Queen's Own Rifles
Toronto's Queen's Own Rifles (QOR) landed at 'Nan White' beach near Bernières at 8:05. The enemy fortifications on the 'Nan White' sector had been barely dented by the preliminary bombardment. The DD tanks were supposed to 'swim' in ahead of the infantry to diminish German resistance but were forced by high waves to land after them. When the QOR regiment stormed the beaches, they received the worst battering of any Canadian unit on D-Day.
'A' Company landed to the west of Bernières. Charlie Martin, Company Sergeant-Major, 'A' Company described the landing in his book Battle Diary: "As we moved farther from the mother ship and closer to shore, it came as a shock to realize that the assault fleet was disappearing from view. Suddenly there was just us and an awful lot of ocean, or English Channel if you prefer. All that remained within sight was our own fleet of ten assault craft, moving abreast in the early-morning silence in a gradually extending line facing the shore, the A Company boats on the right and the B Company boats on the left."
"The moment the ramp came down, heavy machine-gun fire broke out from somewhere back of the seawall. Mortars were dropping all over the beach. The men rose, starboard line turning right, port turning left. I said to Jack, across from me, and to everyone: "Move! Fast! Don't stop for anything. Go! Go! Go!" We raced down the ramp, Jack and I side by side, the men closely following. We fanned out as fast as we could, heading for that sea wall None of us really grasped at that point, spread across such a large beach front, just how thin on the ground we were. Each of the ten boatloads had become an independent fighting unit."
"Our part of the beach was clear but there were mines buried in the sand. On the dead run you just chose the path that looked best. Bert Shepard, Bill Bettridge and I were running at top speed and firing from the hip. To our left we spotted a small gap in the wall. They had placed a belt-fed machine gun there as part of the defence and only one man was on it. We knew from our training that you cannot be on the move and fire accurately at the same time. If you stop you become a target. In any case, Bill did stop for a split second. He took his aim and that seemed to be the bullet that took the gunner out, although Bert and I were firing too. We got to the wall and over it, then raced across the railway line."
'A' Company was hit by heavy machine gun fire and heavy mortar fire. They got off the beach quickly and began clearing the town of Bernières.
'B' Company landed 250 yards east of its objective, directly in front of an enemy pill-box which inflicted 65 casualties within the first minutes. The assault depended on the resolve and courage of the remaining men to race across the beach to the seawall with no cover in between.
Doug Hester, 'B' Company: "Then we saw the five pillboxes on top of the sea-wall. These were our first objective. About 500 yards out, they had us in their sites of their small arms and began shooting. When the craft got into shallower water, the Royal Marines lowered the door. The three in front of me including Doug Reed were hit and killed. By luck I jumped out between bursts into their rising blood. Cold and soaking wet, I caught up to Gibby...the first burst went through his back pack. He turned his head grinning at me and said, "that was close, Dougie."...the next burst killed him."
In a mad dash three riflemen reached the main pillbox. Using their grenades and Sten-guns, and firing through the gun slits, they destroyed the defenders within. Lieutenant Herbert, Lance-Corporal Tessier and Riflemen Chicosk were awarded medals for their attack on the main pillbox. The remaining riflemen in 'B' Company outflanked the positions, broke through the beach defences and moved into the town.
'A' Company came under heavy machine gun fire as they moved into the town of Bernières. They advanced using fire and movement. Several soldiers would stay firm, providing covering fire while the others would move up to the front. Once they were in position and ready with covering fire, the others would come up. By 8:45, 'A' Company had taken the road through the village at its southwest point. 'B' company also advanced into the town and by 9:00 Bernières was secured.
The Fort Garry Horse DD tanks landed shortly after the infantry and fired steadily at the German pillboxes and strong-points from their beach positions. After the AVRE's were able to clear a beach exit, the Fort Garry tanks moved up from the beach and into the town around 9:30. The QOR moved to their 'Forming Up Place', reassembled into groups and moved out with the Fort Garry Horse tanks south towards Anguerny seven miles up the road.
The Queen's Own reserve companies 'C' and 'D' landed at 8:45 and suffered heavy casualties when half of their LCA's hit underwater mines on the run in. 'C' and 'D' Companies advanced making a flanking movement on their objective. Early in the afternoon, 'C' and 'B' companies captured Anguerny. 'D' Company advanced to take the village of Anisy.
The Queen's Own Rifles had the highest casualties among the Canadian
regiments with 143 killed, wounded or captured. Despite the painful price,
the QOR had succeeded in securing its D-Day objective seven miles inland.