Sidney Beck's manuscript invasion diary,
Sidney Beck, 26 May 1945, Stedorf
NB The notebook contains other 'commonplace book' material, not included here. All the actual diary entries are reproduced below.
This text is copyright under the Berne convention.
All rights are reserved. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright Act, 1956, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrical, chemical, mechanical, optical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without my prior permission as copyright owner.
© Benjamin S. Beck 2000–2023
June 6th 1944. 8.15 a.m. Landed from LCT 502 on the beach near Khartum exit west of La Riviere (Alberta). First went into action 500y off the beach in front of casemate of German coastal battery. One man wounded by sniper.
2nd position just beyond Dernee.
3rd position just beyond Crépon. Fired on by snipers. In the evening fired on by a British Sherman shelling our wood hiding German snipers. Beaches bombed at night. Heavy flak, brilliant tracer display.
7th 1944. Spent day digging in. In afternoon moved by ½ regiments to position S.W. of St. Gabriel. Passed several dead Germans & 2 knocked out 88mm S.P. guns.
Thurs.8th. Digging in. Several shoots at tanks forming up. Moved to alternative postn. slightly in rear in afternoon, near Crépon. Many allied leaflets around. Found two German books, a novel & Mein Kampf. Beaches again heavily bombed. We now have our own light A.A. guns to defend us.
Friday 9th. Advanced to an orchard just north of Martragny. Plenty of shooting, mainly against tanks. At dusk saw our first German planes, 6 dive bombers FW195s dived on our advancing infantry. Heavy A.A. in action against them.
Sat.10th. In action all day, supporting the advance of the 7th Armd Divn. from Bayeux. Lost Lt McCann, Bdr Tagg in H Tank & Brookes & Dudanis in TLB. Took vehicles to OP & were never seen again.
Sun.11th. Moved to Conde-sur-Seulles north of Tilly-sur-Seulles to support the adv. of the 56 Bde from Bayeux to Tilly. Passed through St. Leger. Saw first crashed German fighter. Occupied position in orchard just off main road. Fired on tanks in evening.
12th. Left Section 15o off for line this morning. Germans putting up stubborn resistance at Tilly. We dig in. First letters arrive from England, dated May 31st/June 1st. Wagon lines established in Bayeux.
13th. Captn. Turnbull killed in action as F.O.O. with the infantry. A hard day's work with many different targets. First papers.
14th. Still at Conde-sur-Seulles. Ted Hall killed in action acting as F.O.O. with inftry. Many casualties among infantry. Jerry still in Tilly. 56 Inftry Bde. attacked west of Tilly (6 & 9 D.L.I.) supported by an artillery barrage. We fire 250 rds per gun. Attack failed & Jerry counterattacked.
15th. Things quiet after yesterday's strain. Everyone depressed about Ted. Auctioned his surplus kit in evening. Proceeds £25. More letters from home. Patrol work only on our forward front.
16th. 49th Div. attacked & won Crisot to the east of Tilly supported by a barrage. We fired 144 rds. per gun on the barrage. The D.L.I's advanced 2 miles west of Tilly. Visited wagon lines, saw Bayeux cathedral. No letters to-day. Held up for essential supplies. Still dug in at Conde-sur-Seulles. Typhoon bombers armed with rockets attack targets in forward positions. 1st line reinforcements. Each man issued with 5 cigs as a personal gift from Monty to the 50th Divn. Men in good spirits but eager to push on.
Heavy A.A. barrage at night shoots down at least 2 German bombers.
Saturday 17th. Quiet day. In afternoon C.O. wounded in hand.
Sunday, 18th Send men into Bayeux but later town put out of bounds. Quiet day generally.
Monday, 19th. Kenneth Swann killed in action, died of wounds received in unsuccessful attack on Hottot.
Tuesday 20th Visited Wagon lines & collected replacement for T.L.B. carrier. Quick glance round Bayeux & hair-cut (10 francs). Maj. Corke took over B.C. Bob Kiln made B.C. 342 Ron Dorey B.K. John Craston C.P.O. Sidney Kalbraier G.P.O. ATp. John Wood Tp Cmdr A Tp. Recced new positions near Buceels.
