Saturday, 28 August 2010

Bruneval Raid Op Biting Feb 1942

GBG Member Paul Oldfield recently visited the site of the raid on the coast of Northern France. It is often described as being the first Combined Operations action involving all three services

Paul writes:

Many will know about the raid in February 1942 the objective being to capture a Wurzburg radar set (code named HENRY) However,not many Guild members will have visited the site. Those who do probably drove to the beach and viewed the site from the memorial looking north

Picture 1
The more adventurous will struggle up the cliff path seen between the centre and right flagpoles,to look over the radar site and the foundations of the Villa (LONE HOUSE) that stood just out of sight over the clifftop. Those who do so in reasonable weather and in daylight as I did, will wonder how the raiders managed to get down this very steep path in ammo boots at night pushing/pulling overloaded weapon trolleys with their captured radar parts together with their wounded over ground covered in slippery snow.....and oh yes! they were under fire too!

I guess few venture on to the evacuation beach itself

Picture 2
Clearly this depends upon the tide and it isn't advisable to try and climb the cliffs, but a short walk is rewarding. Picture 2 illustrates the harsh beach conditions that the landing craft had to face in reaching the shore. The sea wall is post war. The memorial is visible half way up the opposite cliff.

I would also advocate driving round to look at the cliff top site from the northern end close to Cap d'Antifer lighthouse. Park on the last right bend before the lighthouse. Ignore the first set of bunkers (they weren't there in 1942) and walk south along the cliff top, but not too close to the edge as it is very crumbly and its a long way down to the sea! Very shortly a concrete Freya radar base comes into view.

Picture 3
The foundations of the Villa which was the radar control station(code name LONE HOUSE)and close to the Wurzburg radar array, are on the horizon just to the left of the Freya radar base with a distant mast beyond it. This illustrates just how close the two radars were to each other. On the left is the edge of the wooded farm complex(RECTANGLE)from where the main German opposition developed. The Freya radar was not a target of this raid. The Wurzburg array was, as its performance was unknown to the British. This view is looking south towards the objective.The Freya radars are marked on the map.

Picture 4
Another short diversion takes you to the RV just off the Drop Zone. From it (Picture 4) and looking west there is a fairly good view of the LONE HOUSE position left of centre on the horizon and the route the attackers took to get it. RECTANGLE is on the left. Also visible in the centre just below the skyline is the bank mentioned in some accounts where the RE dismantling party and Flight Sgt Cox sheltered while the opposition was being cleared. The photo is taken from Drop Zone RV and marked as 'Forming Up Point' on the map

Picture 5
The remains of the LONE HOUSE. Burnt out in the raid and demolished by the Germans after the raid so it could not act as a ground/air marker. A new Wurzburg site was set up within the Freya site near the lighthouse.

Picture 6
LONE HOUSE as seen from a photo recce sortie which picked up the existence of the radar in front of the Villa

Picture 7
Looking towards the Freya site which can be seen in front of the lighthouse at Cap D'Antifer. The photo is taken from the site of LONE HOUSE

A visit to Bruneval repays the effort handsomely and is a wonderful early example of a successful combined operation. Members should read John Frost's account of the action in his book 'A Drop Too Many'

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Vietnam Veterans Day

Dennis Weatherall
Badged Member # 34
Sydney Australia.

I'm off in the am Sunday 15th August (with a group of Vietnam Vets as guide & leader) to Vietnam and Cambodia for Vietnam Veterans Day. It's the 44th Memorial Service for the Battle of Long Tan held at the original Cross site erected by 6RAR after the battle.

The site of the Cross is the ONLY foreign War Memorial to the Vietnam War period allowed to be erected in the "winners circle" - (South Vietnam) so to say. The service is held each year by the Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors and respective Defence Attaches at the site. As always the service takes place at 15:35 on the 18th August each year for the past ten years, it's the exact time Delta Company 6 RAR (Royal Australian Regiment) made contact with the enemy, shot and killed two NVA (North Vietnamese Army) regular soldiers on a track winding into the rubber plantation.

For the next six hours they fought a life & death struggle. The end result was 18 Australian's KIA'd (17 Infantry + 1 Cav) and on the battlefield clearance 247 KIA's on the opposition batting team.

As the years have passed old foes meet on this battle ground and the end truth has unfolded, 123 men of D Co 6RAR on a search and destroy mission that day in fact came upon a full Battalion of NVA encamped awaiting to hit "NuI Dat" our ATF (Aust Task Force Base) some 7 kms (as a crow flys) away that night. I'll fill in the full story line with my article in due course.

The old foe (245 Battalion NVA) have told us it was the greatest mauling they received up to that point in their war in the south. Our troops had fought skirmishes but the NVA wanted to see if we were different than the ARVN (Army of the South Vietnam) or the Americans that had been stationed in the area until we arrived. They say that with those badly wounded and dragged away by their fellow NVA comrades (they tied themselves together with leg ropes so they could pull a wounded comrade away from the battle front) the real KIA total was more like 750 almost the entire Battalion.

But of course the NVA wrote the post war history and originally their propaganda the day post the battle told that they the mighty NVA had destroyed an Australian Battalion, in fact 44 years on it was exactly the reverse. The North government were suing for peace & were in Paris endeavoring to stitch up a peace treaty and the extraction of all foreign forces, they needed a win situation to press home at the conference table that war was being won by their different it was back then !

Australia lost some 500+ KIA's during 12 years (our longest fought war) but our allies America lost 57,000 ... how futile is war, so many mothers weep for their lost sons, but as we come together we that are left to grow old, also remember the 2 million opposition forces that never went home to their loved ones either. Vietnam is a different place, thank god today. So different my 2nd son Jarrod has married Tram (pronounced Chum) the only daughter of an ol' soldier from the North (NVA). On his return with me from Long Tan he brings back to Australia his pregnant wife Tram to start a new life in this country, and Lady Di and I will soon be blessed with our first grandchild a Aussie-Vietnamese child.

It's a pity Tram's father didn't get to see their marriage, as he passed away last October but he'd given his blessing for my son to marry his only daughter. It's Vietnamese culture that the son stays behind and looks after the family (as mother is still alive) but the daughter must make a live with her husbands family be it 1000's of miles away. "Trun" - Tram's father was a decorated NVA soldier and was happy the war was over and his country was at last one country and at peace, so am I, but we should never forget the sacrifice it took and the men that died in the process. I'm looking forward to my return along with both my sons Darryn and Jarrod and the part I play in bringing my Aussie Vet mates back to see the new Vietnam they left behing so many years ago !

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Mark Banning writes:

Poperinge is in turmoil at the moment as the local authorities dig up the square to lay what looks like new water pipes.  Any group, especially with a coach is warned that the usual directions are no use and that a series of diversions are needed to get anywhere near the centre. Parking is also severely hampered.