include "footer.inc" ?>
Wounded in Action (N.W. Europe 1944-45) -
1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment
Private Tommy Dutton (14577577)
(17 Platoon, ‘D’ Company)
Tommy Dutton was called up for army service in 1943 received his initial
training at the Infantry Training Centre (I.T.C.) at Norton Barracks. During
his training he broke a wrist had had to receive hospital treatment. On his
return to the Depot at Norton Barracks he was posted to Market Rasen. In
March 1944 he was selected to join the 1st Battalion at Hythe where he
joined 17 Platoon of ‘D’ Company.
Tommy saw action throughout
Normandy but was later wounded at Vernonnet during the Seine crossing at the
end of August 1944. Below Tommy recalls what happened:
It was now nearly dawn on 26th August 1944. We were ordered to form up ready
to move towards the bridge. I was in ‘D’ Company, and it was well into
daylight before our turn came to cross via the damaged bridge. We crossed in
single file with distance between each man, in case of casualties by enemy
mortar or small-arms fire. Luckily no action was encountered, although it
was a difficult obstacle to negotiate, the way the bridge had fallen.
On arriving on the north side of the bridge at Vernonnet, we found it was
badly damaged and still on fire, lots of buildings in a state of collapse.
With brick-ends and debris under our feet we moved on down the street to a
small church on our left; we moved up the side of this church, through the
churchyard, up through the cemetery, over a fence into a small field beyond,
which was surrounded by hedges. Suddenly there was an exchange of small-arms
fire up ahead. Our 16 Platoon had encountered the enemy. I plainly remember
lying in a deep fold in the ground while this was going on. The sun was well
up now and rather warm. I must have shown signs of dozing off to sleep when
the voice of L/Cpl Whitehouse came from a few yards away to my right,
shouting “Dutton, don’t go to sleep, you bloody fool, your life may depend
on it!” With that, we were ordered to rise up and go forward on the same
axis as 16 Platoon. It was then we could see where the skirmish had been; a
German lay dead at the side of the track, his face and front body blown
away. He was wearing a stick grenade stuffed in the top of his tunic when
fired on by 16 Platoon commander. One bullet exploded the grenade.
Continuing over fields and small wooded areas into open country, all this
time our own artillery was firing smoke shells which were meant to be in
front, but the smoke containers were falling short among us chaps. The empty
containers were whizzing down all around us. Soon we moved beyond their
range, past what looked like a disused factory; we continued on and reached
our objective. The order came to dig shallow slit trenches and settle down
for the night, so we curled up in our trenches with our gas capes wrapped
around us. These were needed because it rained most of the night - we were
too tired to care.
Through most of this sleepless night German vehicles could be heard moving
in front of us.
It was soon the daybreak of our second day this side of the river Seine
(27th August 1944). We had received our orders, which were that we should
move to our left onto the road leading to the village of Tilly, to capture
the village and hold it! We arrived on the road and formed up ready for the
advance, ‘D’ Company leading, 16 Platoon, 17 Platoon, 18 Platoon and so on
in line of advance. One section on the right of the road, the other a few
yards back on the left, with space between each man. Orders came to start
the advance. The road cut between a thickly wooded high slope on the right,
falling down to our left with very little visibility on both sides on the
road. The leading section of 16 Platoon on the right started their advance.
They had not travelled more than 20 - 25 yards, into a slight bend, when it
was fired on by a well-concealed machine-gun at a small road junction up the
road. This burst of fire scattered the first section, wounding Lieut. Stan
Trimnell, his batman and his runner. This sudden attack halted the advance
until this weapon had been silenced.
Climbing the damaged bridge at Vernon (Sept. 1944)
I remember while I was lying in a ditch at the side of the road a little
further back, one of our lads came running down the road with a German
prisoner, and as this German was running it was as though his helmet was too
large for him - it was moving backwards and forwards over his eyes, and all
the time he was shouting, “Tanks”, “Tanks”. His captor prodded him in the
back and said, "I'll give you bloody tanks”.
The forward platoon was still pinned down with fire from the undergrowth; it
appeared to be a long encounter. It was at this stage that one of our
armoured cars came along the road to help. It had no sooner arrived when it
was knocked out of action.
For the first time as I remember since being in action, we were ordered to
take our small packs off our backs and place them in piles at the side of
the road. It would be the first time in battle without our packs.
There was still action up in 16 Platoon area; one of the forward sections
reported hearing what sounded like tanks, but none could be seen. It was
ordered at this point that a small patrol would go up forward on the high
ground to investigate. This patrol would consist of a new second lieutenant
(W. F. Jennings) who had joined us so recently at the time I did not know
his name, platoon Sergeant Sid Potter, and three more men including myself.
(The first time, incidentally, that the platoon had been commanded by a
commissioned officer since the battle for Mouen; Sgt Potter had been forced
to take command because of so many casualties.) So as ordered we proceeded
up the right-hand side of the road, the hilly side; on the way we passed one
of our 6-pounder anti-tank guns, still limbered up to the carrier awaiting
instructions. As I passed, the gun commander L/Sgt Bill Bratt (who was from
my home town of Bromsgrove, Worcestershire) said, “Hi, Bromsgrove, how are
you? I’ll see you when you come back down.”
Route de Tilly taken by the Worcesters
(27th August 1944)
It was now at this point we veered off to climb up this thickly wooded high
ground, which rose very sharply and was thick with bracken and bramble. I
remember as we were struggling up this slope, a shower of mortar bombs came
screaming overhead. The new officer seemed a little nervous of these, but
very quickly Sergeant Potter put his mind at rest, and through his past
experience said, “That’s alright, sir, they’re not for us - that lot’s for
the bridge behind us.” So on we struggled, until we came to the end of the
wooded area of the high ground.