Wednesday 21st. Moved to new positions at 8.15 a.m. by Batteries. Exposed position in open cornfields. Camouflage difficult. Managed washdown in neighbouring stream. Disturbed by reports re Pilotless bombs over S.E. England.
Thursday 22nd. Quiet day. Ammn. expenditure limited to 30 Rds per Gun. Supplies held up for 5 days owing to N.E. gale on beaches.
Friday 24rd <sic> Message from 30 Corps Cmdr. read to Troop. Relieved A C.P.O. at 341. O.P. with Hampshire Regt. near Hottot. Intermittent shellfire & mortar fire on position. Uncomfortable night spent in slit trench.
Saturday 24th. No firing until evening when Army Group Arty. fired on H.A.A. Bty. Visited Ted Hall's grave & planted White Cross & four posts. 812708. Strew grave with poppies & daisies. Bob Kiln took a snap. Mail arrived in afternoon also 5 cigs per man from Div. Cmdr. Ruth heard from me. In evening preparing barrage for 49 Div's attack.
Sunday 25th. Barrage began at 4.15 a.m. Fired 128 rds per gun. C.R.A. reported "Tremendous success". Fired another barrage 110 rds. per gun at lunch time. Many opportunity targets. Harassing fire & tgts all night. More mail arrived & newspapers. 5 Mes. flew low over position, but no attack.
Monday 26th Rained all day. Many opportunity targets. 49 Div. doing well, in Cheuse & Rauray. Two lots of mail arrived to-day. No. 3. gun (F Sub). had a premature last evening, fortunately no casualties. Ammo. very rusty & bad.
Tuesday 27th Another day of opportunity tgts with a small barrage of 45 rds p.g. on a wood near Hottot. Nothing much to report. No mail to-day. B.S.M. brought powder & lipstick in Bayeux.
Wednesday, 29th C.O. had a quick inspection of gun area. Blanco is the order of the day. More opportunity tgts. In the evening & night expended total 418 rds on harassing fire. Monty reports presence of 2 new Panzer S.S. Divns on front opposite 49 Div.
Thursday 29th. Not a great deal of firing to-day. In evening placed under 4 hrs notice to move in support of the 33 Amd. Bde. In the event of an enemy counterattack on Rauray, 33 Amd Bde are to re-attack & capture Rauray. We will support. Prepared G.B. as an Amd O.P. During the night fired 100 rds on harassing targets. Advance parties went to Cristot to prepare gun areas. Reported dead cattle in gun area. Brought back a live duck from a deserted farm. To-day, Sgt Stow fired his Browning at a fleeing FW190. No hits!
Friday 30th. Opportunity Tgts. In evening an enemy shell fell ¼ mile from our P.C. About the same time, we witnessed a terrific bombing raid on the woods near Villers Bocage. About 200 or more Lancasters & Halifaxes flew over, dropped their load & turned home. Huge clouds of smoke drifted N.E. in the strong wind. At least 3 planes were hit. We did not move, after all. Received mail at 9 p.m. 2 men went to cinema.
Saturday, July 1st Usual targets. Mortars, H.Q's, batteries etc. With harassing fire targets all night.
Sunday July 2nd. Rainy in showers. Heard that E Tp had been shelled (not deliberate) during the night. So we all dug deeper & in evening everyone slept below ground level. Plenty of mail to-day.
Monday, 3rd. Rained all day, unpleasant. In evening went to new postn. at Cristot on back of B.S.M's cycle. Muddy. Many shell holes, dead cattle. Cristot deserted. Collected onions, 3 books & 3 ducklings & brought them back. B.S.M. got a hen.
Tuesday, 4th The hen laid! At 12. noon we fired one rd. salvo at a Salute to America Tgt. In afternoon visited by 8 Me's flying below the clouds. B.S.M. opened up with the Browning, Lathwell with the Bren. The A.A. site was hit. One man killed. 2 wounded. In evening some more ME's visited us but were too high to fire on.
