lunedì 19 novembre 2012

Lingevres 1944 the story

...."The main attack was timed for 10:15 hrs. on the 14th.June 1944. At the same time as the attack on Lingevres was taking place, the 6th.Bn. Durham Light Infantry with the support of B Sqn. 4/7th. RDG would be attacking the neighbouring village of Verrieres. (situated to the north west of Lingevres). The 9th.Bn. DLI would be supported by 'A' Sqn. 4/7th. RDG. They would have the support of the Divisional Artillery and a fighter /bomber squadron of Typhoons. The plan was for the infantry to advance behind a creeping barrage tactics which had not changed since World War 1, and firstly capture the heavily defended woods which `B` Company had ran into the previous evening, then to take the village of Lingevres itself. That was the basic plan. The battalion ,however, had not been given enough time to recce their intended objective and therefore did not fully appreciate the depth and overall strength of the enemy positions which would prove catastrophic in the opening stages of the battle.

The Artillery and Air support opened up .The Typhoons which were armed with both bombs and 10 rockets each attacked the enemy held positions in the woods. Then the 9th Durhams crossed the start line into the large cornfield, with the corn standing tall it gave the men a false sense of security as they advanced through it line abreast,rifles across their chests bayonets fixed ,first world war fashion.

It was to be a two company attack, 'A' Coy. on the left together with the remnants of` `B`Company, these would be led by Lt Colonel Woods.Major Mogg who was at this time second in command would lead 'C' Coy. on the right. Three DLI Bren Gun Carriers were to the right rear of 'A' Coy. The C.O Colonel Woods ,Intelligence Officer John Reid plus a driver, were in one, Lt.John Williams, Sgt.Charles Eagles and Pte A. Mortimer from `S` Company Assault Pioneer Pl. were in the second, Cpl Sowerby drove the third. They were supported by the Shermans of 'A' Sqn 4/7 Dragoon Guards.

The Tanks and Infantry advanced towards the enemy held woods. For the first few minutes the advance went well with only the sound of the swishing corn, but as the barrage began to move beyond the woods and land on the village behind. a German panzer opened fire from the woods and destroyed a Sherman of the 4/7 RDG A second panzer opened fire from the other side of the woods and then followed a deadly hail of small arms fire sweeping the forward ranks of the DLI`s rifle companies Men were falling all around and most of the officers of 'A' & 'C' Companies became casualities . Major Charles D'Arcy-Irvine was wounded in the head, his Company Sgt Major was hit in the legs and abdomen Lieutenant D S Taylor was hit in the chest,Captain Barclay Lowe was hit in the shoulder, all around the DLI were being slaughtered but still they pressed forward.

Lt Colonel Woods reached the edge of the wood and realised `A` Company had been decimated he called for `B` Company to pass through `A` Company but they too suffered heavy casualties

Major Mogg reported that he was making progress and receiving fewer casualties on the right flank.Lt Col Woods ordered the Major to push on while he would attempt to extricate what was left of `A` and `B` Companies and reinforce those of Major Mogg on the right who had now called up `D` Company to support the attack.

Lt Colonel Woods was killed when his carrier was hit by a mortar bomb,his Intelligence officer Lieutenant John Reid escaped relatively unharmed.Major John Mogg now found himself in command of the 9th.Bn.Durham Light Infantry. Major Mogg ordered 'C' & 'D' companies, on the right, to press on with the attack in the direction of the village. They would have the support of 'A' Sqn. 4/7th.Royal Dragoon Guards. Lt.A. Morrison, 4/7th.RDG, was ordered, by Major d'Avigord-Goldsmid, to advance on the village with his 4th Troop, to assist the 9th Durhams. He could see the Durhams advancing down a lane into the village. Morrison's tank lead the way with Cpl Johnson's and then Sgt Harris's 'Firefly', behind. The Durhams and Dragoons pressed on and fought their way into Lingevres.

The German defenders were determined to hold on to this key position and fought for every yard. Sniping was a particular problem facing the DLI, but a burst from a tank's Browning or a few rounds from one of the tank guns soon sorted out these hold ups. What remained of the Durhams and the 4/7th. RDG's now found themselves in charge of the village, which they prepared for the inevitable German Counter attack. Lt.Morrison advanced with his tanks to the area of the war memorial, next to the church but German artillery were now ranging onto the village. Lt. Morrison placed a 'Firefly' commanded by Sgt. Harris facing the approach road from the direction of Tilly, Cpl. Johnsons tank was defending the road to Verrieres (which was under attack by 6DLI & 'B' Sqn.4/7th.RDG) whilst Lt. Morrison's tank faced in the direction of,and covered the roads to Longraye & Balleroy, by the war memorial.

Within minutes Sgt. Harris was engaging a German, 50 ton, Panther tank, with his 17 Pounder gun. The Panther burst into flames. 'A'Sqn. commander spoke to Lt. Morrison on the wireless -to tell him that he was to meet the acting 9DLI commander in the western end of the church. The Durhams M.O. had set up an advanced dressing station/First Aid Post by the western door of the church and it was here that Lt. Morrison met Major Mogg. Mogg asked him the position of his tanks and from that Mogg was able to plan the defence of the village.

Major Mogg sent what remained of 9DLI's 'D' Coy, now down to two platoons,due to heavy casualties, to take up a line of defence facing down the Tilly road. 'C' Coy would do the same towards the Lonraye road. The remains of 'A' & 'B' Coys were to be held in reserve. The 9th DLI were to defend the village against German infantry infiltration, prevent the tanks from becoming exposed to assault by the German infantry and also to act as enemy tank spotters. They would be able to hear the approach of enemy armour long before it was seen. The Tanks likewise would support the infantry`s positions, and use their firepower to prevent the enemy armour from breaking into the village.

By this time Major Kenneth Swann, of the 86th.{Herefordshire Yeomanry] Battery, Royal Artillery, was also in the village in his R.A Command Sherman tank. He was the FOO [Forward Observation Officer] for his battery. Major Mogg arranged a defensive fire plan with him in which Mogg also positioned the Battalion's Anti Tank Guns, under the command of Capt. K H Whittaker. Two of these guns were quickly put out of action by German artillery fire. However the guns were positioned just in time to meet a heavy German counter attack by Tigers and Panzer Mk IV`s.The combined efforts of the battalions anti tank gunners and the tank support of The RDG accounted for a total of nine enemy tanks destroyed or disabled. It was during this action that Captain Whittaker despite being wounded won a second Military Cross."

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