Battle report: Rye, 17 September 1940, 08:17-10:15

This battle, part of my Play By E-mail campaign of Operation Sealion, was fought using 3mm models by Osmy Oddzial on scratch-built terrain built on Kallistra Hexon tiles.

08:17. 62nd Infantry Battalion suffered from Communications issues.  The 88mm guns offshore and the supporting destroyer had no visible targets.  However the 81mm mortar platoon of 4th Company, 19th Infantry Battalion was able to see the 1st machine gun platoon of 7th Devons, but unfortunately unable to hit anything.  2nd Company 19th Battalion also fired on them but also missed.

The machine gun platoon of 1st Company 19th managed to hit and wound one of the gunners of 4 Platoon 7th Devons further along the main road.  The 19th Battalion continued to press westwards towards the stream running west of Camber Castle.

62nd Infantry Battalion’s task was to advance from Rye Harbour towards Rye Town along the minor road, but first most of them had to pass through the now blazing village.

On the northeast flank the pioneers who had landed east of the river began to clear the barbed wire from the beach.  Offshore the barges were milling about, but one more barge with two 75mm infantry guns landed at the beach where the pioneers were working.

08:18 The Royal Artillery spotter concentrated the fire of all six 25pr guns on 5th and 6th companies of 62nd Infantry Battalion moving out of Rye Harbour along the road.  Despite the cover from the hedgerows one man was killed and three wounded.

C Rye 17 08 a The road to Rye

2nd Platoon 7th Devons fired at the pioneers near the destroyed bridge wounding one of them.  All available British infantry, including the motorcycle platoon, were rushed towards the southwest flank where the Germans were approaching in force.  The Royal Irish Fusiliers north of the river moved into the northeast end of Rye.

08:24 The 62nd Infantry Battalion around Rye Harbour gathered in stragglers to their respective companies while the 19th Battalion was ordered to move westwards from the beachhead southwest of Rye Harbour.  All Regimental Assets were ordered to land wherever they could get ashore and regroup later.

The machine gun of 3rd Company 19th fired from the central tower of the castle and wiped out 4th Platoon of 7th Devons, killing two men and wounding the other one.

C Rye 17 08 b Camber Castle

In the northeast the pioneers and one machine gun platoon moved off the beach, while behind them two 75mm gun platoons made their way across the beach.

08:30. The Royal Artillery Spotter lost contact with his Regimental HQ, thus allowing the Germans a brief chance to consolidate.  2nd Platoon, 7th Devons used their Vickers machine gun against the last of 2nd Platoon 62nd Infantry east of the destroyed bridge, wounding one man, while 1st platoon wasted ammunition against the German Machine Gunners in the castle tower.

The remnants of the battered machine gun platoons of 7th Company Devons loaded up and began to withdraw in their 15cwt trucks toward Rye while the infantry were trucked south to replace them.

08:31. Any targets for the offshore guns were blocked by other barges across the line of sight of the spotter.  19th Battalion’s mortar fired at the British motorcyclists but failed to do any damage, as did two machine guns.

The first platoon of 1st Company 19th struggled across the stream southwest of the castle while the 62nd Battalion continued to push along the minor road from Rye Harbour.

The two infantry guns got off the beach in the northeast while another barge beached immediately southwest of Rye Harbour.

08:33. The guns of the Royal Artillery concentrated on the captured trucks and German infantry east of the destroyed bridge but achieved nothing but to churn up the grass.  The British machine guns were just as effective.  The two 15cwt trucks arrived at Rye while the motorcyclists dismounted at the southwest end of the defensive line along the Winchelsea Road.

08:35. No sooner had the motorcyclists dismounted than one was killed by a mortar shell and the others fled.  Rye was also shelled by mortars but no damage was done.

Two more platoons of 1st Company 19th Infantry Battalion managed to cross the stream southwest of the castle, leaving only the machine gun platoon to catch up as it could.

C Rye 17 08 c Winchelsea Road

On the road from Rye Harbour the two machine gun platoons of 4th Company 62nd Infantry waited for their mortar platoon to dismount the tubes and join them. The pioneers began to move westwards along the northern river bank while the 75mm guns deployed to their northeast.