Looking out of the woods into the bright sunshine of a field beyond, there
no more than fifty yards away was a German Tiger tank. As we all lay in
cover looking through the hedge at this monster, two of the crew put out
their cigarettes and climbed aboard, as the tank’s engines started up and it
started to move along the far hedgerow away from us. The sergeant said to
the officer, “It looks like they might be buggering off like his mates have
been doing all night, sir.” In reply to this the officer said, “OK then
lads, let’s go back down on the road.” With that we scrambled back down to
the road below. As we walked back down the road we saw two of our 6-pounder
anti-tank guns being deployed on the road, one on the bend, the second one –
L/Sgt. Bill Bratt’s gun - on the opposite side of the road further back.
During this attack L/Sgt. Bratt was so badly wounded in the face and died of
shock the next day.
As I drew level with the first gun, the shouts of the tank alert came from
further up the road. It appeared that the tank we had been viewing up on the
slope had not decided to “bugger oft” as Sergeant Potter suggested, it was
on its way down this road towards us. The gun commander Jack Guest said to
me, “Nipper, get down in the ditch by the side of the road, because if I
have to fire this gun, the blast will knock you down on your arse.” I
promptly did. As the tank rumbled towards us it rounded a bend and was just
only half visible when the order came to “Fire”. Pte Tommy Wilkinson on the
gun fired its first shell which was a hit; as it wriggled back in the hope
of safety more rounds were pumped into it, soon setting it on fire. As the
crew bailed out they were dealt with by the lads of 16 platoon.
It was at this stage another German tank appeared in a field by the side of
the first tank; there was infantry with this one. It was clear that being on
this road at this time was not a nice place to be, as the road and verges
were being fired on by the second tank’s small-arms, and there was a lot of
shouting from the German infantry up on the high ground. The bullets bounced
off the road and ripped up the verges.
It was at this time we were ordered to withdraw back down the road to the
next company’s positions; no order was ever obeyed as quickly as this one,
with bullets at our heels we were jet-propelled. I was running like mad down
this road with a comrade, Teddy Harris. A bullet hit the road behind him and
flew up into his back, but we still kept running. At this time we came level
with one of our majors (Major Benn), stood on the side of the road,
shouting, “Stop, stop!” We halted. He first ordered us to dig in where we
were, then changed his mind and told us to go up the slope to meet the
attack. Major Benn was killed by the bullets of the second tank doing his
duty, by his side Pte. Charlie Long (his batman) was hit by several bullets
across the stomach and died the next day.
German Tiger Tank knocked out by Private Tommy Wilkinson
On the way up, I remember a Pte. Les Lunnon, another Bromsgrove lad, was
coming down the slope carrying the Bren gun by the carrying-handle. Blood
was oozing out of his wrist over the Bren; he asked someone to open his hand
so that he could let go of the Bren gun because he was unable to do so. He
had been hit by a bullet through the wrist. After this was done, he wrapped
his wrist up, and rushed over to the major and said words to the effect:
“Get the lads down from there, sir, or they will all be killed.” The major
did not respond to this; he read the situation better than us private
soldiers on the ground. We were too frightened for our lives to understand.
The Tiger tank continued down the road shooting up both anti-tank guns and
carrier, inflicting many casualties from both gun crew and infantry
personnel. In the meantime as we were ordered we clambered up the slope
towards the noisy Germans. It was thickly wooded, very close country. It was
halfway up the slope that I too was struck by a German bullet, a scalp
wound;. This bullet penetrated the front rim of my steel helmet and out
through the back rim, running along the side of my head. They don’t come any
closer. I was one of 65 casualties from this action. On its progress down
the road the second tank knocked out both anti-tank guns, wounding members
of both crews and shooting up the carriers that hauled the guns.
I remember finishing up back down on the road; how I came to get there I do
not know. One of the lads was leaning over me, then someone said, “Take him
back to R.A.P”. Pte. Les Lunnon, who had been wounded in the wrist, helped
me back to the R.A.P. The medical officer had us both put on an ambulance
and back across the river, this time by ambulance. Back to Port en Bessin
Normandy Military Hospital.
Field Ambulance crossing the Seine at Vernon to collect casualties
After recovering in England Tommy rejoined the 1st Battalion back in Holland
in October 1944. This time he was posted to ‘A’ Company. Shortly after
arriving he had a battle accident and had to be taken off strength. After
treatment he was posted to a non front line role for the rest of the war
although he remained in Europe. Tommy was finally demobbed in June 1947.
View of the road Route de Tilly as it looks today
Photo is taken from the anti-tank position of the 16 Platoon, ‘D’ Company.
The German machine gun position was ahead just before the road junction.
1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment - 'D' Company - 17 platoon at
Turnpike Camp, Hythe (April 1944)
Back row: Pte. Allsop, Pte. Darby, Pte. Bill Orridge, Pte. Garbett, Pte.
Dick Bradley, Pte. Bates,
Pte. Charlie Wakeley, L/Cpl. Frederick Baker, Pte. Webster, Pte. Stotesbury
Middle row: Pte. Bert Storey, Pte. Tom Dutton,
Pte. Matthews, Pte. Bradbury, Pte. Jewkes, Pte Ankers,
Pte. Howard, Pte. Nicholls, Pte. Quinney, Pte. Hemmings, Pte. Mayling, Pte.
Gough, Pte. Gough
Front row: Pte. Fields, Pte. Cullum, L/Cpl. Whitehouse, Cpl. F. H. Bozward,
Lieut. Ron Newman, Major Peter Weston, L/Cpl. Ward, Cpl. Potter, Pte.
Rockall, Pte. Carter
Click here to return to Wounded in Action home page
Click here to return to Home Page