The following is an account of a British commando raid on Varengeville,
which is about 3 1/2 miles west of Dieppe on the northern coast of France. This
raid occurred on 19 August 1942, and was a subsidiary operation in the large-scale
raid on Dieppe. It was designed to, and in fact did, destroy a German coastal
battery which covered the approaches to Dieppe. The account of this action is here
reprinted, with some minor editing for U.S. readers, from a British pamphlet.
In order that this account may be more understandable, a brief summary
of commando organization is given below. In this connection it should be noted
that while a "commando" generally consists of six "troops," only four "troops"
were used in this particular operation.
The commandos adhere closely to the guerrilla system, in which small
bands join together to form larger but easily manageable units. The basic
organization is a "troop" of 62 enlisted men, commanded by a captain and divided into
two sections under lieutenants, a section being the usual complement for one
landing craft. Sections are composed of subsections (squads) commanded by
sergeants. The commando proper consists of six troops. The commando proper
is led by a lieutenant colonel, who makes a point of knowing every man in his
organization and tries to develop among them a feeling of personal attachment
and mutual confidence. In addition to the six troops, there is in each commando
a headquarters of 7 officers and 77 enlisted men organized in Administrative,
Intelligence, Signal, and Transport sections; also, there are attached 1 surgeon
and 7 men from the Royal Army Medical Corps and 2 armorers from the Royal
Army Ordnance Corps.
The British account follows.
* * *
At daybreak, 19 August 1942, No. 4 Commando, consisting of 252 officers
and men, including seven allied* personnel, assaulted the 6-gun battery at
Varengeville. The position was defended by an approximately equal number of Germans,
with all the advantages of concrete, wire, mines, concealed machine guns, mortars,
dual-purpose flak guns, and knowledge of the ground. They had had 2 years to
perfect these defenses, and when the time came they fought with the greatest
determination. Yet, within 100 minutes of the landings, the position was overrun. The
battery and all its works were totally destroyed, and at least 150 Germans left
dead on the ground. Prisoners were also taken. British casualties were 45, of
whom 12 were back on duty within 2 months.
Operation "Cauldron" is an outstanding example of what can be achieved
by troops armed only with infantry weapons and by gallantry, sound planning, and
It is a model of "fire and movement" tactics. Frontal fire pinned the enemy
to the ground while the assault troops moved round their flank to a final assembly
position, the assault itself being preceded by a final crescendo of fire. The
principle of this attack and that of the battle drill taught at the British School of Infantry
are the same.
This account is published in order that all may benefit from the story of
a stimulating achievement. To obtain full value from it, officers and NCO's should
first study it as an indoor exercise and then be told what actually happened on the
It should be borne in mind that this is merely an episode in a major
operation in which the main brunt of the fighting was borne by the Canadian forces.
The soundness of the plan is a major factor in any success. This observation
is true of operation "Cauldron." The plan was simple, flexible, and
understood by all ranks. Its thoroughness was based on a detailed study of the
information obtained from German dispositions. It was animated by the will to gain surprise.
However, good plans are not enough to command success; they must be
completed by skillful and determined execution.
Waterloo may or not have been won on the playing fields of Eton; it is certainly
much truer to say that operation "Cauldron" was won on the training fields
of England. The outstanding features of the training were the:
(1) Accuracy with which the nature of the various actions was foreseen.
(2) Soundness of the training program, which resulted in the soldier's
meeting the sudden events of the day with the confidence of a
highly trained athlete hearing the expected starting pistol for his
(3) Implicit confidence of the troops in their weapons--the culmination
of months of practice in all phases of the fire fight.
All operations have special features for which special training is needed.
In this one, cliff climbing, the use of scaling ladders, employment of bangalore
torpedoes under unusual conditions, and measures for embarkation and
reembarkation needed special treatment. This was given until, as in all else, perfection was
A point which most people would miss was the elaborate care with which
the seating arrangements in the landing craft had to be made; this was necessary
because reorganization on the beaches would have meant death to many. It was not
until after a heart-breaking number of trials that the right solution was arrived at.
