D Day – Canadian Troops leave from Netley

The North Nova Scotia Highlanders in the run up to D Day itself:

North Nova Scotia Highlanders, War Diary, 3-6 June 1944
National National Archives of Canada, RG-24, volume 15122
3 June 1944 Saturday Weather: Clear and warm.

Breakfast for vehicle parties (Serials 1713, 1714, 1716) at 0100 hours. It was good. We finally crossed the start point at 0245 hours and arrived in our “box” near the hard at 0415 hours, where we stayed until 0645 hours when we were called forward to load. We embarked from G 1 Hard, Stokes Bay, with which we were all familiar. We drew Composite Rations for six days. They even had bread in it this time. It was a good feeling to know we were at last on the way for the job for which we have waited so long. I wondered what was running through everyone’s mind. All ranks were in good cheer, but I can imagine that old nostalgic feeling crept in, because many of us have grown quite fond of England these past few years, and now have strong ties on the little island – we will be back soon. All we hope is that the weather will be good and there are no postponements. We are now lying out in the Southampton waters just opposite NETLEY. The marching parties embark on Landing Craft Infantry (Large) this afternoon at Southampton. Tonight there is a glorious moon and as we go to sleep we hope for good weather.

4 June 1944 Sunday Weather: Clear and windy.

It is windy as hell this morning. We are tied up with two other Landing Craft Tank. The Padre is on one, so he had Church service at 1030 hours on the quarter deck of the middle craft. It was a nice voluntary service followed by Holy Communion. The Roman Catholics had a service in the bow of the boat. This afternoon a ship paper was published by Corporal D. Baker and Corporal D. Lynk. It is well turned out and the copies in the Appendix speak for themselves. The hospitality of the Skipper and crew on this craft is of the highest order. The Skipper is Sub-Lieutenant H.B. Stubbs and his Number 1 is Midshipman C.S. Baker. A rain squall blew up about 2000 hours and the weather looks bad.

Waiting for the off - two days before D Day

5 June 1944 Monday Weather: Clear and cool.

A quiet morning was enjoyed by all on board their craft. At 1400 hours the flotilla moved out to the open sea and formed up with the other craft taking part in the invasion. The different types and total number of these craft is actually amazing. It would be quite safe to say that such a sight has never been witnessed, before in the world. At l600 hours the sand bags containing the real maps for the invasion were opened and the maps distributed. These maps had been issued to the serial commanders previous to embarkation and were kept sealed until 1600 hours.

The eve of D Day - the flotilla forms up

6 June 1944 (D Day) Tuesday Weather: clear and warm.

At 0630 hours all wireless sets were on listening watch to keep the Battalion informed of the progress of the assault battalions. At 0804 hours the leading companies of the Seventh and Eighth Infantry Brigades touched down. At 0929 hours information had been received from the Seventh Canadian Infantry Brigade that the operation on their front was proceeding according to plan. At 1100 hours the order came through that we were to land through the Eight Canadian Infantry Brigade according to plan. The marching troops in Landing Craft Infantry (Large) touched down at 1140 hours on NAN WHITE beach, ST BERNIERES, map reference 9985, sheet 7E/5 and reported “NAGA”. At 1235 hours, after several landings, and finding the beach blocked by craft of the Eighth Canadian Infantry Brigade, we were able to land. Only one Mortar carrier and crew were casualties, when they ran over a mine after landing.

By 1400 hours all our troops were ashore, but as the Eighth Canadian Infantry Brigade had not found the going as easy as expected, we were unable to get through the town and were unable to assemble at “ELDER”, near BENY-SUR-MER as planned, and the Commanding Officer decided to assemble the battalion in a field, map reference 993845. By 1605 hours the battalion was able to move off to “ELDER”, arriving there at 1644 hours after bypassing the Eighth Canadian Infantry Brigade. We had just arrived in this Assembly area when we came under shell and mortar fire, resulting in five casualties, two killed and three wounded. Word was received from the Brigadier that we were to move as soon as we were ready.

The Commanding Officer gave the order to move at l820 hours and the Battalion moved off according to plan in the following order: The Recce troops of the 27 Canadian Armoured Regiment forming a screen, followed by the carrier platoon under the command of Captain E.S. Gray, each section carrying one platoon of “C” company, followed by a platoon of Machine Guns, one troop of M 10s, 2 assault sections of pioneers and four detachments of our own Anti-Tank guns. This composed the vanguard under command of Major J.D. Learment. “A” company was on the right of the axis on “A” squadron of tanks, “B” company on the left on “B” squadron of tanks and “D” company on squadron “C” tanks, bringing up the rear on the main axis. Command Post followed the vanguard, Battalion Headquarters and Support Company with “D” company. Objective – Carpiquet Airfield. Due to the difficulty the Eighth Canadian Infantry Brigade was having in dislodging the enemy and as time was getting on, it was decided to break through their front before they had consolidated on their objective, and continue along the axis.

The vanguard did not encounter any serious opposition until it reached VILLONS LES BUISSONS, where it passed the code word “DORIS”. However “A” company on “A” squadron of tanks became involved in a fight at COLOMBY-SUR-THAON. It did not last long, but held them up, as well as “D” company which was coming along behind them on “C” squadron of tanks. By this time it was realized the battalion could not reach its objective by dark, and we were ordered by higher authority not to go beyond report line “DORIS”, cross-roads at map reference 007777 sheet 7F/1, but to dig in where we found ourselves and to form a firm base while there was still light. As the van guard was already fighting in VILLONS-LES-BUISSONS, cleaning out three machine gun nests and killing most of the crews, taking prisoners and weapons, the Commanding Officer decided to close up the battalion and consolidate astride the ANISY-LES-BUISSONS – CAEN cross roads. The van guard, being astride the main CAEN road, dug in and sent out patrols to ANISY and VILLONS-LES-BUISSONS. “B” company on “B” squadron arrived one half hour later and dug in on left flank astride the road running towards ANISY.

Casualties for the day: Killed: 4 Other Ranks. Wounded: 6 other Ranks