 destroyed. A Mosquito of 410 Squadron, Sqn/Ldr Somerville under GCI 15081 (F/Off May) claimed one JU 88 destroyed. Ft/Lt Jameson of 488 Squadron when under GCI 15082 (Ft/Lt Wiseman) claimed one JU 88 destroyed and another Mosquito of 488 Squadron claimed one JU 188 destroyed under GCI 15081 (F/Off May). A “Black Widow” of 422 Squadron, Lt Axtell and F/Off Crew under GCI 15074 (Ft/Lt Sharman) claimed one DO 217 probably destroyed. Lt Garden and Lt Morrison in another “Black Widow” claimed a JU 188 as probably destroyed, as it dived through cloud when being chased and a terrific explosion was seen below although no guns were fired.
7 August 1944 (D+62)
Another busy night. F/Off Macdonald and Ft/Lt Elliott claimed one JU 188 destroyed and F/Off Smith and F/Off Roberts both of 604 Squadron under GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross) claimed two DO 217s destroyed. Ft/Lt Cross and W/O Smith of 604 Squadron, under GCI 15082 (Sqn/Ldr Trollope) claimed one JU 188 and one JU 88 destroyed. One “Black Widow”, 422 Squadron, (Lt Anderson and Lt Morris under GCI 15082 (Sqn/Ldr Trollope) claimed one JU 88 destroyed. One “Black Widow”, 422 Squadron, Lt Smith and Lt Tierney under GCI 15081 (Ft/Lt Smith) claimed one ME 110 damaged. Jungle 19 under GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross) claimed one unidentified. The enemy activity was estimated at 20+ in the St Malo area and two waves of approximately 6+ over the battle area.
8 August 1944 (D+63)
The enemy activity was on a rather reduced scale. There was one wave of 20+ that came in from the east about midnight and out of these, F/Off Wood and F/Off Leafe of 604 Squadron, while under the control of GCI 15081 (Sqn/Ldr Ross) claimed one DO 217 destroyed. A few enemy aircraft operated in the southern half of the Sector at approximately 02.30 hours and out of these, a “Black Widow” of 422 Squadron, Lt Rurnens and Lt Maran, under GCI 15082 (Flt/Lt Wiseman) claimed one JU 88 destroyed.
10 August 1944 (D+65)
The first wave of enemy aircraft, about 6+, came into the Sector from the eastern beaches at about 23.30 Hours and during this attack, F/Off Daber of 264 Squadron under GCI 15072 (Flt/Lt Tasker) claimed one JU 188 destroyed. Wg/Cdr Hiltz, under the same controller also claimed a JU 88 destroyed. There was no further activity until about 03.00 when a few isolated enemy aircraft appeared from the south a few miles east of Avranches.
11 August 1944 (D+66)
264 Squadron arrived at A.8 during the day and operated from there at night. There was very little enemy activity during the night, but it is estimated that about five enemy aircraft made very scattered raids between 02.00 and 02.30. Flt/Lt Miller and F/Off Catchpole claimed a DO 217 probably destroyed under GCI 15082 (Flt/Lt Nodes). Unfortunately, he was involved in an accident when landing at A.8. An aircraft of 264 Squadron (Flt/Lt Davison and F/Off Willmott DFC) was engaged by flak and his R/T became u/s. He came in to land at A.8, after making an unsuccessful attempt to land at A.15. Flt/Lt Miller came down and not knowing he was there, owing to R/T silence, crashed into him. F/Off Willmott DFC was killed and the other three members of the crews were slightly injured. In view of the unserviceability of the runway after this accident, two aircraft of 604 Squadron landed at A.15 and one of 264 Squadron landed in the UK.
12 August 1944 (D+67)
No enemy aircraft plotted in the Sector but considerable “window” was seen east of Domfront between 02.45 and 03.30 hours. 22 fighters patrolled uneventfully.
13 August 1944 (D+68)
Another quiet night with no enemy activity plotted but “window” was laid west of Cotentan Peninsular.
