While carrying out their daily duties in Helmand, Royal Marines took a moment this week to reflect on the sacrifice their colleagues from 66 years ago made during the D-Day landings in France.
6 June is marked every year by the men of the Royal Marines, but the memorial was particularly poignant this year for the Commandos of 8 Troop, C Company, 40 Commando Royal Marines, who spent the day under constant enemy threat in a patrol base 600 metres south of Sangin district centre in central Helmand.
Lieutenant Doug Spencer of 40 Commando Royal Marines said:
Sixty-six years ago, the Royal Marines on this day put the troops ashore, facing unbelievable conditions.
It’s on days like this when you remember that even though conditions here are fairly austere, we’re being contacted by insurgents on a daily basis, people before us have had it far harder.
The anniversary of D-Day started early for C Company, with the troop working with Afghan security forces, putting in place a vehicle checkpoint in the village adjacent to their patrol base.
A resupply patrol was then sent back to the forward operating base in the district centre to retrieve supplies and water.
While the troop was out on the ground, the patrol base they had left came under IED attack, with the outer walls being breached.
The returning resupply patrol was then contacted by enemy fire whilst moving back to the patrol base location to link up with their colleagues.
Lance Corporal Joe Leborgne, Royal Marines, said:
About an hour after the patrol left we had a large explosion to the south west edge of the PB [patrol base].
It turns out it was an IED in a wheelbarrow. At that stage I was on the sangar [sentry post], so I got onto the company commander to let him know what was going on.
Once inside the base, the Commandos worked with Afghan security forces stationed at the location to rebuild the defences to the outer wall, under the constant threat of small arms fire.
No sooner had the repairs been made than the base came under sustained and accurate fire from the south. A firefight then ensued with the Marines returning fire on positively identified insurgents:
We received accurate fire and rounds were landing inside the sangars and close to the guys, so we stood the lads to, put them in the sangars and up on the roofs and observed likely firing points,” said Lieutenant Spencer.
We spotted two insurgents with weapons that were shooting at the base, so we engaged them in line with our rules of engagement.
Despite the pace of the day’s events, the troops took time out as the sun set to commemorate the D-Day anniversary with the reading of a poem written by John Henry Beale, who landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 as part of 41 Commando.
Royal Marines were involved in the operations on Sword, Juno and Gold beaches.
Lance Corporal Leborgne commented:
The Corps’ reputation is built on past events since 1664 and that’s why we’re so proud to be who we are.
Events like D-Day are important to remember out of respect for the men that have served before and the men that will serve after us.