A Scottish Soldier’s Story From D-Day
While clearing out a few things the other day I came across a very interesting scrap of paper. It was an old sheet of A4 lined paper and on it was a scribbled map and some text. It was given to me by Jeff Henderson who served beside my father in the Kings Own Scottish Borderers in 1944. Both landed on Sword beach, Normandy on D-Day.
The map detailed to the best of his knowledge his battalion movements on the first days after the landing. It’s extremely interesting as the villages mentioned still stand today so its very east to retrace the route, It is also interesting in the way it doubles back over the same ground many times as the push for the city of Caen proves more difficult than expected.
On the reverse of the map Jeff then recounted all he could remember of the movements as they prepared and then moved into Caen and then from there to recount their involvements in the massive tank led engagement of operation Goodwood.
It is a fascinating document written from the perspective of a foot soldier without the benefit of the ‘bigger picture’. I shall hand over to the late Jeff Henderson (the most Scottish Herefordian I’ve ever known) to tell his story:
From June 9th we held Cambes Wood until we were taken over by the 59th Staffordshire Div, allowing our Battalion to move from Cambes wood to an area shown on the map as Bieville Beauville, ready for the main assault on Caen, it was while we were in this area on the 7th July that Caen was so heavily bombed. On the 8th of July we moved up behind the KSLI in 185 brigade to Lebisey, where we passed through the KSLI during the hours of darkness and then dug in on the slopes leading to the bombed outskirts. Then daylight came and the order to advance into Caen, a route which took us past the Abbey Aux Dames to the fish market near the quay (where Don Mould and other KOSBS were photographed) and where the real battle started up along the quay to the rue Gilbert and along to the church of St John where 18 Platoon suffered badly. I have retraced the route many times.
ON July 11th the battalion moved out of Caen up the D7 past Mathieu to a village a short distance away called Plumetot, where we had our first rest period since we landed 5 weeks before.
After 4 days rest we marched during Saturday night through the cross roads at Hermanville and along the route we took on the 6th of June, i.e. through Colville Montgomery and St Aubin de Arquanay to Benouville over Pegasus bridge and dug in just outside Ranville. On the Monday morning was the heavy bombing of Sannerville and areas close to Troarn, we moved forward through Escoville to Touffreville and on to Sannerville, the trouble was on our left, the hills and woods of Beauvent (?) where the German guns were situated. The battle for Troarn and other areas around Caen was known as ‘Goodwood’, those who took part were the 3rd Div, 11th Armoured, the Guards Armoured, 7th Armoured. The battle lasted 3 days with the loss of over 650 tanks and 7,000 casualties. After being harassed by mosquitos and German ‘Moaning Minnies’ we moved out on foot again to Bieville Beauville for regrouping and being given our Minden Roses.31st July to 1st August. On 3rd August we moved to the bocage country via Caumont to Vire area. On the 7th I was wounded and so ended my Normandy Travels