Details of training are noted in the Appendix.
d. Execution of the Plan
It should be borne in mind that this Commando attack was purely an infantry
operation, unassisted by other arms.
The operation brings out, yet again, how much the inflicting of heavy enemy
casualties at comparatively light cost to ourselves is due to a sound appreciation
of infantry fire power and to the team work, efficiency, and discipline of the troops.
It is interesting to note the high number of Germans killed by infantry
weapons while the enemy was behind cover. This success was due to the special
training of the troops in "accuracy shooting."
The application of successful mortar fire throughout the operation--the
3-inch from an OP 800 yards in front of the piece, using both wire and radio, the
2-inch boldly used in its correct role--is a lesson to all.
The high number of casualties inflicted by rifles and Bren guns [a light
machine gun] fired from the hip at short range during the actual assault was a
just reward of the previous careful training.
Lessons, that should be looked for in the account of the action, are:
The large number of Germans who fell to our rifles had had their death
sentences signed many months before, when the commando struggled to perfection
in judging distance and shooting straight.
A special mention must be made of the snipers. It was made very clear
to the Germans that a stalker with a quick and sure eye, cunning, field craft, and
the sniper's rifle with its telescopic sight, can do much to swing the battle against
There is something about a bayonet that defeats not only the armchair
critic but, what is more important, the enemy. The German has always
AT rifle grenades were useful against enemy behind defenses, but the
incendiary bullet was not a success. Its use invariably drew fire. HE hand grenades
were useful, though it appears that the Germans can throw their stick grenades
(e) Bren Gun
The Bren gun did what was expected of it. Thanks to concentration on judging
of distance, accuracy of fire, and the use of cover, many Germans were killed by
Bren fire. Considerable training in firing it from the hip during the assault
produced striking results.
It was agreed that the psychological effect of tracer at night is very great.
It is necessary that inoculation against this effect should be undertaken without
delay. The demoralizing effect of tracer, which always appears to be going to hit
you, is very great.
(g) Mortars, 2-inch and 3-inch
Extensive training and practice were undertaken to ensure a high degree
of accuracy and speed in obtaining fire effect. During the operation, as the
narrative shows, this training probably went far to ensure the successful end of the
(h) Tommy Gun
Extensive training was carried out in the use of the tommy gun in assault
and in-fighting. Results obtained were good, but the Bren proved a more effective
weapon when used from the hip in similar circumstances.
(2) Minor Tactics
Training in fire and movement was carried out over country similar to
that fought over, with special regard to close-country fighting. All personnel
were thoroughly prepared for their various parts in all phases of the action. This
careful study and preparation was the main reason why such a small infantry
force was able to defeat approximately equal numbers of an enemy who was
organized behind wire and occupied strong prepared defenses.
Training in the use of smoke at the right time and place, and in suitable
quantity, resulted in the saving of many casualties at critical moments.
The success obtained in this operation bears out the principle of thorough
and detailed training in the basic infantry tactics--fire and movement.
PART I THE PROBLEM
"Cauldron" Force's orders were to destroy the battery near Varengeville
with all speed and at all cost. This preliminary operation was essential to the
larger plan for the raid on Dieppe, since the battery covered the Dieppe approaches
and it was not possible to send in the large landing craft until the battery had been
silenced. "Cauldron" Force landings were not to begin before 0450.
The accompanying sketch-map shows all features of significance that could
be detected from air photographs.
The battery position near Varengeville (three and a half miles west of
Dieppe) is 1,100 yards from the sea. The cliffs are steep and unbroken except at
Beach One and Beach Two. At Beach One, two precipitous gulleys led up to wooded
country running within 300 yards of the battery. Beach Two, near the mouth of the
river Saane, appeared the next possible landing place.
A photograph of the chimney on Beach One is shown below.
