1st Battalion the Hampshire Regiment: D Day, 6th of June 1944.

artefact

Painting by Leslie Arthur Wilcox.

Displayed in the Public Rooms of the 2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment this painting portrays the storming of Gold Beach by the lead elements of the 1 Hampshire Battle Group as part of 231 Division. 

The Hampshires were already a battle seasoned unit by 1944 having conducted a similar role in the first wave of the amphibious assault on Sicily, on 10th July 1943, as part of Operation HUSKY.  The Battalion was only withdrawn from combat operations in November of that year to undergo training ahead of Operation OVERLORD – the Allies’ invasion of mainland Europe: it was their first time on British soil in 22 years. 

After a rapid, but ferocious, advance inland 1st Hampshires captured Le Hamel and Arromanches and were fundamental in cracking Rommel’s defensive crust through the destruction of a number of key weapon and command positions.  A heavy price was suffered with the Commanding Officer injured almost immediately on landing and the Battalion Second in Command killed shortly afterwards.  Company and Platoon Commanders, often in their early twenties, seized the initiative in the first bloody and confusing hours of the day and drove in land outflanking substantial opposition and striking from the rear, inflicting heavy loss on the defenders and then capturing key equipment and scores of prisoners. 

The 1st Hampshires suffered 182 casualties in this single day but remained operational, fighting through France and in to the Netherlands until being retired from the line in November 1944.