7:30 am 26th June 1944
This was their test. The men of the181st Field Regt RA. 4 years
of training and waiting - waiting for a chance to strike back. Men
from all over the country brought together by war. Most, never having
been in battle, some, wearing the riband of the North Africa campaign
had tasted battle.
The order to "take post" had been issued, the men crouched
behind their gun, each man ready to perform his task, trying to
put the thoughts of home and family at the back of their minds and
focus on the coming battle. Some chatted nervously, calming their
nerves with a smoke, others silent, hoping they would come through
this baptism of fire.
Since landing on 6th June the Allied Army had become bogged down
just beyond the beaches as the offensive congealed. Thousands of
tons and men were being shipped in after the violent storm of 19th
June, in order to keep this massive army fed, watered and armed.
This was the time to break out from the beaches. Monty had called
this operation 'Epsom'.
Well out in front of the guns with the first line of Infantry were
the Regiment's Forward Observation Officers, and their band of signallers
ready to feed the guns with fire plans so that they could 'guide'
the footsloggers onto their objective. These were the men of the
15th Scottish division, untried in battle, but, from the finest
Regiments in Scotland whose ancestors had fought at Culloden and
Banockburn and Flanders Fields. To the left were the men of the
53rd (Welsh) Division from the valleys and the fields of the principality.
To the right the 'Polar Bears' of the 49th West Riding Division.
The day dawned damp, drizzly and overcast. The men spat and cursed
when they realised there would be no air support from the rocket
firing Typhoons of the RAF to soften up the enemy.
On the second. 900 guns of the allied services let fly a storm
of hot metal at the German defenders. The gunners, working together
like a well oiled clock, feeding 25pd shells into the breech of
the mighty gun as fast as possible. And in front - the Infantry
rose from their start line amongst the cornfields of Normandy, and
walked forward - into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell.