The outstanding Second World War Normandy D-Day landings 6th June 1944 Gold Beach Military Medal group awarded to Warrant Officer 2nd Class W.E. McDougall, 5th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, formerly with the 1st Battalion out in Waziristan during the operations against the Fakir of Ipi in 1936 to 1937, he was Company Sergeant Major of ‘D’ Company when he landed on D-Day in front of the village of La Riviere. ‘D’ Company during the assault onto the beach came under heavy and accurate fire from pill-boxes to the flank. A number of men were
The outstanding Second World War Normandy D-Day landings 6th June 1944 Gold Beach Military Medal group awarded to Warrant Officer 2nd Class W.E. McDougall, 5th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, formerly with the 1st Battalion out in Waziristan during the operations against the Fakir of Ipi in 1936 to 1937, he was Company Sergeant Major of ‘D’ Company when he landed on D-Day in front of the village of La Riviere. ‘D’ Company during the assault onto the beach came under heavy and accurate fire from pill-boxes to the flank. A number of men were killed and wounded on the water’s edge and the remainder had difficulty in moving up to the top of the beach. McDougall seized a Bren gun from a man wounded at the water’s edge and immediately took up a position on the open beach under heavy fire. He then engaged the enemy machine gun positions which were enfilading the beach. His fire killed the enemy in one position and silenced a second, thereby considerably reducing the fire, and enabling the company to reach a better position at the top of the beach. Throughout this action McDougall was exposed to heavy fire, and his prompt and courageous action, carried out with complete disregard to his own safety was largely responsible for saving a critical situation.’ Nearby, another Company Sergeant Major, Stanley Hollis of the 6th Green Howards, won the Victoria Cross.
Group of 6: Military Medal, GVI 1st type bust; (4341916 W.O.CL.2. W.E. McDOUGALL. E. YORK R.); India General Service Medal 1936-1939, 1 Clasp: North West Frontier 1936-37; (4341916 PTE. W.E. McDOUGALL. E. YORK. R.); 1939-1945 Star; France and Germany Star; Defence Medal; War Medal.
Condition: first with an official correction to one digit of service number, and with some contact wear on pin, and heavy contact bruise on rim over last part of unit, otherwise Very Fine.
William Ernest McDougall was born on 21st December 1912 in Hull, East Yorkshire, and having enlisted into the British Army, then saw service as a Private (No.4341916) with the 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, and present out in India on the North West Frontier during the operations in Waziristan against the Fakir of Ipi in 1936 to 1937.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the 1st Battalion was still on service out in India, and would not see active service till it took part in the Burma campaign from 1944 onwards. However McDougall had by then been posted home and transferred into the 5th Battalion, a second line Territorial Army unit, which serving with the 69th Infantry Brigade in the 50th Northumbrian Division. McDougall then saw service with the 5th Battalion was a Warrant Officer 2nd Class, and joined his new battalion sometime after October 1943 when the 69th Brigade had returned from the Mediterranean, and was preparing for Operation Overlord - the Normandy Landings.
On D-Day 6th June 1944, the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division was to establish a beachhead between Arromanches and Ver-sur-Mer and then head south towards Route Nationale 13 linking Caen with Bayeux. The first wave is made of the 231st Infantry and 69th Infantry Brigades. Once the initial assault is over and the beachhead established, the follow-up brigades the 56th and 151st will push inland to the south-west towards RN 13 supported by the tanks of the 8th Armoured Brigade. To the west, the 47th Royal Marine Commando’s mission is to capture Port-en-Bessin and link-up with U.S. forces landed on Omaha Beach. The 50th Infantry Division was also meet up with the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division coming from Juno Beach.
Gold Beach was the Allied codename for the centre invasion beach. It lay between Omaha Beach and Juno Beach, was 8 km wide and divided into four sectors. From West to East they were How, Item, Jig, and King.
The beach was assaulted in multiple brigades of the 50th Northumbrian Division, on the West was the 231st Brigade, followed by the 56th Brigade, attached to this was a regiment of DD tanks from the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry, the infantry assault battalions that attacked in the West were; the 1st Battalion Hampshire Regiment, and the 1st Battalion Dorset Regiment. On the East 69th Brigade, followed by 151st Brigade, again a regiment of DD tanks was attached, they were from the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, the infantry assault battalions that attacked in the East were; the 5th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, and the 6th Battalion Green Howards. Their primary objective was to seize the town of Bayeux, the Caen-Bayeux road, and the port of Arromanches with the secondary objectives being to make contact with the Americans landing at Omaha to the West and the Canadians landing at Juno Beach to the East.
The 716th Static Infantry Division commanded by Generalleutnant Wilhelm Richter, and elements of the 1st Battalion of the German 352nd Infantry Division commanded by Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiss, defended the Channel coast for the Germans. H-Hour for the Gold beach landing was set for 0725 hours, Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis of the 6th Green Howards was already a seasoned veteran when he landed on Gold Beach. His first action was the single handed capture of a pill box which had been bypassed by the first waves of troops. Later that day he led an assault to destroy German gun positions. For his actions he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the only soldier to earn that medal on D-Day.
However, another man performing in many ways a similar act of gallantry on Gold Beach at around the same time was another Company Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer 2nd Class McDougall, who was then the company sergeant major of ‘D’ Company.
The recommendation for his award of the Military Medal reads as follows: ‘On 6th June 1944 ‘D’ Company during the assault on the beach defences came under heavy and accurate fire from pill-boxes to the flank. A number of men were killed and wounded on the water’s edge and the remainder had difficulty in moving up to the top of the beach. C.S.M. McDougall seized a Bren gun from a man wounded at the water’s edge and immediately took up a position on the open beach under heavy fire. He then engaged the enemy machine gun positions which were enfilading the beach. His fire killed the enemy in one position and silenced a second, thereby considerably reducing the fire, and enabling the company to reach a better position at the top of the beach. Throughout this action C.S.M McDougall was exposed to heavy fire, and his prompt and courageous action, carried out with complete disregard to his own safety was largely responsible for saving a critical situation.’
McDougall was awarded an ‘immediate’ award of the Military Medal in the London Gazette for 31st August 1944.
On 6th June 1944, the 5th Battalion run in to the beach was fairly uneventful drawing only moderate artillery fire. As the assault wave touched down enemy small arms started and one AVRE took a direct hit from an 88 causing the simultaneous detonating of all charges, the effect was shattering causing very heavy casualties to two of the assault pls of D Coy, the left assault company and killing two platoon commanders.
The Right assault company, A Coy, touched down where there were no enemy on the immediate beach, and they captured Ver Sur Mer with incredibly light casualties, 2 killed and 3 wounded. This left the Right Reserve Coy, B Coy, free to pass through A Coy and take up a back stop position in case the enemy should try to withdraw from La Riviere.
Bn HQ was coming in with the Left Reserve Company, C Company. As the beach came in full view and figures could be made out it was clear that the D Company was having trouble. Battalion HQ being on an LCM grounded further out than C Company and so the Company had a start up the beaches. There was quite considerable small arms fire at this period.
The Back and of Bn HQ was badly caught by a Spandau, FOB and wireless operator were killed, BC wireless operators were killed, Battalion 11 set rear link to Brigade operators were killed and wireless drowned. Wireless communications were impossible from the LCM.
Major A. Consitt, the Company commander of McDougall’s ‘D’ Company gave the following personal account.
