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HMS Ajax Bombarding German Gun Positions On The Normandy Coast

Discussion in 'Britain at Sea!' started by Jim, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    The cruiser HMS Ajax (1) joins in a long-range gun duel with the German 152mm gun battery at Longues to the west of Port on Bassin. The guns at Longues had been in action since first light when they engaged the French cruiser Georges Leygues and the American destroyer Emmons at 0537hrs. HMS Ajax bombarded the battery as part of Force G’s pre-arranged fire plan. The cruiser was able to bring all eight of her 61n. guns to bear on the German position, firing 1121b shells at the rate of between four and six rounds per minute. Her maximum effective range was 24,800 yards and her gunnery control so effective that she actually put a shell right into one of the casemates. After completing her initial D-Day counter-battery mission, HMS Ajax turned her guns to support the infantry advance inland. Communications with the 50th Division was via naval Forward Observation Bombardment Officers who landed with the leading troops and were able to radio back the co-ordinates of enemy positions and areas of resistance to the cruiser. Men of the assault companies of the 1st Hampshire Regiment (2) pass in front of the Alex on their way to Jig sector of Gold Beach. This was the third assault landing to be made by the 1st Hampshire’s. As part of 231st Brigade they had already carried out amphibious landings in Sicily and Italy. The battalion had had a long war. It was in Egypt when war was declared in September 1939, took part in Gen Wavell’s campaign In North Africa in 1940 and then undertook garrison duties in Malta until 1943. After Sicily and Italy it was called home in November 1943 to prepare for operation Overlord. This was the first time the battalion had been back in England for 23 years. The men are wearing the recently introduced Mark III steel helmet (3), which was issued to assault units of 21st Army Group for D-Day. Of basically the same pattern as used in WWI, the earlier Mark I and II helmets were designed to give the men in the trenches protection from shellfire and missiles falling from above. The Mark II helmet gave somewhat improved all-round protection. The troops are carried in Landing Craft Assault (LCA) (4), small wooden boats each capable of transporting 30 fully laden infantrymen from their landing ship to the shore.

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    With a top speed of just six knots, the craft were vulnerable to enemy fire. The Royal Navy manned these LCAs, but many others during the operation had Royal Marine crews. In fact Royal Marines manned almost two-thirds of landing craft used In the D-Day landings. The Landing Ship Infantry (LSI) (5) in the background was the armed merchant ship that carried the Hampshire’s across the channel along with the LCAs. The assault craft were launched fully loaded with men from davits along the ship’s side. LCI’s came in a variety of sizes and were often small liners or cross-channel ferries varying from 10,000 to 14,000 tons.
     

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