K.E. Curry

During the Normandy campaign I was a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, the officer-in-charge of 226 Bomb Disposal Platoon, an independent unit attached to Second Army. I joined the Port-en-Bessin Advance Party and the Royal Marine commandos in Essex. We drove in convoy to Portsmouth on Sunday, 4 June, and went on board HMS Eagle (two boats) at Spithead. When we reached Port-en-Bessin we were fired on by enemy naval gunners from the cliff tops so we had to lay off the beaches. Royal Marine commandos went in and got us all – Advance and Recce Parties – ashore during the morning of 8 June. The rest of my men were brought in transport and our equipment over the beaches two days later.

Our original job included being responsible for port safety until naval bomb and mine disposal units arrived two weeks later; that is, for any disposal required in 10 Garrison and Port Area. We had to check for any mines or carry out bomb disposal work ahead of the PLUTO fuel pipelines, and clear a path through the minefields for the port smoke screen installation, etc. We later checked ahead of the fuel pipes as far south as Tilly-sur-Seulles where we were held up by forward troops although we were in advance of the guns firing past us. We also offered our services to forward gunners.

Later still we helped getting service and civilian casualties and bodies out of minefields, and cleared double width strips for hundreds of yards into minefields to recover tanks for re-use. When permissible we used prisoner labour to replace our white tapes with stout stakes, collected and pointed in local woodlands. We de-fused many anti-personnel bombs (mainly American) and anti-tank rockets (mainly British). As the American sector was close we helped them too when asked, as their army would not touch anything in less than a fortnight. Most of our bomb disposal work was unexploded American bombs near the surface or deep in sand, necessitating stepped excavations to recover them. We eventually had 30 per cent casualties between the Normandy coast and Falaise, mostly on battlefield clearance work with 197 Infantry Brigade of the 59th Division.

We moved direct to Antwerp as the enemy withdrew and later on by landing craft from Hamburg to Norway.