‘Coming out of the water I saw a large crowd up against the sea wall this transpired to be C Coy who were by then without Coy Comd or 2 i/c the former having been shot through the ankle on the beach and being unable to move and the 2 i/c having been killed. I got hold of D Coy Comd who told me that he was unable to make progress in the direction planned and had also tried to get on over the sea wall but failed. I told him to continue pressing the enemy as he was and I would take C Coy round and try and get over the sea wall. He phoned to his leading pl and was almost immediately wounded in the head and though he carried on for sometime had eventually to hand over to his 2 i/c. The enemy in LA RIVIERE had by now obviously concentrated at the end of the village opposite D Coy. I tried to get on to sqn comd C Sqn 4/7 DG but could not make contact by wireless. Later it transpired that owing to an error I was netted to the tks supporting 6 Green Howard and vice versa. By now the posn of A Coy was clear, so B Coy was ordered to come down from VER SUR MER and come at LA RIVIERE from the back. There was an unpleasant muddle under the sea wall at the WEST end of LA RIVIERE a stretch of it being defiladed from any enemy fire.
The expedition along the sea wall ran into a spendau as it approached the gap which existed where a road ran onto the beach. However the I.O. was able to get two tks which were nearby and with these the spandau was silenced and one pl got over the wall in the gap in LA RIVIERE. The other two pl comds with part of their pls had got muddled up with D Coy and in the general turmoil could not be got hold of. The pl comd got his pl across an open piece of grass and into some slit trenches but on closing up to the houses was twice severely wounded in the stomach. Fire was then directed from a tk onto the houses and the leading section closed up to the houses. At this moment LCS joined in the fun for no apparent reason and starting pouring hy MG fire and 4 ins shelling into the houses obliterating the leading Sec. To call this off took about 10 mins. And as the winkling started again the enemy emerged with white flags.
B Coy had not assisted in this battle having not fully understood the instructions, which had had to be passed over the air. However they had fulfilled a useful task which would otherwise now have had to be carried out. They had come down on the other end of LA RIVIERE and swept up to where C Coy now were. The time was about 1030 hrs so that 3 hrs after H hour LA RIVIERE was completely clear.
The casualties in taking LA RIVIERE were heavy. Two Coy Comds wounded, one 2 i/c Coy killed, two Pl Comds killed, one Pl Comd Severely wounded -later died of wounds, and approx 100 ORs killed and wounded.’
Consitt further documents:
‘The assault Companies "A" and “D” were put down at the correct place at the correct time with about 200 or 300 yds to go to the top of the beach. "A" Company had little opposition, and reached their objective with very few casualties the enemy came out with their hands up, having had about 200 tons of bombs dropped on them by the R.A.F. and I think most of the rockets that were intended for "D" Companies objective.
"D" Company were not so fortunate, the A/Tk gun in the concrete position at 926868 sited to fire in enfilade along the beach to the West was still in action, the enemy also had many M.G. positions in action firing from behind the sea well and the houses behind the sea wall. I was 2 i/c of "D" Company and our plan was to attack with 2 Platoons forward, the right hand Platoon to deal with a pill box at 925868, move up the road at 925867 then swing left along the road and through the back gardens to its objective at the X roads at 927866. The left hand Platoon were to clear the A/Tk gun position at 926868, then swing left and clear the houses and the sea wall to its objective at the road junc at 928868, the other Platoon was to be used as a reserve and was to take up a position with Coy H.Qrs. near the A/Tk position at 928868.
Immediately on landing "D" Company came under fairly heavy small arms fire and suffered quite a number of casualties, and had to fight their way up the beaches, in addition to this the A/Tk gun was still in action and had knocked out two or three D.D. tanks, the A.V.R.E. that was going to deal with this gun was also hit by the same gun, the A.V.R.E. blew up and disintegrated in the midst of "D" Company, causing a lot more casualties from flying metal.
The right hand Platoon Commander and the reserve Platoon Commdr were both killed coming up the beach. "D" Company reached the top of the beach and started to clear its objective. The A/Tk gun and several weapon pits were rounded and cleared up, but they met fairly strong opposition and progress was slow, in the meantime "B" and "C" Companies had landed, "B" Company had very few casualties and passed through "A" Company to its objective where the enemy showed very little fight but gave themselves up as prisoners "C" Company following "D" suffered fairly heavy casualties coming up the beach, their Company Comdr was wounded and the Company 2 i/c was killed and they were not yet able to pass through "D" Company.