14 August 1944 (D+69)
The Hun was a little more active during the night and two waves were plotted, one of 12+ and the other of 6+. Lt Gordon and Lt Marson of 422 Squadron, “Black Widows”, while under the control of GCI 15072 (Lt Mills) had a combat with a ME 177 which they claimed as destroyed and were themselves hit. F/Off Smith and F/Off Roberts, 604 Squadron in a Mosquito, had a visual on a ME 410 dropping “window” but it peeled off in the flak and was lost before it could be engaged.
16 August 1944 (D+71)
Approximately 6 enemy aircraft entered the Sector from the east at 02.30 and were suspected of mine-laying. Ft/Lt Corre and F/Off Bines of 264 Squadron in a Mosquito had a visual on an enemy aircraft and were unsuccessfully fired at but were themselves unable to open fire before overshooting and contact was lost.
17 August 1944 (D+72)
Only very slight enemy activity in the Sector. 3 enemy aircraft entered the Sector from 24 Sector but no interceptions were made. Weather closed in at A.15 and a “Black Widow” diverted to Middle Wallop.
18 August 1944 (D+73)
Only one enemy aircraft was seen in the Sector and this, a DO 217, was shot down by a “Black Widow” of 422 Squadron (Lt Kohler and Lt Test) while under GCI 15082.
20 August 1944 (D+75)
Slight enemy activity was observed during the night. Two small waves of approximately six enemy aircraft in each entered the Sector. The first wave operated north of the beaches and the second one, the battle front, but although there were several contacts, no combats were reported. The first sortie was made by a Walrus of 276 Squadron detached Flight, A/S/R (Air Sea Rescue) stationed at A.23C. The Walrus went in search of a F.47 reported in the sea but only found wreckage of a vessel thought to be the same size as a HSL (Editor: High Speed Launch?).
21 August 1944 (D+76)
It rained for practically the whole of the 24 hours with such low cloud, this was the first occasion since D-Day when no fighters at all either from France or based in the UK went on patrol. The squadrons based in France had their state reduced to one at readiness and the rest at sixty minutes from the time they came to readiness.
22 August 1944 (D+77)
A very quiet night with no enemy activity seen in the Sector. The weather in the UK completely closed in and no fighters from that side operated, 24 Sector had to be reinforced from here. In the course of the night the weather also closed in, in France so that there was no flying at all during the latter part of the night.
23 August 1944 (D+78)
Another quiet night with no enemy aircraft entering the Sector. GCI 15082 were non-operational as they were packing up ready to leave at dawn.
24 August 1944 (D+79)
GCI 15082 moved at dawn to a new site at Auteuil Racecourse but were not operational that night. There was (sic) no enemy aircraft seen to enter the Sector during the night. One Walrus of 276 Squadron went on A/S/R patrol but saw nothing. COL 15073 moved to 15082’s old site. (unknown but shown as T.5493).
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Left Grandcamps – arrived 10 miles west of Alencon.
F/Sgt F M Adair: Speaks of “eventually to enter the suburbs of Paris ahead of the liberating forces.” In later notes F/Sgt Adair states “…one of the most exciting but also tense times was when they were in Paris because they were quite close to the Germans and he wonders whether they should have been quite as close to the front line as they actually were. To illustrate this: whilst they were setting up at the Longchamps Horse Racing Track, they had to destroy their orders as it was feared the Germans were about to counter-attack as they were still very close by.” As an aside to the above, F/Sgt Muir Adair stated that when they did get an order they had little to do because there was very little or no enemy aircraft activity and it was not long before they moved on from Paris.
25 August 1944 (D+80)
No enemy aircraft were plotted as entering the Sector during the night but a “Black Widow” of 422 Squadron, (USAAF), under COL 15073 control, claimed a JU 188 as probably destroyed but this is thought to be a Mosquito of 488 Squadron which was fired on at the same position and time as the alleged combat with the JU 188 took place. The Mosquito was hit but managed to land safely at its base in the UK. A fighter of 604 Squadron managed to contact GCI 15082 at their new site at Auteuil and did a patrol with them. Two Walrus aircraft did an A/S/R patrol in search of a Marauder crew but nothing was seen.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Arrived 10 miles short of Versailles.
Cpl W E Adderley: With Free French at Longchamps Racecourse. 2798 Rifle Squadron protecting RAF radar sites also secured Longchamps (possible landing site).