Air photographs showed no indication of defenses along the cliffs or at
(1) Beach One
In the battery area, wire could be seen on all sides except to the west.
The gun positions (1) were seen to be concentrated. Two light AA guns were
located at (2) and (3). Only one MG position (4) was definitely located, but it was
expected that others were similarly placed to cover the re-entrant angles of the
wire, and the road approaches. A telephone line (5) led from the battery position
to the lighthouse. This was thought to be an OP. Last-minute reconnaissance
reported two light AA guns (6) in the lighthouse area. The battery area was
considerably built over and consequently difficult to interpret. Subsequent events,
however, revealed that the intelligence, in general, was correct. Additional
information is shown on the sketch map and will be described during the narrative.
(2) Beach Two
At Beach Two, traces of wire were seen on the beaches; at (7), at the
western extremity of the cliff line, were two pillboxes covering the beaches and
the flat ground at the mouth of the River Saane. Inland of Beach Two, a complicated
network of trenches, wire, and MG posts (8) could be seen on the high ground to
the west of the village of Ste. Marguerite covering the valley of the River Saane.
d. The Enemy
From intelligence reports it was known that the battery and its protective
troops belonged to the 110th Division, a first-class unit which had seen hard fighting
in Russia. Reports also suggested an infantry company located in the Ste.
Marguerite area and another in the Quiberville area.
PART II THE PLAN
The plan of the commanding officer of "Cauldron" Force was to hold the
enemy with covering fire from the coast side of the battery while the assault was
launched from inland.
He divided his command into two groups for this purpose. Group 1 was to
provide the covering fire and Group 2 was to carry out the assault.
a. Group 1
Group 1, a total of 88 officers and men, consisted of:
Combat patrol (one section of A Troop)
Signal detachment for mortars
Royal Naval beach master
Reserve ammunition carrying party
Group 1 was to land at dawn on Beach One and:
(1) Form a bridgehead above the cliff, both for the advance and to cover
(2) Engage the battery frontally with small-arms fire as soon as the
alarm was raised or the battery itself had opened fire on the main landing at
Dieppe. They were not to close with the battery until Group 2 had captured the
A detachment of 10 men carrying additional 3-inch mortar ammunition
was to be landed after daylight. This detachment was also to lay and light smoke
generators on the beach to cover the withdrawal.
b. Group 2
Group 2, a total of 164 officers and men, was to land in two waves on Beach
Two. It consisted of:
CO "Cauldron" Force
A Troop (less one section)
A Troop, less section attached to Group 1 as a combat patrol, was to land
on Beach Two to the east of the River Saane. Its tasks were:
(1) To cover from the west the assault on the battery position.
(2) During the withdrawal, to protect the flank from attack from the west.
The first wave, in one LCA*** consisting of a section of A Troop was to
land under cover of fire from an LCS**** at the east end of Beach Two and overcome
any immediate opposition to the landing of the second wave, particularly from the
2 pillboxes (7). It was then to move by the shortest route to the area of the
crossroads at (9), in order to prevent the enemy in Ste. Marguerite from interfering
with the assault on the battery.
The remainder of Group 2, in four LCAs, was to land on Beach Two.
The second wave, consisting of B and F Troops and Force Hq, was to follow
after a 3-minute interval, slightly farther to the west on the beach. This force
was then to move at all possible speed up the valley of the Saane for about 1,000
yards, and then turn east and move 1,900 yards farther to a wood (10). The LCS
was to lie off Beach Two and oppose by fire any attempt to bring up reinforcements
from the Quiberville area along the coast road.