Shortly after "D" Company had started to clear the houses and gardens behind the sea wall, Captain Suggarman the Company Comdr was wounded by a German grenade. I then took over command of the Company and on going forward to the leading troops I found that they were making no progress, chiefly owing to the fact that about every 50 yds there was a 10 ft garden wall and men were being shot from air raid shelters etc as they got to the top of the wall. By this time there was a troop of D.D. Tanks in the area just by Company H.Q. so I arranged with the Troop Commander that he would knock a way through the walls by putting his tanks through them, shoot up any enemy positions he saw in the next garden with his B.E.S.A.'S put a round or two from his 75 MMs into the houses and my men would follow through close behind him and mop up. By this means we forced the enemy back towards our objective and just before it was reached between 30 & 40 of the enemy came out with their hands up and waving white flags to give themselves up.
Whilst all this had been going on the C.O. who had landed about the same time as "C" Company, realised that "D" Company were meeting stiff opposition so he took a Platoon of "C" Company along the top of the beach under the sea wall where they succeeded in scaling the wall in the area 927868 and establishing themselves in the houses there just before "D" Company arrived, the Platoon Commander of "C" Company was killed doing this. The C.O. also knew that the two right hand Companies had got on well so he ordered "B" Company to clear the objective allotted to "C" Company, which they did from the rear, without a great deal of difficulty. The 7th Green Howards landed and passed through before "D" Company had completely cleared their area.
When the area had been cleared the C.O. ordered "A" and "B" Companies to move up to the assembly area which I believe was the village of Crepon 0983. He also ordered. me to collect what there was of "C" and "D" Companies and form them into one Coy, then move up to join the Battalion in their assembly area. "C" and "D" Companies had each suffered about 40% casualties so I organised them into three rather strong Pls commander by two Pl Commdrs and a C.S.M. of "D" Company. The remaining Pl Commdr of "D" Coy took over 2 i/c of the Company. This was carried out fairly quickly and the Company joined the Battalion at the assembly area just before it moved on to follow up and pass through the 7th Green Howards.
After passing through the green Howards the Battalion met scattered opposition chiefly from Machine Guns and rifles in the large corn fields on the outskirts of villages, the usual method of dealing with this opposition was for either one or two Companies to deploy astride the road into extended formation, the D.D. tanks lined up with them, and the whole lot advanced through the long corn like guns walking a field of roots at the game shoot, the men firing from the hip, the tanks firing B.E.S.A's and setting fire to hay stacks and barns with tracer, the enemy frequently ran, bent double through the long corn and were shot like rabbits, some stayed right until the end, and one German was literally kicked from a Spandau by the 2 i/c of "B" Company. Villages were dealt with by turning the Artillery on them if there was any opposition, and a Company going in from each side of them. The C.O. was wounded by M.G. fire early in the afternoon, whilst he was up with the forward troops of "B" Company urging them to keep going.
The last advance was made shortly before dark with "D" Company on the right and "A" Company on the left, the objective was a small village the name of which I cannot remember, it was situated some 2000 or 3000 yds short of St Ledger on the Caen - Bayeux road, this village was reached without further opposition, "D" Company took up positions on the far side of the village and dug in. BN H.QRs was established in the village with "A" Company on the left of it and "B" Company on the right.
A quiet night was spent here the only enemy activity was on Aircraft that flew low over the village, heading towards the beaches in the early hours of the morning. The Company carriers came up here and ammunition supplies were replenished. Early the next morning a patrol from "D" Company was sent out to St Ledger which came back and reported that there was no organised enemy there, the Bn then moved on down the road and occupied St Ledger without any further opposition, the Bn then took up a defensive position across the main road Caen - Bayuex, and was in position and digging in by noon on "D" plus 1. On "D" plus 2 re-enforcements arrived and "C" and "D" Companies were formed into separate Companies. The Bn remained in this area until the Sunday after "D" Day during which time patrols were sent out but there was nothing happened of any importance.’
McDougall latterly lived near Neath, in Breconshire, Glamorgan, Wales, where he died in 1986.