Wed. 5th Our area shelled by 155 mm guns for 5–10 minutes at 1.30. No casualties. Bearing 193o.
Thurs. 6th Received orders to move forward & right to support 56 Inf Bde attack on Saturday. Sjt Stow recced new positions in evening.
Friday. 1st ½ Regt moved at 6.30. 2nd. ½ at 8.30. Passed through Verrieres and Lingevres both badly ruined. Several burnt out tanks by the way side. New gun position in field off a lane S.W. of La Belle Epine. Some difficulty in fixing Cmd Post.
Saturday 8th. Sjt. Stow spent all night working on the Tasks for today. No barrage—just a long list of code names, all animals representing targets on call (mainly woods) around Granville. Slow progress made.
Sunday 9th. Enemy counterattacked in evening was beaten off. Captn. Pamphilon killed or missing. Just before dusk we saw in the distance the great bombing offensive against Caen area. Nearly 450 bombers & over 2000 tons of bombs in a long raid.
Monday 10th Enemy at Granville counterattacked at dawn but again beaten off. We are supporting the Glosters, S W.B. & Essex. Archie Burrell (who has been loaned to ATp) went to Rest Camp having just spent 3 days at the Tactical H.Q. established by the B.C. Received snaps of Daniel.
Tuesday11th Fired a smoke screen as part of exercise Maori II covering the Hottot road. Final phase not fired. Sjt. Fielding unwell & sent to R.A.P. 2 New signallers reported for duty.
Wednesday, 12th.Quiet day, little firing. Small Arms Inspection. Read Tp. details of 2nd Army General Plan & Div. Cmdr's order re Looting etc. Also a copy of a statement made by a German deserter. Very interesting but wonder how true it is.
Thursday, 13th Beer arrived this evening. One pint bottle per man (15 francs). Also white bread for the first time since D–2. Much appreciated by everybody. Recce. parties went to prepare new position near Lingevres, were called back. Further details to-morrow. Dick Greig called in evening in Ford V8. Now a Staff Captain at H.Q.R.A. Nice work if you can get it. Sort of job I should like.
Friday14th. NAAFI rations to-day. O.K. but only 4 pads of writing paper. M3 & M5, the residue personnel, arrived at gun postn. In morning came under bullet firing, from wood in front of position. Rather dangerous 15 mins not knowing what was going on. 1st. R.T.R. exercising tanks in the wood &
we were getting many ricochets. A full maintenance day without firing a single round. Learned the plans for the next few days. Tactical H.Q returned to gun postn. for maintenance.
Sat. July15th. Orders at 1000 hrs. Adv. Pties moved at 10.30. Regt. moved, SP's together at 13.30. Crossed over to the 59 Div Front to gun area S.E. of Fontenay-Le-Presnel. Area already crowded with guns & 600 rds of Ammn. already dumped before guns arrived. Open cornfields, no cover at all. Dug deep command post, covered roof with planks from blitzed buildings. Route to new position, via Lingevres, Banseels <?>, missing Tilly. Travelled most of way cross country along marked Tank Track. Crossed a new road being built from the beaches. Fire Plan data received at 1800 hrs. To bed at Midnight.
Sunday July16th. Fire Plan began at 0530 hrs. Tanks (Churchills, Sherman etc) crowd our gun position, waiting to go forward. Only 2000y from enemy. Air literally filled with shells. We fire 750 rds between 0530 & 0730 eating breakfast as we fire. Fired 1072 rds up to 1800 hrs. 1615 rds up to Midnight. Attack on left, did not go well. 12 Shermans ran into minefield. Attack on right in afternoon & evening reached objectives, Noyers Stn & Church. Tanks returned at last light, infantry remaining.
At 11 pm. area raided by single German planes. Dropped bombs & flares over Caen. Terrific AA. fire & tracer shells overhead. Anti-Personnel bombs & Oil bombs scattered over wide area (reported). No actual bombs on gun area.
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