2 RUR Capture Cambes, Normandy.

Fri, 06/09/1944

BadgeFollowing the 2nd Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles (2 RUR) D-Day landing on 6 June, the Battalion was ordered to capture the thickly wooded village of Cambes on 7 June. Believing that the enemy was not holding the village in any great strength, the Commanding Officer (CO), Lieutenant Colonel I C Harris, advanced to Cambes via Le Mesnil. It was essentially an advance to contact with D Company, supported by one squandron of tanks, leading. Unfortunately D Company failed to break into its objective and the Company Commander was one of those killed. As there were over 30 casualties it was decided to launch a battalion deliberate attack with greater artillery support. With the Battalion regrouped back in Le Mesnil, the CO spent 8 June undertaking detailed reconnaisance and planning with his supporting artillery and tank commanders. When he gave his orders at 1630 hours his mission was simple:

'2nd. Bn. The Royal Ulster Rifles will capture and consolidate Cambes.'

As the Company Commanders and others completed their own detailed reconnaissances, there was sporadic enemy mortar and machine-gun fire as well as fighting during the night of 8/9 June when the enemy attacked and in turn was attacked by 2 RUR. In one encounter with an enemy patrol of one officer and ten men, an RUR patrol of two officers and three NCOs killed six and captured the surviving five.

The village of Anisy was chosen as the area from which to launch 2 RUR across a start line to its south. The ground from Anisy to Cambes was very open, rising slightly to the south for some 400 yards, with the final 1,100 yards being fairly flat and open. Prior to H-Hour, the supporting Royal Navy cruiser, HMS Danae, fired its 6-inch guns on Cambes for five minutes, followed by a supporting Divisional Artillery fire plan, behind which 2 RUR advanced.

The Battalion crossed the start line south of Anisy at 1515 hours on 9 June and advanced south to Cambes with B Company on the right, supported by a depleted D Company, and A Company on the left, supported by C Company. The Companies came under effective enemy artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire when they reached the ridge some 1,100 yards from Cambes. The lead Companies, notwithstanding casualties, did not go to ground and advanced onto their first objective by 1630 hours. C and D Company then passed through the lead companies and fought through to their objectives on the south edge of Cambes. Royal Artillery Anti-tank troops had protected the Battalion's flanks with A and B Squadron of the East Riding Yeomanry's supporting the advance with their Shermans. The assaulting companies were also supported directly by attached Armoured Vehicles Royal Engineers (AVREs) whose tasks included the demolition of enemy strong points. Battalion support included a 4.2 Inch Mortar company and a Medium Machine Gun company in addition to the Battalion's own 3-inch Mortar Platoon, Carrier Platoon and Pioneer Platoon.

It was a well-planned, well-coordinated and well-executed Battalion attack. There were many casualties caused largely by enemy machine-gun fire. As the Rifles began to dig in and consolidate their position, the enemy subjected their positions to mortar and artillery fire for some five hours. The Battalion's casualties were three officers and 41 other ranks (ORs) killed, 10 officers and 134 ORs wounded, and one officer and 10 ORs missing. A Regimental History describes 2 RUR's situation and lessons learned as follows:

Morale in the Battalion never faltered from the beginning. The Battalion took its victory and its wounds as if they were normal everyday occurrences. After consolidation, the Officers and men soon learnt the advisability of digging deep, and the regular strafing was soon the cause of much laughter and singing of such songs as "Run, Rabbit, Run." Cambes was not liked, but it was looked upon as a stepping stone to bigger things, and in order that the Germans should know this too, strong fighting patrols soon took up the offensive. When the 2nd Battalion was ordered to move forward again, it was not weaker owing to Cambes, but stronger.

The Royal Ulster Rifles was awarded CAMBES as a Battle Honour but did not emblazon the distinction on the officer's cross belt's regimental crest with the other Battle Honours so borne (the Rifles did not carry Colours. The Battalion remained in Cambes until 3 July and lost between three to five men killed or wounded each day. There were three Military Crosses (MC), one Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and three Military Medals (MM) awarded for actions on the 9 June to:

Major Tighe-Wood MC
Captain Montgomery MC
Lieutenant Lennox MC
Corporal O'Reilly DCM
Lance-Serjeant McCann MM
Rifleman Long MM
Rifleman McGlennon MM

(Please click on any of the above to read the recommendations for their awards.)