Cpl Bill Firby: Bill told the story that, when they arrived in Paris, they were actually (in some cases) the first troops in and were also the first RAF personnel. They were ordered to go to Longchamps where the Germans had set up a Radar station and see if this would be a suitable site for 15082 to set up. They went to the site of the Racecourse and found much of the German equipment still intact. They had a bunker and Bill went searching in the bunker to find some tools. Bill had lost all of his tools when the lorries were lost at D-Day including some of his own tools that he had brought over from Canada. He had been scavenging tools ever since and saw the opportunity of getting some quality German tools. Just as he was about to pick them up, a GI who was also there shouted out to Bill not to touch them. Bill asked “Why?” And was told that they were probably booby trapped. And they were. The tools had been wired to detonators and would have exploded if Bill had picked them up. The site was not a good one and they did not set up there but at a place called Morangis, on the outskirts of Paris.
They had a wonderful reception when they entered Paris with lots of drink and kissing from the French. It was wild and also dangerous as the Free French were also after revenge with any collaborators. They did have time off and Bill remembers having a pass that allowed him a day and evening in Paris. He had a lot to drink but was sure that he got back to the pick-up point by the right time. However, there was no truck. So Bill went back and continued to drink, sleeping rough. When he did get back, (Sqn/Ldr) Trollope had him up on an AWOL charge and he was in deep trouble. This was not the first time Bill was on a charge. He was a firebrand and commented that the only time he seemed to see Officers was either on a charge or requesting leave. However, (F/Sgt Muir Adair) Muir arranged for him to be quickly transferred away to another GCI unit and he was whisked away in a jeep, not knowing where he would end up. In the event, he had been transferred to GCI 15081, who were with 15119 GCI stationed on the Belgian border. He stayed with 15081 until the end of the war.
26 August 1944 (D+81)
A very quiet night with no enemy aircraft entering the Sector.
The weather kept closing in at intervals during the night and only eight patrols were flown.
GCI 15082 moved again, this time to the Racecourse at Longchamps, Paris.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Arrived Auteuil – to Longchamps (Racecourse?) by 12.00.
27 August 1944 (D+82)
Two Mosquitos, one of 604 Squadron and the other of 264 Squadron, flew A/S/R near Les Sept Isles in the morning. There was no enemy activity plotted at night. Thirteen uneventful patrols in the Avranches and Paris areas were flown by 604 and 264 Squadrons. One aircraft had contact on an aircraft in the Paris area which was too fast for his and may have been hostile.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Left Longchamp for (Misson? undecipherable)
28 August 1944 (D+83)
Another quiet night during which no enemy aircraft were plotted in the Sector. Fourteen aircraft of 604 and 264 Squadrons flew uneventful patrols in the Paris and Avranches areas. Ft/Lt Sandeman and F/Off Coates (604 Squadron) reported possible contact in Paris area at 23.05 but his R/T then ceased.
F/Off Coates: 604 Squadron aircrew (Mosquito). Shot down and killed.
Flt/Lt Sandeman: 604 Squadron aircrew (Mosquito). Shot down but landed safely (by parachute?).
29 August 1944 (D+84)
(re: the above) The next that was heard of the aircraft was a report that the pilot had baled out and was safe. He was on patrol in the Paris area under GCI 15082 and had a combat in the course of which they were shot down. Flt/Lt Sandeman was thrown out and landed safely but F/Off Coates was killed.
No enemy aircraft were seen to enter the Sector but a number of fires were seen in the Paris area. There were only two patrols during the night due to the weather conditions and both these aircraft had to land at B.17.
30 August 1944 (D+85)
Again, no enemy aircraft seen to enter the Sector and it turned out to be a very quiet night. No aircraft were able to operate from A.8 due to the runway being unserviceable and nothing being able to take off. This was due to something being done to the runway and the equipment doing it breaking down and leaving it in an unserviceable state. There were only four patrols in the Sector during the night, two aircraft based in 24 Sector and two from the United Kingdom.
31 August 1944 (D+86)
No enemy aircraft again entered the Sector during the night and a searchlight exercise was carried out.
1 September 1944, Friday (D+87)
Only one patrol was flown during the night and that was an unsuccessful attempt to contact GCI 15082. There was no enemy aircraft seen to enter the Sector.
