Sunday, 17 October 2010

9th Paras at Hauger and the Enemy's Russians

National Archives catalogue number WO 171/1242. 

7th June 1944
Place: Le Plein

Bn attacked by the enemy.  Considerable sniping which caused some casualties.  C.O. visited Brigadier Lord Lovatt Commanding ISS Bde.

Right: A memorial at Hauger in Calvados to the 4th Commando who saw action there circa the 7th of June and stayed there until the 7th July. They then moved onto Breville which had already been (famously!) captured by the 6th Airborne Div (inc the 9th Paras). They report "Several prisoners were rounded up after the engagements - most of them young troops, including a few Poles and White Russians." It seems likely that Private Daniel Roderick Hurley fell at Hauger on the 7th, and whilst the Paras went on to win accolades for their assault on Breville days later, the 4th Commando are remembered for their sacrifices at Hauger.

2130 - Bn relieved by 1 SS Bde and proceeded to LE MESNIL where temporary positions were taken up.  In this area the Bn reverted to Brigade control and were given orders to hold the high ground SOUTH of ST Côme.

Report on Operations of 9 Para Bn 6 - 12 June 1944

The primary task of 9 Para Bn in the initial landing was the destruction of the Coastal Battery at 155775[*].  A separate report on this action has already been submitted.  It is necessary however to recapitulate somewhat in order to describe the state of the Bn on completion of its primary task.

The parachute drop at 0050 hrs had been widely scattered.  Consequently only 150 all ranks had been available for the primary task.  This task, which was successfully accomplished, involved heavy casualties to the already small force.

The secondary task allotted to 9 Para Bn was to seize and hold the LE PLEIN feature until relieved by No 1 SS Bde.

The Bn strength was now reduced to 80 all ranks, one MG, no mortars, no Fd Amb, no sappers, a few unit medical orderlies.  The CO further had 22 prisoners on his hands, and his wounded personnel to consider.  Amongst his prisoners he found a German Medical Officer and two medical orderlies.  He therefore left his wounded with these medical personnel and two of his own medical orderlies, at a neighbouring chateau.  His numbers were now augmented by the crew of a glider who had been fighting a German Pl in the neighbourhood.  This brought the Bn strength up to just 100.

The move to LE PLEIN across country was begun at once - it was uneventful.  Shortly after the start a formation of Allied aircraft came over, and presumably mistaking them for enemy troops, released two sticks of heavy bombs.  These sticks fell on either side of the column and parallel to their line of advance.  By extreme good fortune no casualties ensued.

On approaching the village of HAUGER on the north slopes of LE PLEIN the column was warned by a frenchman that the village was occupied by 200 Russians, impressed into the Germany Army after capture on the Eastern Front.

At 0900 hrs the column was fired on from the front and left flank as it approach rd junc 133757.  As the advance continued the enemy 30-40 strong withdrew to the cross rds on the eastern outskirts of the village.  The leading elements of the column thereupon put in a straight forward attack down the line of the road.  This dislodged the enemy who fell back on the rd junc in the centre of the village leaving 15 dead behind them.

The enemy now held a position of some strength with MGs posted on both flanks.  The CO therefore occupied the houses at the eastern end of the village.

The enemy now attempted to counter attack by a right flanking move through the orchards.  As this attack came in it was met by the Vickers MG at 20 yds range, the attack immediately dissolved, leaving a further dozen dead behind.

It became apparent that the strength of the enemy's position lay in one particular house.  The CO therefore decided to send a party of 30 right flanking to take this house in the rear.  This attack failed, however, as the house had been properly prepared for defence and loop-holes all round.  Furthermore it was surrounded by a 6 ft wall with MGs firing on fixed lines along the edge of the wall.

It was apparent that this force was not strong enough to evict the enemy from the village, and the CO therefore decided to consolidate.  He occupied a chateau on the outskirts of the village with his main force, leaving one section at the rd junc.

The position then became one of stalemate.  The enemy, though in greatly superior numbers made no further attempts to attack.  He did, however, make a very great use of snipers who were most skilfully sited and concealed.  Their standard of shooting varied however.  In one instance they appeared incapable of learning any lessons from the fate of their comrades.  They persistently sniped from the church tower although one man after another was killed in doing so.  Subsequently, six dead snipers were found in the tower.  The most effective way of dealing with the sniping proved to be the "set a thief to catch a thief" method.  Our own snipers by carefully watching located enemy snipers and eliminated them in turn.

This situation lasted for almost 24 hrs, until the afternoon of 7 June when 1 SS Bde (Commandos) arrived, cleared the village and relieved the Bn of responsibility for the LE PLEIN feature.

[Thereafter?] reverted to bde control, and during the night 7/8 Jun moved to the woods south at ST COME 1373, where they were ordered to hold the high ground about 135736.  The whole area was heavily wooded and intersected with high thick hedges.  At only three points where orchards adjoined the position was there any field of view.

Full history circa D-Day of 9th Para inc. war diary
A More General Overview of the 9th Paras Movements
Full history circa D-Day of 4th Commando
9th Para at Breville

*Coastal Battery at 155775 was the Merville Coastal Battery. The Paras were scattered but it is highly likely that Private Daniel Roderick Hurley took part in this famous assault, the 9th Para primary goal for D-Day, as he did not die until the following day.

For full details on the assault at Merville see: The Merville Battery by Neil Barber. This site has a map showing Merville, Hauger (possible place of Private Hurley's death) and Breville, all sites of 9th Para actions.

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