Alternative plans were prepared for use if the landing was delayed. Their
object was to shorten the approach to the objective should the landing take place in
daylight. If there was slight delay, the main force was to take the same direct
route as the section of A Troop. If the delay was considerable, the landing of the
entire force on Beach One was envisaged.
c. The Assault
The assault was to be delivered by B and F Troops from the wooded area
inland from the battery position. Ninety minutes were allowed for the approach
from the beach to the final assembly position. Covering fire was to be provided
by C Troop from the front of the position, and A Troop. A squadron of
four-cannon Hurricanes was to "shoot up" the battery position at H+90. The signal
for the assault was three white Very lights supplemented by radio messages.
d. Points in Planning Worth Noting
(1) During the approach to the beach, the landing craft were to provide
covering fire for the initial landing if required. This responsibility rested jointly
on the military personnel with their automatic weapons and on naval crews with
stripped Lewis machine guns.*****
(2) All papers and means of identification, other than identity disks, were
to be removed from personnel.
(3) Weapons and Equipment
(a) All personnel, except C Troop, carried their normal weapons. C
Troop carried two extra, light machine guns and an antitank rifle, together with
four grenade launchers and four sniper's rifles with telescopic sights.
(b) Grenades were to be primed, magazines filled, and all arms and equipment
checked in daylight the day before the operation.
(c) Ammunition and explosives to be taken were considerable, and therefore
had to be widely distributed; no rations or canteens could be carried. One
thousand rounds of .45 and 1,000 rounds of .303 reserve ammunition were to be
landed on Beach One, and, in addition, 3,000 rounds of reserve .303 remained in
LCAs. HE grenades were carried by all riflemen, and a useful number of smoke
grenades were taken. Incendiary mortar bombs and bullets were also carried.
Made-up explosive charges were to be carried for destroying the guns and
Radio communication was to be established between the two group Hqs and
to all Troops. Portable radio sets were used. Communications worked excellently.
In addition, nets manned by attached personnel were established from Beach One
to the beach used by the Canadians on the left flank, and between Force Hq and the
naval landing craft.
PART III THE NARRATIVE
a. Group 1
At 0430 hours Group 1 was approaching Beach One. The lighthouse was
flashing, but a few minutes afterwards it suddenly cut off and a few seconds later
some white star shells went up from the semaphore tower beside the lighthouse.
The LCA commander was asked to increase speed if possible, since surprise
had apparently been lost. It was not easy to see the beach, but the flare from the
lighthouse had served as a useful navigational guide, and greater precision was
obtained by recognition of two white houses on the cliff which had been memorized
from air photographs.
The two LCAs went in according to plan, and, by the sound seamanship of
the Navy, arrived within a yard of the correct place. Troops disembarked in
successive waves, and because of the prearranged plan for seating in the LCAs, no
reorganization was necessary on landing. Troops stepped ashore onto dry land.
Previous experience had shown that automatic weapons and particularly tommy
guns are likely to jam after a wetting. As it was, one Bren gun, which had been
kept pointing over the bows of one of the LCAs, had been splashed by a wave and
was very sluggish until the lubrication warmed up.
It was high tide, and in less than a minute the whole of Group 1 was under
the cliffs. The leading sub-section of C Troop started up the east cleft, but
returned very soon to report that it was impassable. It was partly filled up by rocks
from the cliff and was also very heavily wired. The west cleft was then tried,
and two bangalore torpedoes were blown in the wire which also choked this exit.
It was realized that the use of explosives was likely to sacrifice surprise, but
progress otherwise was impossible, and time was of paramount importance.
Fortunately the explosions coincided with heavy firing farther down the
coast and were not apparently heard at the battery position. Successfully negotiating
the cleft, the group pushed on as fast as possible with their first task. No. 1
Section, C Troop, went forward to the front edge of the wood facing the battery,
after searching some houses on the way. From No. 2 Section, one sub-section
searched all the remaining houses and ground in the immediate vicinity of Beach
One, while the second sub-section guarded the bridgehead around the gulley.
