Royal Marines mark heroic battle shortly after the Normandy landings

Topic: Fighting armsRoyal Marines Storyline: 1 AGRM

Royal Marines visited the scene of one of their most heroic battles of World War 2 which took place in the days following the Normandy landings.

47 Commando have been at the heart of commemorations marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day and have remained in France to pay homage to those who fought and won at Port-en-Bessin.

Serving marines, veterans and members of the local community yomped (marched) from Gold Beach, where the Plymouth-based unit landed on D-Day near Asnelles, to the Normandy fishing village – the same journey the men of 1944 made on that fateful day.

After spending D-Day night about two miles outside Port-en-Bessin, the 420 men of 47 Commando safely penetrated the outer defences on the morning of June 7 1944 before two German flak ships in the harbour opened fire, killing eleven and wounding a further 17.

The evening of June 7 was desperate: the commandos were outnumbered and outgunned, but heroic actions saw Port-en-Bessin captured. It cost the lives of 46 men, while another 70 were wounded – a casualty rate of 25 per cent.

The village played a pivotal role in the liberation of western Europe, allowing the allies to pump huge amounts of fuel as a key terminal for the PipeLine Under The Ocean (PLUTO), which ran under the Channel to France.

Eighty years on from this action, members of modern-day 47 Commando – who are the small boat raiding specialists of the UK’s Commando Force – members of the public and veterans’ organisations gathered at the memorial on the high ground to the west of the town.

A service was conducted that included a song performed by local children thanking the commandos for their liberation from the occupying German forces. 
Guest of honour was Lieutenant General Charlie Stickland, Chief of Joint Operations at the MOD and also a Royal Marine. He, alongside local dignitaries, praised the courage and bravery of the men of 47 Commando.