Norman Best – Transcript of his handwritten personal diary from 25th May to 1st July, 1944
(Unfortunately, there are ???? gaps because some of the writing is illegible)
Written by Norman Best, during the period 25th May 1944 to 1st July 1944
This diary was written in an SO Manifold Book – Octavo Duplicate Code No. 28-55
Reported 859 with Hitch, Burns and Willmott. Kitted (partly). Learnt part of plans from Tothill and Brown. Met Andy & G/c Moseby. Back to Group in evening.
Collected kit, lenses etc. in morning. Saw SASO and AOC. Left for S. in afternoon with Hitch and Burn. Casual reception at S. Saw G/c & head of 1st Major I.G. re U.S. and 85. Stayed night with Kent Welch’s. Arranged to leave car with them.
More I.G. No cassette for camera. Panic call to Group. Managed to buy one in Bournemouth. Scheduled to leave p.m. with G.C for transit camp, G.C. didn’t go after all – left 1800. Arrived transit and found IG at work. Not down on embarkation lists. Big argument developed. US very decent in way of food, cigarettes etc. Instructed to attend briefing at 2200 by G/C and CSO from 85. Andy out of camp. G.C arrived 2300 with D.C.S.O. Very IG briefing. Broke up 0130. Air raid 0135. Purloined bread and jam and coffee.
7 – S/2B
Att 15082 unit
No 21 BD sector
28th May. D – 9
Collected new gas bags, money, First Aid kit, supplies etc. Attended lunch service in camp. Worked on convoy all afternoon. Asked 21 for more spares. Cinema in evening.
29th May. D – 8
Arranged to go with Andy on recco. Party. Chalk visited unit with more spares.
30th May. D – 7
Lazy day – nothing to do.
31st May. D – 6
Went to Poole morning. Visit from Chalk. Issued with rations etc. Went Bournemouth p.m. Beer!
D – 5 June 1, Thurs
Collected gear together at D2.
D – 4 June 2, Fri
Moved from D2 to LCT at Portland 1500. Type 15 convoy and w/c Anderson. Settled down 0100.
D – 3 June 3, Sat
On board LCT 611 all day.
D – 2 June 4, Sun
False start AM. Returned to Portland.
D – 1 June 5, Mon
At sea all day. Terrific convoy. Somewhat heavy seas. Not sick, though most of crew down.
D June 6, Tues
Off at 0530. H. 0610. Naval bombardment French coasts. Outline just visible. 0930 tried to land. Machine guns, pulled off again – Beach in enemy hands. Several LCT. Hit on beach – Hun shelling. Lay off shore till 1700 – ordered in – Yankee patrol craft. Only 2 other LCTs apart from our 5 went in. Shelling commenced. Beached in 2 feet of water.
Ashore in Jeep O.K. All our LCT vehicles off O.K. Tried to find beach officer. Heavy shelling. All Yanks dug in on beach. No way out. Beach piled up with burnt out and drowned vehicles. Hundreds of dead Yanks about. Convoy assembled on beach. Several vehicles drowned on way in (including Ned in type II convoy). Started digging in. Shelling very accurate. Yank ammo tank hit 50 yards away. Bulldozer ploughed a route out of beach into nearby fields. Refused permission by Andy to follow with convoy. Collected F/S Eckersall and did recco. Shelled. Hid in sand dunes. Diesel and G.P. direct hits went up, Collected jeep and did recco of road to St. Laurent-sur-Mer
Find hiding places in cliff. Drove type 15 convoy away U/S types etc. sniped. Moved casualties. Later bombed. Sleep under hedge 0200.
Warm and Sunny. D + 1 June 7, Weds
Up at 0500. Went to beach. Salvaged T14 water damaged. Sniped. Snipers in house overlooking ledge! Shelled again on beach. Moved convoy up lane – Machine gun duel. Went back to beach to try and evacuate wounded. Salvaged two more vehicles. Went to Transit Area 2 over beach. (SE of St. Laurent-sur-Mer). Shelled again. Thous. of Hun prisoners though. Dug fox hole and slept till 0330 – Wet – went into lorry.
40 odd injured and evac.
Sunny. D + 2 June 8, Thurs
Back to beach to salvage more equip. Shelled again and sniped. Near escape sniping. Set up Type 15 on aerodrome being built. Swept field with Crossley. Much damage to cables etc. Not operational that night. No V.H.F. Colossal A.A. damage that night. 2 Huns down.