A Troop's fighting patrol, after cutting the telephone line from the lighthouse
OP, worked round to the right of the battery and, after C Troop went into action,
engaged the gun sites from windows of adjoining houses with accurate small-arms
fire at a range of about 250 yards. This patrol also silenced the flak gun at (3),
killing three successive gun crews. One section of C Troop entered a small salient
strip of scrub (11) facing the forward wire of the battery 250 yards in front of
them. Some of the enemy, including what appeared to be a cook in a white suit,
were standing about unconcernedly, thus suggesting that complete surprise had
The mortar OP was established, and the linesman went back uncoiling the
wire; the time was now 0530 hours. Owing to an error of judgment on the part
of the corporal in command of the mortar, who moved his weapon further forward
than necessary, time was lost, and it was able to open fire only just before the
final assault. Wire communication failed, and communication from the mortar
OP was from the group commander's radio to C Troop radio, an arrangement which
had already been anticipated and practiced.
By 0540 hours No. 2 Section of C Troop was in position between (11) and
(12), and the battery was being heavily engaged by small-arms fire. The three
Bren guns fired in short bursts on a prearranged plan, only one gun firing at a
time; it was necessary to weigh the conflicting claims of making the maximum
display possible from this direction and at the same time conserving ammunition.
Each gun had 16 magazines [1 magazine holds 30 rounds] of which about 12 were
fired. One was continually in action in a position in long grass only 150 yards
from the battery and was not observed. Three men with sniper's rifles did excellent
work. One of them, wearing suitable camouflage and with his face and hands
painted green, crawled forward to a fire position 120 yards from the gun
emplacement. These snipers had been supplied with incendiary bullets, as well as ball
ammunition, to fire at the wooden battery buildings. This arrangement was probably
a mistake, since the chances of setting a house on fire with an incendiary bullet
are small, and their use seldom failed to draw fire. All three enemy MG positions
at (4), (13), and (14) were successively silenced by the accurate shooting of these
Bren gunners and snipers. The antitank rifle was used against all buildings from
which fire appeared to be coming, but it was hard to judge its effectiveness; 60
rounds were fired by the gunner, mostly rapid at the flak tower (2) in rear of the
gun sites. The gun emplacements were out of range, but an AT grenade was fired
through the window of a house to silence a sniper. A short time after the enemy
had been engaged with small-arms fire, the 2-inch mortar arrived. The first
bomb fell short, but the second hit one of the powder dumps behind the guns and a
blinding flash resulted. The time was now 0607 hours and the battery never fired
again. All efforts to extinguish the fire were prevented by accurate small-arms
The fire travelled and other powder dumps exploded, severely burning the
German gun crews. The 2-inch mortar continued to give accurate fire behind the
gun emplacements. Small-arms fire and mortar fire (with smoke just before zero
hour for the assault) continued until the assault signal went up about 0630 hours.
A few minutes later a German 81-mm mortar, firing from east of the battery
position, got the range just as the mortar crew was beginning to withdraw, and the
first three casualties occurred. Hitherto, enemy fire (mortar, heavy MG, and
horizontal flak) had been consistent but inaccurate, being, mostly too high. It is
thought that when the 2-inch mortar position started to fire smoke, it was given
away by the trails that these bombs leave while passing through the air.
Meanwhile, the remainder of C Troop had searched all the houses above
the beach and the surrounding cover, killing enemy snipers. The telephone line
from the lighthouse OP to the battery had been destroyed. The five or six salvos
fired by the battery at the shipping off Dieppe all fell short; their failure was
probably due to the cutting of this line.
Attention must now be turned from this success to the flank attack of
b. Group 2
The five LCAs and one LCS containing Group 2 also increased speed when
the white star shells went up from the lighthouse at 0430 hours. As A Troop (less
one section) disembarked and began to cross the heavy beach wire (15), they came
under mortar and machine-gun fire and had four casualties. The remainder of the
group at once began to go ashore 150 yards farther up the beach, using chicken
wire to get across the wire. They also came under fire and received eight
casualties. The enemy used a concentration of tracer ammunition which, in the half
light, had a most unpleasant effect on men not accustomed to it. There seems to
be some doubt whether this fire was coming from high ground west of Ste.
