D Day 1944 and the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment


In May 1944 the 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment was based at Pemberley Camp. Everyone know that something was up but only Lt Colonel J F Higdon MC knew the invasion plans.

On 4 June 1944 the Battalion embarked in Landing craft at Lymington and overnight sailed to Southampton where they met up with the invasion fleet.

Each landing craft held about 180 men and landing rations plus equipment needed for the initial stages of the landing.

Many of the men were seasick in the heavy conditions for their passage.

At 5pm on 5 June 1944 the landing craft set sail for Normandy and the seasickness returned during the crossing which made sleep impossible for so many men.

When Gold Beach on the coast of Normandy was reached he first waves had landed and the scene was full of smoke and explosions.

At midday the order for landing was given  but as there was fierce German resistance on the original beach in central Arromanches chosen for landing the Battalion were diverted to a beach one mile to the east of Le Hamel where they landed 150 minutes later than planned in French soil having more problems with the deep than expected water than the German resistance.

Each soldier wore a mae west and carried weapons and rations designed to last for 24 hours.

Initially there were problems in forming up given the change of landing zone and assembly areas but within 4 hours the 50 Division was ready to advance on Bayeux.

The Battalion advanced unopposed inland as far as the village of Meavines where they came upon sporadic resistance which was quickly subdued by accompanying tanks. By 9.30pm the Battalion has reached the village of St Sulpice with no men lost and just 3 vehicles that had broken down.

As night fell the Division was just outside Bayeux but a decision was taken that an attack would be unwise with supply lines stretched so the Battalion dug in for the night.

At 1030am on 7 June 1944 the 2nd Essex cautiously approached Bayeux expecting a hot reception but found the town abandoned by the Germans and so were able to liberate the town. Bayeux quickly became decked with tricolors and many a soldier sampled a glass of calvados.

The Division pushed on to south of Bayeux where they dug in, expecting a German counter attack which did not come and so the allied forces were able to establish the bridgehead that would enable an entire army to be assembled in France and bring about the defeat of the German army..