Saturday, 6 November 2010

30th July to 9th August 1944 - Bieville and Granville

After the stress and strain of the first two months of the campaign in France, the month of August was for 2 RUR, a month of peace and rest by comparison. The Battalion was relieved from its positions before Troarn on July 30th. Up to that date it had been in contact with the enemy, with only very brief intervals, since D Day.

On 30th July the Battalion was to move to a rest area at Cazelle for seven complete days rest, a rest to which officers and men alike had looked forward expectantly. At about this time the break through on the Allied right flank was achieved by the Americans, and the Second Army followed this with a spectacular advance on the Caumont sector. 3 Division from guarding the bridgehead across the Orne was now to become a follow up division in wake of the armour already deployed in action on the right

With that end in view we began a period of movement which contrasted with our previous experience in France. Hitherto we had been static as a battalion for long spells which were broken by occasional intensive periods of activity. Now our role was changed, for we became a much more mobile force.

On July 30th the first of these moves was carried out. The Battalion left the Troarn positions for Bieville, already well known to most of the men who had spent the night there before the attack on Caen. Here we snatched two days rest, which consoled us a little for having to forego seven.

Then the first of longer moves began. It was the first journey by motor transport that the Battalion had undertaken in France. The distance was about 25 miles, and the destination Granville, a little village some 10 miles North East from Villers Bocage.

Next day we moved another 30 miles West to a hamlet a mile beyond St Martin des Besa├žes. in this location, though still remote from the enemy on the ground, the Battalion had the misfortune to lose a rifleman from C Company.

An Anti-Aircraft truck was blown up on a mine, and although the driver was lucky enough to escape, the explosion killed a rifleman who happened to be standing nearby. This was a grim reminder that even in a comparatively rear area, the utmost attention to these things had still to be maintained.

Next day we were on the move again, this time to a front much closer to the enemy. We were detailed to relieve the Norfolks in a position covering the arterial road running North East out of Vire.

Our task was to obstruct any possible enemy counter attack from Vire and to remain firm in our positions while the other two Battalions of the Brigade passed through us to the high ground further South. This was carried out without mishap and the Battalion in this position had no sight nor sound of the enemy.

During the next few days, from the 7th onwards, the Battalion changed position several times, but remaining throughout in Brigade reserve, not in direct contact with the Boche, but often within striking distance of his shells.

These bursts of shellfire fell unfortunately for the Battalion. One lasted only two minutes but in that time we lost CSM McCutcheon who had commanded the Mortar Platoon for the first six weeks after D Day, when the Mortar Officer was wounded. He was hit by shrapnel; so too was the Intelligence Sjt., Sjt. Hodgkinson, Sjt. Pancott, who had lead the snipers with great success since D Day, and several other Riflemen all of whom had to be evacuated.

On another occasion the Provost Sjt, Sjt Brown, was slightly wounded, but he too had to be evacuated. Throughout the campaign Sjt. Browns presence and steadiness in action had been of immense assistance and his departure was a great loss to the Battalion.

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