2 September 1944 (D+88)
An extremely quiet night. Due to the runway at A.8 being unserviceable, no fighters were able to take off but no enemy aircraft were plotted in the Sector.
3 September 1944 (D+89)
Another quiet night with no enemy aircraft entering the Sector. The runway at A.8 was still unserviceable but three Mosquitos of 264 Squadron operating from B.17 patrolled the Cherbourg area. A Walrus of 276 Squadron went on an uneventful A/S/R patrol during the day to search for the crew of (Flying) Fortress but none was seen.
4 September 1944 (D+90)
No enemy aircraft were plotted as entering the Sector during the night but a “Black Widow” of 422 Squadron, (USAAF), under COL 15073 control, claimed a JU 188 as probably destroyed but this is thought to be a Mosquito of 488 Squadron which was fired on at the same position and time as the alleged combat with the JU 188 took place. The Mosquito was hit but managed to land safely at its base in the UK. A fighter of 604 Squadron managed to contact GCI 15082 at their new site at Auteuil and did a patrol with them. Two Walrus aircraft did an A/S/R patrol in search of a Marauder crew but nothing was seen.
5 September 1944 (D+91)
No fighters based in the Sector operated due to the runway at A.8 still being unserviceable but six aircraft from B.17 and one from the UK reinforced the Sector; there was no enemy activity.
6 September 1944 (D+92)
The weather was again very bad with intermittent showers most of the day and night. Two aircraft from B.17 reinforced the Sector but there was no enemy activity.
7 September 1944 (D+93)
The weather still continued to be very bad throughout the day and night. A.8 was still non operational and three aircraft flew weather tests but found the weather unsuitable. One aircraft was scrambled from B.17 to investigate an X-raid which was later identified as a friendly.
8 September 1944 (D+94)
Showery weather continued with very heavy, intermittent showers. No aircraft were yet able to operate from the Sector due to the unserviceability of the airfield. Six aircraft carried out uneventful patrols in the Sector operating from B.17. There was no enemy activity in the Sector.
9 September 1944 (D+95)
No enemy activity in the Sector during the night. Eight fighters of 604 Squadron based at B.17 flew uneventful patrols in the Cherbourg area. During the day, 604 Squadron moved from A.8 to B.17. GCI 15081 moved from Granville (T.133327) to O.313293 (actual location not given). Two Walrus of 276 Squadron A/S/R patrolled to take off wounded from a destroyer but found it impossible to land due to the rough sea.
10 September 1944 (D+96)
There was no enemy activity in the area during the night. Eight fighters operated from B.17 and flew uneventful patrols in the Cherbourg area. One Walrus of 276 Squadron carried out one A/S/R patrol in search of possible Minelayers or U-Boats near Sark. Only five small fishing boats seen. GCI 15072 moved to Granville (T.133327).
11 September 1944 (D+97)
No enemy activity reported in the area. Eight fighters of 604 Squadron flew uneventful patrols in the Cherbourg area from B.17. GCI 15072 moved back from Granville to O.313293.
12 September 1944 (D+98)
No enemy activity in the area. Seven aircraft of 604 Squadron based at B.17 flew uneventful patrols in the Cherbourg area. GCI 15081 moved from O.313293 to “an unknown destination in Holland”.
13 September 1944 (D+99)
The weather closed in during the night and only two aircraft went on patrol in the Sector. There was no enemy activity. During the afternoon a Walrus of 276 Squadron took off on A/S/R patrol in search of a barge with ten men in it but saw nothing.
14 September 1944 (D+100)
The weather closed in during the early part of the night and only two uneventful patrols were flown in the Cherbourg area by aircraft based at B.17. A third aircraft was airborne but returned to base with R/T trouble. There was no enemy activity during the night. A Walrus of 276 Squadron was ordered off on a A/S/R patrol by Sector as one of the D/F stations thought they heard a “Mayday” given on a bearing of 320 degrees from A.15. A search was made but nothing was seen.
15 September 1944 (D+101)
There was no enemy activity in the area during the night. Seven fighters based at B.17 flew uneventful patrols in the Cherbourg area.
