I Was There! - We Shelled German Targets at 11 Miles Range
There is at least one German who can vouch for the accuracy of the guns of the cruiser H.M.S. Arethusa during the bombardment of Normandy. This unfortunate Hun was perched on the top of a chimney stack in a factory area acting as spotter for the shore batteries. The story is told by the Arethusa's gunnery officer Lieut.-Commander H. T. Burchell, D.S.C.
I wouldn't have had his job for all the tea in China. We were nearly ten miles out, but we managed to get within about 25 yards of the chimney although we didn't actually hit it. We started a couple of large fires and we heard later that the chimney had been destroyed by our aircraft.
We were at the head of the column of bombarding battleships and cruisers, and our position was on the eastern flank. Our original target was a shore battery, but hardly had we commenced firing when a number of enemy destroyers came out of Le Havre and opened up on us. We switched our fire on them and they scuttled back to harbour without causing any trouble. We then returned to our original target and put it out of action.
Forward observers ashore sent back positions of targets which varied from the gentleman on the chimney to tanks, lorries, infantry and gun batteries. We also had a crack at a chateau which was being used as enemy headquarters. We were eleven miles out, but got at least three direct hits. The chaps ashore were very pleased with our shooting and one Brigadier signalled that we had broken up three counter-attacks on his troops. In all we got rid of 2,282 rounds of ammunition.
We were attacked many times by enemy aircraft at night, but were not hit. You would have thought that will all those thousands of ships lying offshore they couldn't have missed, but they did. We had two near misses, and that was all.
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