DURING the Second World War the Royal Ulster Rifles had the distinction of being the only Regiment in the British Army who had two Battalions to land in Normandy on D Day, June 6, 1944. The 2nd Battalion landed on Sword Beach on the morning of D Day, and the 1st Battalion landed by glider, near Ranville, later on that day.
As they made their way from the beach, the 2nd Battalion very quickly ran in to heavy German resistance at a place called Cambes Wood, on the edge of the village of Cambes-en-Plein. The Rifles were under orders to capture that village as part of their attack on the city of Caen. In the battle that followed, even though the Rifles managed to take the strongpoint, they suffered very heavy casualties.
On the tour that I lead every year to the Somme, and the Normandy Landing Beaches and Air-landing areas, I make a point of bringing everyone to Cambes Wood.
We always have a short Act of Remembrance there at the Memorial to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles, paying tribute to all who served, and all who were killed and did not come home again. We also visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery alongside the Memorial, at Cambes-en-Plein. Some of the Royal Ulster Riflemen who were killed in the battle for Cambes Wood are buried in that Cemetery.
And as I always find it more meaningful to personalize visits like that, I focus in what I say on one of the Riflemen who lies buried there, and, with his family’s permission, I tell a little bit of his story. But alongside that Rifleman that I feature, on each side of his grave, lie two other Royal Ulster Riflemen. They also died in the battle for Cambes Wood.
They were killed just three days after the landings of D Day. Someone said to me some time ago that they thought that these two men were from Lisburn, but despite all kinds of inquiries I have never been able to trace their families.
Does anyone know anything of these two men or their families? Rifleman Richard George Patton, killed 9th June 1944, and Rifleman William John Rice, killed 9th June 1944. If you know anything of them, or of their families, I would be very interested to hear from you. They are just two of the thousands who died in the battle for freedom from the Nazis. But to their families they were precious, and it is to remember and honour men like them that I began organizing and leading tours to the Battlefields of Europe.
While this year’s Somme and D Day tour has passed, there is still the tour leaving on 9th September for one week to visit Passchendael, Messines, and Ypres from the First World War. We also visit the Secon World War “Bridge Too Far” and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Arnhem. And the site nearby of the battle at Oosterbeek. As well as that we walk the evacuation beaches at Dunkirk, and visit the Memorial to the Missing and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery at Dunkirk. And so much more that space does not permit me to cover it all.
However, if anyone could help me with any information on either of those two Royal Ulster Riflemen I would be most grateful. Or if anyone would like any more information on the September tour, or indeed on next year’s tour to the Somme and the D Day Landing Areas, please give me a ring on 9269 0701.