Muir Adair’s story – Chapter 5: D-Day +1

Chapter Five: D-Day +1

About nine o’clock we were attempting to clear an orchard – with limited success, due to some concentrated machine gun fire, and fell back to the east of our penetration point.  Parked on a road – not much more than a trail – was our Crossley-mounted Type 15 transmitter, the receiver and operations van, an Austin mounted Lister diesel generator, and a few other of our assorted trucks.  Milling about were some of the G15082 personnel, most of whom were either under the trucks or crouching along the hedgerow.  I immediately became a deserter from the American Army!

A reunion which, under other circumstances, might have been a happy one, resolved itself into an immediate “Let’s get this show on the road” and a quick meeting with two of our controllers, a corporal operator and my GD (General Duties) sergeant filled me in on the status quo.  My GD sergeant was my sort of right-hand man.  He was permanent-force RAF and had been with G15082 since the start.  He was in charge of unit discipline, security, the domestic site, catering and just about everything else that was non-technical or operational.  He could get just about anything, and if he couldn’t he knew where to get it!  Our CO had been wounded (later determined to be the CO of 21 BDS), as had the Sergeant Operations.  The Type 14 Radar equipment had not made it ashore, nobody knew where the type 13 was, most of our vehicles were missing and the majority of personnel were nowhere to be found.  The old reliable Type 15 equipment was comparatively unscathed, although some shrapnel had penetrated the sides of most of the vehicles.  To add to our woes the planned location for our first few days of operation was still in enemy hands.  Our attached RAF Signals Unit, although also in shambles, had a nucleus of personnel and enough open channels to report to the off-shore radar control unit that there was no way we could go operational or accept responsibility for fighter control until further notice.  So much for plans “A” and “B”!

A week or so before D-Day, two American officers had appeared at the unit as liaison with some obscure American HQ but had disappeared mumbling something about a suicide mission, and an American Ranger Corporal Smythe materialized shortly thereafter with orders advising that he was to act as our liaison on D-Day and thereafter until relieved.  He was a little fellow, not much more than five feet six inches and when fully loaded, was almost hidden behind his gear.  Somewhere among his rifle, combat equipment and other unidentifiable things, he carried a portable radio, all of which, including the corporal, had survived the landings.  His radio, when tested, actually worked and he was able to establish contact, albeit spasmodically, with his HQ who advised that the beach areas, while still under some fire and subject to considerable sniper activities, were pretty much under the control of the Allies.  He stayed with G15082 for several days.

I gathered together enough volunteers to go back to the beach and salvage anything that might be useful.  Technical gear, rations and clothing could all be used.  I also wanted to see if any of our vehicles could be found and saved.

Upon gingerly making our way down a draw, we located several other members of G15082 who, together with strays from American units, had taken cover under or behind wrecked vehicles, other equipment and hedgerows.  Medics were hard at work and the wounded were being assembled for possible evacuation.  Officers and NCOs were in the process of reorganizing fighting units and our chaps were overjoyed at seeing us.  Some of their enthusiasm vanished when I volunteered them for my beach party.

Despite being subjected to some small arms fire from time to time, we managed to locate three GP trucks that were still serviceable, and loaded them with whatever we could find that might be useful, including jerry cans of water and gasoline.  When a couple of random 88s and 81mm mortar appeared to have zeroed in on our location, we beat a hasty retreat off the beach and withdrew back up the draw.  German 88mm guns were our nemeses.  They were originally designed as anti-aircraft/anti-tank weapons, but, being superior to anything the Allies had at the time, they also became versatile field guns as well.  When mounted on a Tiger tank, a direct shot could put an Allied Churchill or Sherman tank out of commission at 200 yards.  They were capable of shooting 20 rounds a minute and seemed to be everywhere.  When paired with 81mm multi-barrelled “Nebelwerfer” mortars, the dreaded “Moaning Minnies”, a lot of damage ensued.

Our excursion verified the loss of many G15082 vehicles.

Upon regrouping with the rest of our crew and equipment, we found that a few Americans had arrived at the scene including a Ranger Colonel who, following considerable communication with his HQ, advised that we were to remain where we were and go operational at that location until further notice.  We managed to get the Type 15 transmitter working later that night with modifications that would never have been authorized by the Air Ministry, but could not receive accurate echoes from the receiver due to damaged aerials.

As my techs were attempting to get the radar equipment operational, the Motor Transport people were hard at work repairing and servicing our vehicle fleet.  Waterproofing had to be removed, oil changed and repairs, where possible, effected.  The Orderly Room Sergeant had started business and his people already had reams of reports re damage, missing persons and other business of the day underway.  Our controllers, one of whom had been named Acting CO, began hovering over frustrated operators who were trying to make sense out of the strange radar blips appearing on semi-workable Type 15 equipment.

The Sergeant GD had managed to work wonders with a domestic site.  A couple of tents had been erected in an adjoining field along a hedgerow, a field kitchen of sorts had been established, and soup, made up of C rations and who-knows-what-else, was simmering.  A perimeter of sorts had been established and guards posted.  Despite the fact that we were to be pounded a couple of times with badly aimed 88s, and twice penetrated by American patrols who couldn’t quite figure out who the strange uniformed characters were who talked a bit like them but were dressed in uniforms that had a Teutonic look, some semblance of order had been established, albeit temporarily, and we began to take on the appearance of a working, though somewhat bedraggled, Royal Air Force unit.

The expected and anticipated counterattack by the Germans had not materialized and the beaches were ours.  Despite the throb of overhead aircraft, the sporadic shelling by artillery, the obscene spoor of war, and the noisiness of battle in the background, many airmen got their first sound sleep in three days.

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 total of 34 vehicles.

D+1 was over and a different kind of war was about to begin.

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