- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Harry Langford
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 29 November 2005
This story is transcribed by me Graham Shepherd , from documents and discussions with Harry Langford , and will be added to the site with his permission . He understands the sites terms and conditions .
In the spring of 1939 I joined the 4th Battalion KSLI , a TA regiment in Shrewsbury . This Battalion was a unit recruited solely in Shropshire . I went to an annual camp during August at Weston Super Mare , and within two weeks of returning home war broke out and I was called up .
I reported to Ludlow racecourse and was billeted in the stables where we stayed for about 8 weeks , before moving to Tenby where we were billeted in Boarding Houses until December 1939 . Our next posting was to Colraine in Northern Ireland part of the 53rd Welsh Division - 159 Brigade . This Brigade consisted of 4th Battalion KSLI , 1st Battalion Herefords and 3rd Battalion Monmouth's - all TA regiments .
We went from there to Newcastle , Co. Down " Where the mountains of Morne sweep down to the sea "
We left N Ireland in November 1941 and spent four months at Marbury Hall in Cheshire .
All our training until late 41 / early 42 had been infantry based , but when we transferred in March to East Grinstead , the 159 Brigade was taken out of the 53rd Welsh Division and incorporated into the new 11th Armoured Division and our training role changed to that of protecting our tanks . This was very intensive on the South Downs .
Further training then took place in North Yorkshire and finished at Hornsey . From here we went to Aldershot where we made final preparations for the invasion of Europe , having spent five years preparing for it . I was now the platoon sergeant of the 3 in mortar platoon.
On June 14th D Day plus eight the KSLI landed at Sword Beach , which by then had been transformed from an invasion beech to a hive of activity , with men , tanks and the material of war arriving to be thrown into the growing battle .
My first impression was of a lot of people doing a lot of jobs like loading supplies and directing traffic .
After years of training , we were buoyed up and ready to go , and because we didn’t land under fire we had time to take it all in . But despite the activity , the beach was far from safe , and we could hear the rumble of artillery fire all around - we couldn’t tell whose it was and occasional shells landed on the beach .
From the beach we went to an assembly area at Cainet , where we stayed for about eight days . We had to dig in though , because the Germans would mount spasmodic air attacks at night .
On 27th June , after almost two weeks of final preparations , it was time for the 4th KSLI to enter battle . We were to move into a section of the front line in the shell blasted village of Baron and hold it . Baron lay under the notorious Hill 112 , where British and Canadian forces spent weeks locked in a bitter struggle for control of .
The Germans held the hill and the cluster of villages against repeated attacks , taking advantage of the old stone buildings and their thick walls . Hill 112 had an all-around view of the surrounding country side to the south-west of the town and was the key to the whole of Normandy .
Early in the battle British tanks forced their way onto the summit of the hill , but without any infantry support were forced to withdraw .
The Germans , including the fanatical Waffen SS , held it and their artillery observers could see any movement in the villages below , including Baron .
For the 4th KSLI it was to be a brutal first taste of action .
See Part 2 - Baptism of fire .
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