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The Recce Men Feed

Briquessard begins

From ‘A Reconnaissance Regiment in the B.L.A.’ by Lieutenant-Colonel P.H.A.Brownrigg D.S.O. (commanding officer of 61st Reconnaissance Regiment):

“The first time we held a proper infantry battalion position was when we took over from an American outfit at Briquessard, near Caumont*.

          For the rest of the campaign we used to judge all ‘black spots’ by reference to Briquessard.  Anything described as ‘worse than Briquessard’ stank.  It wasn’t that our casualties were heavy there – they were comparatively light seeing that it was an obvious position on a forward slope and had at least its fair share of missiles.  The trouble was that for the first time we had to abandon every appearance of reconnaissance.  We parked our vehicles about two miles back, re-formed our squadrons of seven troops into companies of three platoons, and occupied an almost continuous trench system, with some very large gaps in which concertina wire had to do the job of men.”

* Briquessard lies east of the Normandy town Caumont-l'Eventé.  From Briquessard cross-roads a ridge runs towards the north, “an area which was ‘bocage’ at its worst.”  (From ‘A Short History of the 7th Armoured Division June 1943 – July 1945’ .)


Don Aiken’s account reveals the date of their arrival:  “17th July – Livry (Briquessard)

Our Regiment was detailed to defend a very long, narrow wood, named Le Bois de Briquessard. We took over at night-time from an American Regiment and took up positions in fox-holes and ditches on the leading edge of the wood, facing across a field to a hedgerow which was occupied by the enemy. Our Assault Troop sent out foot patrols at night, but there were very few incidents arising from them.”  (Extract  republished from ‘Establishing a Foothold in Normandy’ by kind permission of Don Aiken)


Eric Brewer, a ‘B’ Squadron Assault trooper, appears to have been involved in one of the incidents on 17th/18th July:

“Saw Tiger (tank). Done Recce patrol to find enemy positions.  Gerry fired at me and others (50yds in front) and mortared us but luckily there was a pond.  Wet but worth it.”  On 19th July he wrote:  “Garmont Area (sic - presumably meaning ‘Caumont’).  Relieved Yanks, me and Gil set up an out post here today.”  (From Eric Brewer’s Diary by kind permission of Derek Brewer and his family.)


Roy Howard of 'A' Squadron also mentions their arrival:

"The position consisted of a series of trenches, reminiscent of World War 1, dug into the forward slope of a wooded hill, facing across open country to the enemy position.  The changeover took place during the night in order not to alert the enemy that the Yanks had been replaced." (From ‘Beaten Paths are Safest’ by Roy Howard, Brewin Books 2004)


Eric Postles writes:  "We had the ability to perform a number of roles and we had our first experience of an infantry role when we took over from an American Unit for about two weeks.  They were holding a line at the bottom of a hill a couple of fields west of Briquessard.  We went on foot for about a mile in the dark as the positions could not be approached in daylight.  The Americans could not get out quickly enough and left behind some weapons, ammunition, rations and, best of all for most of our lads, cigarettes.  Dug outs and slit trenches were along a hedgerow and at night we took hourly turns behind a couple of sandbags about 20 yards down a hedge in front of the main positions.  It was pretty scary out there alone."  (Extracts from ‘My War Years’ by John Eric Postles ISO used by kind permission of the author.)


Anthony Rampling's map of the Briquessard position:

AR's sketch of Briquessard Wood

Tony remembers:

Briquessard begins

          “We had to go to a little hamlet called Briquessard and we parked our vehicles a mile or two behind the lines and filed up to this wood at Briquessard and it was a forward sloping wood, with trenches at the bottom of the wood.

          We took over Briquessard from the American 101 – they were called 'the Screaming Eagles**' – and in the trenches they left cigarettes and even weapons.  If we’d have left a weapon behind we’d have been on a court martial.”  From Anthony Rampling’s account of 61st Recce (pers comm). 

 **61st Recce was to work with the 101st Airborne Division in the Netherlands following Market Garden and in the Ardennes' famous 'Battle of the Bulge'.


Sandy Handley, recalls that night vividly in his story:

          “Another infantry role we had was at Briquessard, at the edge of a wood.  We had to leave our vehicles about half a mile from the front line and relieve some Americans from 101 air division.  They were all dug in on the edge of this wood, a series of foxholes as we called them, each enough to accommodate two men.  We relieved these paratroops as it was getting dusk.  I remember as we filed along the footpath someone trod on a dry twig with a cracking sound, a voice from the darkness of the slit trench said “steady fellas. They’re (Gerry) just a 100 yards away.”  

      As they got out of their respective foxholes, we got in – as I say two men in each trench.  These trenches were five feet deep, mounded round with sand bags.  We placed our Bren guns to the front on top of these sand bags.  Soon it was pitch black. Our Officer, Lt. Williams, came along, to see if we were settled.  I felt uncomfortable.  Sitting in an armoured car behind our guns was what we were trained for but here we were now all in trenches reminiscent of the 14-18 war.  Our officer told us quietly: “The enemy is not so far away, maybe 100 yards or more, so be as quiet as possible.  Remember, he’s doing the same as you - listening.”


Some from 61st Recce did not survive to tell the tale...

61st Recce Roll of Honour includes the following who died on 17th July 1944:     

          Trooper Charles Turner (age 27) of Norton Canes, Cannock, Staffordshire

He is laid to rest in the Cemetery at Tilly-sue-Seulles. (See 61st Recce Roll of Honour, courtesy of Recce Mitch.)

We will remember them.


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