D + 3 June 9, Fri
Type 15 operational. More beach salvage. Went to 70 Wing H.Q. (9 USAAF) at Cricqueville. Looked at original 72 (15072) site. St. Pierre du Mont. Met Brown and Todhill. Decided to move following morning. Started pulling 15 down.
Heavy AA damage.
5 more killed by drowning.
D + 4 June 10, Sat
Site recco AM with Ned. Not too bad a site. Found friendly farm. Operational p.m. 1½ down.
Plenty of faults encountered.
D + 5 June 11, Sun
Set up Wing ops room with remote P.P.I. Worked on drowned 14 etc.
D + 6 June 12, Mon
Tried to get to Utah beach with Ned. Shelled in Carentan Bridge down. Came back and had wine in Longueville.
Out with Brown p.m. got over Pontoon bridge. Misdirected in Carentan, machine gunned and grenaded by Huns. Picked up Hun machine gun. No sign of 72 (15072).
24 replacement vehicles arrived. 18 drowned out. Type 13 OK.
D + 7 June 13, Tues
Erection Type 13. Lots of faults encountered.
D + 8 June 14, Weds
New T14 arrives with Wing ???? and 15072 convoy.
Went with Mac to find site near St Mère Eglise. Found site. Went into outskirts Montebourg. Too many Huns retracted hastily.
D + 9 June 15, Thurs
Met Brown and A.O.C. 859. Decided that we are required with Wing Op at Barfleur
Brown didn’t like site. Found new site at Ravenoville. Front line. 4 miles away at Quinéville. Back to 82 (15082).
D + 10 June 16, Fri
Dull. Pierre du Mont
Worked on 13 and relay of 15 to wing. 13 working pm. Having cleaned/cleared out several mag (?) slip troubles.
Type 14 turning gear modified now OK.
Type 15 relayed 100 yards through C.F type 2 to Wing ops – OK.
Left 1830 for 15072.
Arrived 2000. Chaos reigning. Assisted in erection of Type 15. Operational 2200 with Type 15. No communications and no fighters Action seen windows laid 15082 got 2 kills. (Total 8).
D + 11 June 17, Sat
Warm & Sunny. Ravenoville 15072
Worked on T.15. Found B.S.U. had arrived IFF root (?) all wrong (Sig and sign reversed etc.)
Completely re-wired I.F.F. circuits to overcome blackout troubles etc.
Performance of T15 very poor during ops. Some windows laid. 11 and 14 workable.
15082 got 6 kills. (Total 14) (15 Huns overall)
D + 12 June 18, Sun
Warm & sunny. Check T15. Found
- 2 u/s spark gaps
- short on main feeder.
Decided to convert aerial completely to MK1.
Completed by 1700. Standing waves down to 1.2:1 performance greatly improved (at least 2:1 improvement).
PPI definition poor. Tried new tube – tube u/s. Wanted for ops. 11, 14 and 15 serviceable.
5 contacts – no combats.
15082 got 2 kills – total 16.
Type 15 turning gear fault – 127 (?) down.
Heavy bombardment inland. Thunderbolts bombed gun equip. 2 miles up coast.
Jamming on Type 15 (Noise and spark 23.15 – 23.45)
Jamming on Type 11 (Spark 120o – 170o only)
D + 13 June 19 Mon
Cold and Wet. Ravenoville 15072
Located fault on T15 PM
Black out on P.P.I. u/s – Done at Sopley by mechs.
Found very poor joint on R.F. Cable from Ae – 40% loss sig. / noise 75% loss total sig. Done at Sopley by mechs.
Performance 11, 14 and 15 good with 15 particularly good. Several fighters out. NO Huns til 0300 2 contacts – too fast. Window laid.
Jamming, (noise and crude spark on 11 and 15) 2314 – 2320. All round on 15, 40o on 11 – spark only.
Many mines blown up on beach by U.S engineers. No damage to equipment.
Heights very good.
D + 14 June 20, Tues
Gear OK. Went to Sector (82) p.m. (15082). Met Gill and 309 MSSU – arrived Mon. Collected CV92s for 72 (15072). Carenton Bridge shelled on way back. Ammo truck ablaze.
Learnt that G/C had been nearly up to Barfleur site.
D + 15 Wed, 21 June
Set out AM with Mac and G/C on recco. Went through Montebourg (ruined) and Valognes taken a few hours before and still on fire. Lost G/C and went on to within 10 miles of Cherbourg.