16 September 1944 (D+102)
There was again no enemy activity in the area during the night. Seven fighters patrolled the Cherbourg area uneventfully. The first two fighters were late in taking off due to a Marauder crashing on the runway and hence the runway was unserviceable.
17 September 1944 (D+103)
At 09.00hrs a Church Parade was held for all officers and airmen not on duty, in celebration of the anniversary of the “Battle of Britain” Sunday. The service was held in front of the Chateau. There was no enemy activity in the area during the night and only three fighters went on patrol during the night as the weather closed in. One Walrus of 276 Squadron was ordered off on an A/S/R patrol to investigate a position where a yellow flashing light had been reported but nothing was seen.
18 September 1944 (D+104)
There was no enemy activity during the night and the standing patrols had been cancelled so there was no flying during the night. One Walrus of 276 Squadron was ordered off during the morning on a A/S/R patrol to search for a Marauder reported in the sea but nothing was seen.
20 September 1944 (D+106)
Gp/Capt Moseby: proceeded to 85 Group Head Quarters to attend a conference with the AOC to decide on the future of 21 Sector as the commitment with the American Sector finishes on 23rd. It was decided that the Sector Head Quarters would return to the UK with GCIs 15082, 15072 and COLs 15073 and 15074, while the attached Signals Units would all remain on the Continent and be attached to other sectors.
There was again no enemy activity during the night and no fighters went on patrol.
A start made on packing up ready to move at any time after 23 September 1944.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Left L’Ecole de Mangans – slept under the stars at Evreux.
21 September 1944 (D+107)
There was no enemy activity during the night but two fighters based in 24 Sector flew uneventful patrols in the Cherbourg area till the weather closed in. A start was made on the packing up of the camp preparatory to moving at any time at short notice after the 23rd September.
22 September 1944 (D+108)
There was no enemy activity during the night and no fighters operated in the area during the night. This was the finish of the Sector’s commitment with the Americans and as soon as the night’s operations were completed, the process of packing up was started ready to move as soon as the order came through.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Arrived back at Grandcamps.
23 September 1944 (D+109)
Packing continued throughout the day as it was considered likely that the main party would move on the following morning and everything was loaded before the day was out, ready to move at short notice.
24 September 1944 (D+110)
The main party waited all day for the order to move but this never came through.
25 September 1944 (D+111)
Main party was ordered to set off for Utah beach. All the troops’ kit was loaded up and everybody was ready to start, when the order to move was cancelled and the bedding etc. for the night was unloaded again.
26 September 1944 (D+112)
Order to move came through again first thing in the morning and the party left Tocqueville for the United Kingdom via Utah beach at approximately 1030 hours. All vehicles were embarked during the evening ready to leave on the morning tide. Set off at 10.30hrs approx from Tocqueville for the UK via Utah beach. All vehicles embarked by evening in readiness for a departure on the morning tide.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Embarked at Utah beach in glorious weather.
27 September 1944 (D+113)
The party was accommodated in 7 Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) and 1 LCT. The bulk of them left on the morning tide and after a very rough crossing arrived at Southampton the same evening and eventually got to RAF Ibsley (Hampshire) at about midnight. The rest of the party left Utah on the evening tide and did not arrive at Southampton until the following day.
A General Court Martial was held at the Chateau, Tocqueville at 1100 hours to try LAC Sissons of 15074 COL Unit. The Court consisted of:
Wg/Cdr Barnett (Judge Advocate).
Wg/Cdr Ian Herbert Arthur Hay (President).
Flt/Lt E Urry (Defending Officer).
Sqn/Ldr Lovell (Member).
Sqn/Ldr Frederick Joseph Trollope (Member).
Sqn/Ldr Peter Frank Travers Wakeford (Member).
Flt/Lt Boughey (Member).
28 September 1944 (D+114)
The remainder of the main party arrived at Ibsley and the day was spent getting everything ready for everybody to proceed on leave as soon as possible.
29 September 1944 (D+115)
The day was spent getting Leave Passes, Ration Cards, etc., made out and all leave started the following day leaving only a small holding party till the rear party arrived who were to act as the holding party.
Flt/Lt W D Wiseman: Returned to UK, (RAF Ibsley).
30 September 1944 (D+116)