Marguerite or from the Quiberville direction, or from both. Most of the casualties
were from the mortar--which, fortunately, soon lifted and continued firing at the
retreating landing craft. Two medical orderlies remained with the wounded. One
was taken prisoner with them; the other escorted three walking wounded along the
cliff top to Beach One. One officer, leaving his boat, was hit by mortar fragments,
his right hand becoming useless. Nevertheless he went on, and led a charge in
the final assault on the battery, using his revolver and grenades with his left hand
and accounting for a number of the enemy. He subsequently was decorated. A
radio lance-corporal [private first class] was stunned by the same bomb. He
recovered consciousness 10 minutes later, and, knowing the plan and that he was of
major importance as being the only radioman in his section, he pulled himself
together and rejoined his section, by this time in the wood. He arrived in time to
give Force Hq the necessary situation report before the assault signal. A private,
under heavy fire, climbed a telegraph pole and with his wire-cutters cut lateral
communications along the coast; he was awarded a decoration.
As the troops were getting over the wire, three Boston [A-20s] aircraft
passed overhead and drew enemy fire from the commando, who rushed to (16) and,
crossing the Quiberville-Ste. Marguerite road, proceeded at the double along the
east bank of the River Saane, in accordance with the plan. B Troop was in the lead,
followed closely by Force Hq, then F Troop. Arrangements had been made to
cover this advance with smoke if they were fired at from high ground near
Quiberville. It was easy to keep direction, below a steep bank (17) that defiladed them
from Ste. Marguerite and with the river on their right. The going, mostly through
long grass, was heavy, since the river had overflowed its banks. The bend in the
river where the force was to swing east was also easily identified. By this time
it was 0515 hours and broad daylight.
The ground from the river to the southwest corner of the wood (10) was
more exposed, though not devoid of cover. The more open spaces were crossed
in open formation by bounds. By this time Group 2 could hear the heavy volume
of small-arms fire with which C Troop were engaging the battery, and soon
afterward the roar of the powder explosion, and the sheets of flames clearly visible
above the trees, increased their confidence that all was going well.
On reaching the wood (10), B and F Troops divided according to plan and
made their way toward their assembly areas.
B Troop moved forward inside the southern edge of the wood and then
filtered through the orchard by sub-sections. Using cover, they approached the
perimeter wire, where they came under inaccurate fire from a machine-gun
position (18), the AA gun at (2), and from various buildings. From there on, they
advanced by fire and movement with covering smoke. One machine gun was stalked
and silenced with a grenade. They reached their assembly positions, just short of
the main battery buildings, and reported at H+95 that they were ready for the
F Troop went through the wood to (19), where they advanced under cover
of smoke due north, on either side of the road, to the corner of the perimeter. Here
a sergeant records that a number of Germans were surprised in a farmyard, while
organizing a counterattack on C Troop. They were killed with tommy guns. Vigorous
opposition was encountered from the buildings and enclosures just inside
the perimeter wire, and several casualties were sustained. The troop commander
was killed by a stick grenade, and one of the section officers was mortally wounded.
The sergeant took over but was also killed. The third officer took over command
of the troop, and, though shot through the thigh in the final assault on the battery,
led his men in bayonet charges from one gun site to another. He was subsequently
awarded the Victoria Cross. The troop first-sergeant was also badly wounded in
the foot, but continued to engage the enemy in a sitting position; he received a
decoration. Fighting their way forward and overcoming resistance, F Troop reached
their line of departure for the final assault under cover in a ditch along the road
immediately behind the gun emplacements.
Force Hq consisting of the commander, adjutant, two runners, three radiomen
with 3 radios, and a protective section of four tommy gunners from the
commando orderly room had moved forward to the northwest corner of the wood,
where a heartening situation report was received from the commander of Group 1.
