The Battle


                It is beyond the scope of this site to discuss in great depth the reasons for the D-Day landings or any of the engagements that led up to the bloody battle at Lingevres. However, it is important to out line the reasons for the battle.
            The Allies had landed on the Normandy coast and had begun to push inland to increase there lodgment. There was a delay, on the German side, to commit there reserve to the battle, as Hitler was under the illusion that the attack was a bluff and the real landings were going to take place further up the coast. However by the 10th. of June, units of the reserve had entered the field.
           Opposite 151 Brigade, the elite Wehrmacht unit, The Panzer Lehr Division, had taken up a defensive position between LA-Belle-Epine and Tilly-Sur-Seulles. The Panzer Lehr Division was the best equipped division of the Wehrmacht and numbered 130 in there Order of Battle. They fought with the same tenacity as the Waffen SS units.
             Colonel H. Woods, Commanding Officer of the 9th. Bn. Durham Light Infantry {151 Bde, 50th.Division} was ordered to take and hold the village of Lingevres by the 14th. June. This would in effect cut the German front line in half and out flank Tilly. On the 13th. he sent a fighting patrol forward to locate and discover the disposition and strength of the enemy holding the village.
            'B' Company was sent with elements of the 4/7th. RDG's{ 8th. Independent armoured Bde.} in support. The patrol ran smack into a well defended German position in the woods to the north of Lingevres. Two of the 4/7th.RDG's Shermans were 'Brewed Up' and 'B' Coy suffered terrible casualties including 3 officers killed,  the Company Commander {Major Kenny} being wounded . This area was defended by Panzer Grenadiers with close support from Tanks and mortars.

THE MAIN ATTACK
         
H-hour for the 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. Who 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 all the Divisional Artillery and support by a fighter squadron of Typhoons, from the air. The infantry would advance behind a creeping barrage, supported by the tanks, and firstly capture the heavily defended woods, then take the village. That was the basic plan. However Colonel Woods had not been given enough time to properly patrol his intended objective and therefore did not fully appreciate the depth and positions of the opposing unit. 
           Firstly the Artillery and planes gave the woods a good pounding. The typhoons dropping two bombs and firing there 10 rockets into the area. Then Durhams crossed the start line into a large cornfield, at the other end of which was the German held woods. It was a two company attack, 'A' Coy. on the left, 'C' Coy. on the right. Three DLI Bren Gun Carriers were to the right rear of 'A' Coy. The C.O and I.O { John Reid} plus driver, were in one, Lt.John Williams, Sgt.Charles Eagles and ? Pte A. Mortimer all in the Assault Pioneer Pl. were in the second, Cpl Sowerby drove the third. They were supported by the Shermans of 'A' Sqn. The following tanks and crews have been identified:-
        
          Tank 1                     'A' Sqn Commander's tank. ?75mm Gun
                   Dvr.                                ?
                   Co. Dvr.                          ?                                
                   Loader/Wireless Op.        ? 
       
           Gunner                           ?
                   Commander                Major Jackie D'Avigdor-Goldsmid


                 Tank 2                          'A' Sqn. 2nd.In Command. 75mm Gun.
                  Dvr.                                 Nixon          From Northumberland aged around 35.
                  Co.Dvr.                            Vallance.     '                               ' Ex Policeman
                  Loader/Wireless Op.         Tarran.        Geordie
                  Gunner.                           Murphy.       From Glasgow, Ex Miner
                  Commander                     Capt. John Stirling.

                  Tank 3                          4th Troop Commander. 75mm Gun.
                  Dvr.                                 Cpl. Gardner.
                  Co.Dvr.                            L/Cpl. Carter.
                  Loader/Wireless Op.         Cpl. Arnold.
                  Gunner.                           Tpr. Hillard.
                  Commander.                    Lt. Alastair Morrison.

