Kenneth Taylor’s War Diary page 2

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Saturday 17 June, 44

Pulled out fairly early and 5EY came into our positions. Went back through La Belle Epine and La Senandiere with further slight shelling. Planned to attack La Taille and Longraye with tank support. Started OK but leadings Coys soon pinned. Very thick close country made advance almost impossible. B Coy lost a platoon temporarily. All Coys rather knocked about. Withdrew slightly and reorganised between Lingevres and Longraye 796677. No-one very happy. Enemy likely to infiltrate in close country and our flanks uncertain. Dug in.

Sunday 18 June, 44

Mortared, shelled, and Spandau’ed – not excessively. Windy dry weather. Stay here a few days until supplies landed.

Mon and Tues 19 and 20 June, 44

Dorsets came up on our left but unable to advance far. Right flank still open. Shelled sporadically. Periodic stand-tos. Our Arty very active. C Coy brought down ME109 with Bren gun.

Wednesday 21 June, 44

In pouring rain made another attempt to reach La Taille. Coys mortared heavily and A Coy mixed up in our own Arty fire. Had to withdraw to original positions. Everyone very miserable.

Thursday 22 June, 44

More digging, shelling, and mortaring. Change of clothing and improvement in weather. Food still good. Wireless sets in a dreadful mess – waterlogged. Had great trouble with lines due to tanks and water. Saw Marauders bombing Orbois, a marvellous sight which brightens a very monotonous, deadly depressing existence. Very accurate and concentrated flak, but they kept formation. Saw one down in flames.

Friday 23 June, 44

We did a lot of patrolling. Elusive enemy in woods in front. Very tired and fed up. Managed to overhaul wireless sets and get lines working. A few casualties from mortaring – especially D Coy. Read a little for the first time. “New Writing and Daylight” – wrote a few letters. Radio fixed up. Shelling and mortaring not having a good effect on morale.

Saturday 24 June, 44

Still in same position N of Longraye. We have been here too long and Jerry has got our range. We are putting over terrific Arty barrage but enemy is increasing too. Saw my mug smashed to hell by shrapnel on my bed. Not much sleep at night owing to noise and alarms. Stand-to 0430 every morning is a nuisance. Weather is perfect now and it certainly helps to revive spirits, although quite a few people becoming bomb-happy. SWBs on our right eases things a little.

Sunday 25 June, 44

Tremendous Arty barrage at 0500hrs to prelude 49 Div attack. We are shelled and mortared rather heavily now. Nebelwerfers too now – rather terrifying. Listened to Symphony Concert from Cambridge theatre. 2 hours of heaven punctuated by wild dives for slit trench as shells come over. Haydn’s Symphony 101 and Mozart Piano Concerto in A have done me a great deal of good, but they only emphasise this grotesque environment.

Shelling by 105s in the evening worst up to now. They hit the trees and burst in the air. I don’t worry much but it has a withering effect on the nerves. Two nice holes in the windscreen of my truck this afternoon. I am quite decided that the most unpleasant thing from the Jerries is mortaring – especially Nebelwerfers.

Receiving lots of letters now and also my 3rd 100 cigarettes. Everyone rather short of cigs but I have been able to help a few people as I have plenty. I am rather worried that none of my letters have reached home yet, although some people’s have. Have written quite a few letters today. Everyone keeps asking when we are going to be relieved. People have to be evacuated quite often with shattered nerves and quite a few have deserted. Have had some good reinforcements for my platoon, but the Rifle Coys are getting very indifferent ones. I saw 400 Fortresses on their way to stonk someone this morning.

Monday 26 June, 44

Filthy wet day – very demoralising when you have no shelter. We decided to try to push on a bit as the enemy is thought to have withdrawn from our heavy shelling. Strong patrols sent forward with a view to being reinforced, but enemy still there. Forward troops badly mortared and had to withdraw. We are still in the same spot and all this seems interminable. It is like being in prison – living all the time in the same field, being unable to see more than a few hundred yards in the close country. My mind is absolutely deadened at present. A lot more shelling and mortaring. Dorsets truck blown up in my field today. A steady trickle of killed and wounded whilst in a static position is very demoralising.

Tuesday 27 June, 44

Went to bed in truck immediately after breakfast and had a good sleep. Push forward decided for 1630 today. Coys moved forward 1645 under heavy barrage with tanks in support. Communications badly jammed but managed to function. C.O wounded. My best signaller (Cpl McKenna) badly wounded. Given 3 pints of blood plasma at RAP but very doubtful condition. Coys gaining objectives about 2100hrs. 11 of our tanks knocked out but our casualties not as heavy as they might have been. C Coy reached La Taille X-rds at 2130hrs. Bn HQ moved forward about 1000 yds and arrived in new location in semi-darkness. Immediate dig-in. Track blocked by tank and carrier so could not get truck up.

Wednesday 28 June, 44

Everyone very hungry but no sign of food at 0100hr. Found a way to bring up truck but whilst doing so landed it on its side in a ditch. Had to get whole platoon to carry cable ‘phones and exchange to new area. Began laying lines just before dawn, having had a meagre supper. Lines through 0700hrs and breakfast extremely welcome. Shortly after breakfast first shell landed and right in our field. I suspect they DF our wireless sets. Fairly heavy shelling continued. This place does not seem very healthy! Weather lovely today. Managed to retrieve truck about 1000hrs and then a couple of hours sleep.

Shelling and mortaring all day, just about 1 degree worse than anything before. However one becomes used to it, but very nerve racking. Cpl Hall wounded and evacuated – not serious. Birtley wounded seriously from mortars. Went to bed about midnight.

Thursday 29 June, 44

Received 2 letters yesterday and two more today – very welcome. Shelling started bright and early this morning and heavier than before. Our Arty replies with gusto but not much consolation. Continual rain does not make us any happier. Had a good wash and shave which I missed yesterday. Life is a horrible dull routine at present.

Cpl McKenna and Birtley both died of wounds. Davies evacuated bomb-happy. Received 4 new signallers. Everyone’s nerves on edge with bombardment. Set up lines and exchange in new position. New C.O. seems very efficient but I wish Robin was still with us. Had another C.O. for about 4 hours yesterday. Glad he did not stay. He was in a slit trench before anyone else heard a shell coming.

Thunderstorm in the evening. The sight and smell of dead cows is very depressing. They have the most gruesome expression. Terrific Blitz on A Coy at 1100hrs. My batman went out to repair the line which he did very well.

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