From the same area, the section of A Troop attached to Group 1 also reported
that they were in a position west of the battery position at about (20) and had
inflicted heavy casualties. Force Hq now moved behind and between B and F Troops
near the road junction (21), where the commander contacted officers commanding
B and F Troops. The time was now H+95. During this move forward, being
mistaken for the enemy, the Force Hq came under heavy fire from a section of F
Troop. Radio was used to stop the fire.
At H+90, exactly on time, a low-level cannon attack on the gun sites and
battery position was made by a Hurricane squadron. This attack was only partly
successful, as the squadron came in mixed up with Focke-Wulfs.
The assault signal was given at about H+100. B Troop rushed the buildings
to the right of the gun sites, and F Troop the gun sites themselves. The charge of
F Troop went in across open ground under fire, overrunning strongpoints, and
finally ended on the gun sites themselves, where all the crews were grenaded, shot,
or bayoneted. B Troop had a somewhat easier task in the assault. Odd enemy
groups were overcome in underground tunnels, in the battery Hq, in the cookhouse,
and in outbuildings. Two German officers were killed after a rousing chase from
one house to another. The guns (both barrels and breech blocks), instruments, and
most of the subterranean supplies and ammunition dumps, were blown up by F
Troop. B Troop was responsible for mopping-up and for all-around defense. The
gun emplacements afterwards were a remarkable sight. Dead Germans were piled
high up behind the sandbag breastworks which surrounded the guns. Many of them
had been badly burned when the powder had been set afire in the early stages of
the operation. Bodies of men who had been sniped by C and A Troops lay all around
the area, in and out of bunkers, slit trenches, or buildings.
Isolated resistance from pillboxes caused a further half-dozen casualties,
since all strongpoints were enfiladed from one section of the wire to another (the
perimeter covered some 50 acres); when one position was stormed and the crews
killed, the commando personnel engaged came under heavy fire from the next
position. Isolated snipers continued to resist from cover outside the gun emplacements.
It was noted that they picked off single men moving by themselves, but appeared
unwilling to unmask their position during mopping-up operations if two or more
men exposed themselves simultaneously. Good use of smoke generators was made
at this stage, and the smoke grenades, which explode on impact, proved particularly
successful. Union Jacks for captured positions proved useful as recognition signals.
The last survivors, like all the enemy encountered, fought well.
It may not be out of place to note that "Cauldron" Force Commander considers
that the success of the operation was chiefly due to the excellent leadership
of junior officers and to superior weapon training.
PART IV THE WITHDRAWAL
While the guns were being blown up, the force commander ordered the
medical officer and stretcher bearers by radio to come up from the beachhead to
the battery position. F Troop, Force Hq, and B Troop, when the demolitions and
mopping-up were finished, moved successively down to Beach One, carrying their
wounded and guided by elements of C Troop who were covering the withdrawal.
Meanwhile A Troop, acting as left flank guard, ambushed and shot up an
enemy patrol coming from Ste. Marguerite. As an example of bad training, it
is worthy of note that the enemy advanced points were too close together, and that
the shot that sprang the ambush passed through the bodies of the two leading
It took some time to get the wounded through the wire, and time might have
been saved had the gaps through it been widened while the operation was in progress.
During the evacuation an enemy mortar began to shell the beach, but the 3-inch
mortar, which had already been put in position on the beach to cover such an
eventuality, returned fire, judging the position of the enemy weapon by the line of
flight of the approaching bombs. This enemy mortar did not fire again. C Troop,
forming the rear guard, was the last to withdraw, and did so in accordance with a
frequently rehearsed drill whereby the light machine guns in pairs leap-frogged
one another, while the rear elements put up a smoke screen. Haversacks containing
smoke generators had been dumped for this purpose by the troop at the top of
the gulley on their way up. The withdrawal across the rocks to the LCAs was
made through a lane of smoke some 200 yards wide, produced by the smoke
generators placed in position during the operation. The lane was extended for about 50
yards into the sea by naval smoke floats put out by the LCS and LCAs. When the
LCAs were a few hundred yards out, and no longer under the lee of the cliffs,
they came under inaccurate machine-gun fire from the vicinity of the lighthouse,
and further use was made of smoke until out of range.