2nd recco p.m. to find C.O.L. site near Quettelon. Found Huns had pulled out completely. Feted by population – went on to St Vaast and Barfleur, Tocqueville and within 1 mile of site. Lots of Cognac and wine. 1st troops in Barfleur or St Vaast.
Type 13 working. Heights O.K.
D + 16 Thurs, June 22
Recco with Mac and Ned. Went to Barfleur site. Useless. Feted by locals – wine biscuits cognac etc flowers on jeep. Climbed Réthoville Church Tower and found a good site. Crashed JU88 in field. Locals helped to clear. Returned and met Brown and others at Quettehou. Visited Quettehou Radar. Gear stripped. Not much bomb damage. Giant turning gear. Returned to Réthoville site. OK and went to Chateau Tocqueville (future sector HQ) – found maps etc.
Back to 72 (15072).
D + 17 Fri, June 23rd
Moved off to Réthoville with 11 and 15 of 72 (15072). Ditched T of 15 crane pulled it out. Clearing population all way road difficulties. Message at Tocqueville that Brown had found new site 1½ miles further West. Inspected and found slightly better. 3 miles from Hun at Fermanville. Set up 11 and 15 – operational at 2200 excellent results. Returned Ravenoville with Ned and Mac (?) – back at 2300.
No Huns – one fighter lost.
D + 18 Sat, June 24th
Hot & sunny
????13 & 14. Used Diamond T to clear entry. Heard at lunch time Hun in strength at Fermanville complete with up to 24 75s 88s and 105s and naval guns – up to 2000 Huns and 200 Russians. 6 Huns in Cosqueville been spying on us. Navy battle. Decided to pull 13, 14 & 11 back to Wing. Moved between 1500 & 1700. Hall returned 1730 with Hun booty – slide rule etc.
Went out 1915 to inspect Hun radio station and collect 5 columnist. Got within ¾ Km of Hun lines. No joy. Returned to camp to find Hun shelling site. Pulled all tech gear out (in 10 mins!) to Sector. Ned & I stayed behind to salvage our personal gear and tech cables. Shelling commenced as soon as tech site entered. Became more accurate. Decided to pull out. Got to Wing 2200. Dismantled 15 aerial and Ned & I moved entire convoy 24 vehicles 8 miles to site near Reville.
No mishap. Vehicles in by 0200. Cognac and slept in vehicle.
D + 19 Sun, June 25th
Warm. Went on recco of original site. Found Yanks beating last retreat. Advanced cautiously and found all clear. Navy shelling Fermanville – Huns reply Collected eggs and tents. Mail arrived – 1 letter from Bobby. Assembled 15 and repaired damaged dipoles. Sorted out cables. Visited Hun CH station. Gear still on site. Bombed June 5th – damage minute. Salvaged a few samples. Diesels leaflet – 2 100 KVA. 15KV on Tx. 6 Txs in separate buildings & aerials. Two ???? on each town ???? 1+6, 2+3, 4+5 Bunker, 4 diholes. Tuned feeder (on radio?). TRE matching! Control room CRT smashed. No Rx room – (?7000 on Rx further away). Decided to move 73 (15073) to Quettelon COL site for low flying He. 111 to Cherbourg.
D + 20 Mon, June 26th
Wet. 15 working. Went to outskirts of Cherbourg looking for COL site to tackle low flyers pm. With Mac and Ned. Found site on top of Cherbourg race course GD area.
D + 21 Tues, June 27
Looked for site near Barfleur for 72 (15072) Type 15. Visited Pas le Barfleur lighthouse.
Moved type 15 pm. US bombs new site. Cleaned.
Visited lighthouse again pm. ???? etc.
D + 22 Weds, June 28
Worked on Type 15. Improved definition.
Moved 21 convoy back to Réthoville site pm.
11, 15 and 14 working by 2230.
Visited Fermanville Radar Station and gun site.
D + 23 Thurs, June 29
Went to Fermanville AM with BD & Diamond T. Sited 73’s (15073) 11, 14 and 15. Much booty. Rescued German staff car and 3 radios for Mac.
Set up Type 11 of 72 (15072). Excellent results.
D + 24. Fri, June 30
Went to 73 site with Ned and Mac. Met G/c Stewart. Persuaded him to let us return 1/7. Cleared from 21 Sector. Hair cut and clothing. St. Pierre Eglise
Repaired fault in T13 display. Circuit I.G.
Much trouble with cable joints. Require extension leads to test panels T13 and T14 displays.
D + 25 Sat, July 1
Left 73 (15073) 0830 for Utah Beach. Boarded US 316 LST 1200.
Good lunch and quarters.