                  Tank 4                         Sherman 'FIREFLY'. 4th.Troop  17 Pounder Gun.
                  Dvr.                                  ?
                  Co.Dvr.                             ?
                  Loader/Wireless Op.         Richard Charles Eagles
                  Gunner.                           Tpr. Mackillop.
                  Commander.                    Sgt. Harris.      

                 Tank 5                          Sherman. 4th.Troop. 75mm Gun.
                 Dvr.                                  Tpr. Dagley.
                 Co.Dvr.                              ?
                 Loader/Wireless Op.          L/Cpl. Draper.
                 Gunner.                             ?
                 Commander.                     Cpl. Johnson.

                 Tank 6                           No.27 [Winchester] 2nd.Troop. 75mm Gun.
                 Dvr.                                   {the crew were Cpl.Reg Cox, Tpr.Redford, Tpr.Stokes &                           
                 Co.Dvr.                              L/Cpl. Willets, stations unknown.}                             
                 Loader/Wireless Op.           ?
                 Gunner.                              ?
                 Commander.                      Lt. Michael Transenster.

                 Tank 7                           86th.Field Regt. R.A Command/FOO* Sherman Tank. No Gun.  
                 Dvr.                                  Gnr. R.S. Bullen
                 Co.Dvr.                              ?
                 Wireless Op.                     ?
                 Commander.                      Major Kenneth G. Swann M.C.
                                                                                         {* Forward Observation Officer.}

              All of these Tanks entered the Cornfield and began to advance towards the German held woods. For around 7 to 8 minutes nothing happened, the barrage began to move beyond the woods and land on the village behind. All of a sudden a German tank fired from the woods and 'brewed up' a Sherman {tank/crew unknown}. A second tank fired from the other side of the wood and then a deadly hail of small arms fire swept the forward rifle companies of the Durhams. Men were falling all around and most of the officers in 'A' & 'C' Coy. became causalities within minutes [Major Charles D'Arcy-Irvine having been wounded in the head, his CSM wounded in the legs and abdomen]. Lt.Williams ran to tell Colonel Woods that 'A' Companies C.O. had been wounded, when he himself was wounded by several bullets in the legs, he was carried out of the fire zone and to safety by his Sgt., Charles Eagles, who then returned to the battle. Soon afterwards Colonel Woods contacted his 2 I/C on the wireless and ordered him to advance with his company on the village. Colonel Woods would try and extract his men from there current position in the German held woods and make his way into the village to join Major Mogg [2 I/C]. Within minutes of this Colonel H. Woods was fatally wounded by a mortar round. Feet away was Sgt. Charles Eagles, who said that Woods last words were " Surely they haven't hit me?" before dying.
                                                {To hear Sgt. Charles Eagles's account of the Cornfield action Click here. {realaudio 443K reallogo.gif (1268 bytes) It lasts 7 mins.}

                                        Major John Mogg now found himself in command of the 9th.Bn.Durham Light Infantry. 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.RDG's. 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 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 there way onto their objective, the Village of 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 there 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 would have to defend against any German counter attacks.
Lt.Morrison advanced with his tanks to the area of the war memorial, next to the church. German artillery were now ranging onto the village. Lt. Morrison placed Sgt. Harris's 'Firefly' facing the approach 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] and Lt. Morrison's tank faced in the direction and covering the roads to Longraye & Balleroy, buy 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 held in reserve. The infantry were to defend the village against German infantry infiltration, prevent the tanks from becoming exposed to assault by the 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 positions, by there firepower and prevent the enemy armour from breaking into the village.
            By this time Major Kenneth Swann, of the 86th.{Herefordshire Yeomanry] Battery, Royal Artillery, was in the village in his R.A Command Sherman tank. He was the FOO [Forward Observation Officer] for his battery. Mogg arranged a defensive fire plan with him. Mogg also positioned the Battalion's Anti Tank Guns, which were under the command of Capt. Whittaker. Two of these guns were quickly put out of action by German artillery fire. In the Bn. War Diary , it states that 3 of the guns were over run, later in the day, by German infantry and destroyed.         
                    


To Be Cont.........

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