The total casualties of the operation were 45:
Officers killed 2
Officers wounded 3
Enlisted men killed 10
Enlisted men wounded 17
Enlisted men wounded and missing 9
Enlisted men missing 4
No casualties were suffered during the withdrawal. Of the 20 evacuated
wounded, several had carried on right through the action; 12 of the 20 wounded
were back on duty within two months.
The success of this operation was due to thorough training in all subjects.
The last 3 weeks before the operation were spent in an intensive refresher course,
each troop specializing for the part it was going to undertake.
The following training was carried out:
a. Individual Training
(1) A Troop
Cliff climbing with scaling ladders. Fire and movement in close country.
Practice fire against full-scale model of the enemy battery. Combat patrols.
(2) B Troop
Fire and movement in close country. Use of ground. Full-scale practice
against model of enemy battery. House-to-house fighting and assault tactics;
in-fighting with tommy guns, grenades, and bayonets. Mopping-up and consolidation.
(3) C Troop
Forming a bridgehead. Snipers' training. Stalk and crawl. Taking up
position in front of full-scale perimeter. Firing AT rifle grenades from grenade
launchers. Mortar practice, 3-inch and 2-inch (3-inch mortars were also fired
from a beach). It is of interest to note that the standard of training reached by
mortar men was such that they had scored 18 hits out of 20 rounds into a space
yards square, at 250 yards' range. Radio in conjunction with 3-inch mortar. A
fighting withdrawal and final reembarkation (1) with smoke, (2) under fire.
(4) F Troop
Assault of a model of the battery position. Visits to local coast defenses by
Troop NCO's and sappers. Component parts of guns and other equipment. Laying
of charges. Assault tactics and combat firing.
b. Collective Training (All Troops and Force Hq)
Hardening exercises, physical training with weapons. Swimming. One-mile
runs every morning before breakfast. Doubling fully loaded over specified distance
in wet clothes. Assaulting over set distance on full-scale model. Crossing beach
wire with chicken wire. Use of bangalore torpedoes. Fire and movement on the
range; battle drill with live ammunition, bayonet fighting, and unarmed combat.
Detailing of "smoke men" with 100 percent reserves and training in laying smoke.
Practice in withdrawal, first as a drill, then with smoke, opposition, and casualties.
Evacuation of casualties at all stages, e.g., from objective to beach, from the beach
into LCAs, from LCAs into parent ship. Accommodation on parent ship and in
LCAs by day and by night. Landing from LCAs first as a drill, then with full
supplies and equipment. Loading of LCAs with ammunition, explosives, scaling ladders,
etc. Firing of light machine guns from LCAs. Use of radios (all officers, NCOs,
and runners). Practice of each troop's own role on full-scale model daily. Training
in special equipment, i.e., canvas containers and bags to keep weapons and radio
sets dry, special bangalore torpedoes, demolition charges, smoke grenade, and
Everest carriers.****** Personal camouflage, and security. French and German lessons.
*I.e., personnel from other than British units.
**Troop Hq plus two Sections for a total of three officers, 52 enlisted men.
***Landing craft, assault--a flat-bottomed boat approximately 35 ft. long by 9 ft. wide,
drawing about 3 feet at the stern. Carries a maximum of 35 men. Crew of one
naval officer and three men. Square bows, lowered to form ramp for disembarkation.
****Landing craft, support--a flat bottomed boat of the same size as LCA, not meant
to carry troops. No disembarkation ramps. Armed with a 20-mm gun and/or a
3-inch mortar for smoke, and with twin, dual-purpose Lewis machine guns.
*****Naval crews have their primary task in working the craft and, therefore, covering
fire should normally be provided by the military personnel in the craft.
******[A type of individual pack]