1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - North West Europe 1944

VERNON - The River Seine Crossing (25th to 28th August 1944) - Part 4

Follow-up Crossing (26th August 1944)

As dawn began to break (05.00 hours) on the 26th August, the Worcestershire Regiment was given the order to cross the damaged road bridge. Lieut. Johnnie Davies commanding 7 Platoon of ‘A’ Company crept along the broken bridge under cover of artillery smoke. Meeting no opposition, they were quickly followed by the remainder of the Company and afterwards by the marching elements of the Battalion.

 

Lieut. Stan Trimnell (8 Platoon, ‘A’ Company) recalls: “We set off in single file as fast as we could across the bridge and arrived unscathed in Vernonnet. We advanced up a steep hill on a narrow winding road. Suddenly a German truck came hurtling around the bend towards us. One of my Bren gunners firing from the hip gave it a burst, killing the driver. The truck out of control ricocheted off the walls of a building, turned completely around but stayed upright. A German soldier jumped over the tail board, threw a grenade at us and then put his hands up!”

 

Worcestershire men in the narrow alleys heading for Vernon bridge

Corporal W. Gould

Corporal Bill Gould (Signals) recalls:
“The dawn crossing over the bridge was almost without incident, but our cable line took some getting over and when we eventually managed it we were an isolated unit. When laying a telephone communications line it is impossible to keep up with the advancing infantry for you have of necessity to make the line safe as far as it is possible from clumsy feet and following vehicles. ‘Dosey Denby’, my most loyal companion, worked heroically to ensure that we made the far bank and several bursts of machine gun fire greeted us when we arrived. However we maintained progress and reached ‘A’ Company who had dug themselves in round the church in Vernonnet. We informed the Colonel, who was anxiously waiting on the Vernon side for news, that all was going well, for which he was delighted and decided to send the rest of the Battalion over. ‘B’ Company came first and we tee-d on to the existing line and prepared to advance along a road which was parallel to the river.”

By 09.00 hours on the 26th August the company positions were as follows; ‘A’ Company in the centre near the behind the church, while "C" Company on the left reached their objectives with comparative ease, dealing with two light machine guns and a few prisoners in the course of their advance. ‘B’ Company, however, strayed too far to the right encountered considerable opposition.

Climbing on to the damaged Vernon road bridge

(IWM BU225)

‘A’ Company cross and take positions in Vernonnet
07.00 hours, 26th August

Troops cross damaged Vernon Road Bridge on wooden planks
laid down by engineers the previous night.
(IWM BU36348)
The final climb towards Vernonnet (IWM)

By 09.00 hours on the 26th August the company positions were as follows; ‘A’ Company in the centre near the behind the church, while "C" Company on the left reached their objectives with comparative ease, dealing with two light machine guns and a few prisoners in the course of their advance. ‘B’ Company, however, strayed too far to the right encountered considerable opposition.

 

Crossing the damaged Vernon road bridge (IWM BU224)

 

Sergt. H. C. Harrison

Sergt. Harry Harrison (14 Platoon, ‘C’ Company) recalls: "At the time I was still commanding 14 Platoon. After crossing the bridge we turned left and passed down the street in front of the church. Rubble and roof tiles were everywhere. We had not advanced far when 13 Platoon ahead of us, commanded by Sergt. Peter Saunders, came under machine gun fire. Corporal D. W. Priest who was leading their first section was hit and killed. We were pinned down and lay flat on the ground. The machine gun was on the left side of the street just behind a bend. Company Sergeant Major Jim Lane then passed down orders for us to move down the right-hand side of the street behind the back of some houses and try and locate the machine gun position. However, it was difficult for us to make progress through houses and gardens so after moving forward some distance we had to retreat back to our original position."

Private D. Hodgkins (13 Platoon, ‘C’ Company) recalls: "As the leading section of my platoon we were the first to encounter the enemy. As we moved round a corner we were greeted with a burst of light machine gun fire from enemy concealed in a garden behind a wall. With two of my colleagues we dashed into the nearest house and dashed upstairs to a bedroom window. From this vantage point we had a clear view of the enemy machine gun crew below – with a burst of our Bren gun the enemy were all killed."

‘D’ Company crossed by the damaged road bridge later that morning and joined the rest of the battalion in Vernonnet. By 14.00 hours Worcesters were well established in Vernonnnet. Most of the enemy had given themselves up and about 20 German prisoners been taken.

 

Worcestershire position 09.00 hours 26th August

Worcesters ‘C’ Coy taking German prisoners at Vernonnet

Pte. T. Dutton

Private Tommy Dutton (17 Platoon, ‘D’ Company) recalls:

“Moving off the bridge into the town of Vernonnet, we found it was badly damaged and still on fire, lots of buildings in a state of collapse. With brick-ends and debris under our feet we moved on down the street to a small church on our left; we moved up the side of this church, through the churchyard, up through the cemetery, over a fence into a small field beyond, which was surrounded by hedges. Suddenly there was an exchange of small-arms fire up ahead, 16 Platoon had encountered the enemy. The sun was well up now and rather warm.”

 

Sappers constructing the Class 9 Bridge (IWM)
Construction of Class 9 folding bridge at Vernon (IWM BU197)


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