Two 37mm anti-tank guns disembarked on the beach southwest of Rye Harbour

C Rye 17 08 d Rye Harbour

08:38.  Despite the smoke around the bridge the RA spotter was able to make out movement around the captured lorries lined up on the road.  He plastered the area again, but continued to hit nothing.  The supporting machine guns west of the bridge had more success though, killing one German and wounding a second.  That put paid to 7th Company, 62nd Infantry and left 62nd Battalion HQ isolated in the front line!

The remnants of 6th and 8th Company Devonshires debussed to the west of the main road near the castle and prepared to take up defensive positions.

08:42.  The two 88mm guns opened up again against Rye town.  Although one shell landed close to a 15cwt truck, no damage was suffered.

The pioneers continued westwards along the northern river bank while the newly-arrived 37mm guns began to circumnavigate the larger lake, moving to the southwest.  They were met by two more barges, one with the third anti-tank gun and a SP 20mm AA gun, and another with two platoons of cyclists.

C Rye 17 08 e German cyclists landing

The fourth platoon of 1st Company 19th Infantry Battalion joined their comrades on the western bank of the stream to the southwest, while the heavy weapons company moved up to the stream in an attempt to follow them.

C Rye 17 08 f 19th Bn close up

08:43. The 25pr guns destroyed two of the three captured lorries on the road east of the destroyed bridge, but hurt no Germans in the process.  The two machine guns also fired and suppressed the 62nd Battalion HQ.

As the rifles of 6th and 8th Devonshires moved forwards the Anti-tank team of 62nd AT Battery embussed for the withdrawal into Rye.

08:49. The 88mm guns fired again at Rye, doing no significant damage.  On the southwest flank 19th Battalion’s mortar inflicted two dead and one wounded against 8th Company Devonshires, as the infantry of 1st Company 19th moved onto the Winchelsea Road.

Back at the beach two platoons of cyclists cursed their bicycles as they struggled out of the surf and onto the shingle.

C Rye 17 08 g overview

08:54. The only target visible to the RA spotter was a machine gun team north of the Rye Harbour Road, but not for long.  Soon two of the crew were badly wounded and the third was dead.

Regimental HQ ordered all troops to withdraw into Rye Town, while the HQ would move into the northeast end of the town.

08:59.  The 88mm guns offshore fired their last rounds at Rye, causing no casualties, and then the ferry withdrew.

German companies across the front consolidated their positions.  There was some sporadic machine gun fire to no effect.

09:05. The British commenced their consolidation for the defence of Rye.

09:06.  Just as the 15cwt truck with 62nd AT Battery arrived in Rye it was hit by a mortar shell, destroying it with its passengers.

1st Company 19th Battalion regrouped on the main road in the southwest.  4th company failed to find a crossing point at the stream while 2nd company, less the machine gun platoon, prepared to leave the castle.

The two 75mm guns unlimbered east of Rye and deployed to open fire, while the smaller anti-tank guns struggled along the beach east of the large lake.

C Rye 17 08 h 19th Bn cross the stream

09:11. The RA spotter having reestablished himself in the northeast corner of Rye and made contact with HQ was able to bring down fire on the pioneers moving along the river bank.  Between the pioneers and the accompanying machine gun six men fell dead or wounded.  Rifle fire from Rye wounded a seventh man.

Two machine gun platoons debussed in Rye and began to set up on the southern edge of town.

09:16.  The two 75mm infantry guns opened fire on Rye, but no casualties were inflicted.  1st Company 19th began to advance up the main road while 3rd company began to move out of the castle and 4th company started to cross the stream.

The troops on the beach moved slowly to the southwest and were joined by a third company of cyclists and an artillery observation team.

C Rye 17 08 i Artillery reinforcements

09:22.  The Royal Artillery turned their attention to the newly deployed 75mm guns and one of the Opel trucks exploded.  The lorry with the last of 8th Devonshires continued towards Rye along the side of the railway track.

09:26. The 75mm guns continued to fire against Rye, with a few near misses.

4th Company 62nd Battalion moved west along the road from Rye Harbour.

19th Battalion continued their gradual advance between the Winchelsea Road and Camber Castle.

09:31. The second Opel truck of the 75mm battery was hit by a further barrage from the 25pr guns.  This left the German guns with only seven rounds between them.

C Rye 17 08 l German artillery under fire

Two machine guns in Rye fired at 4th Company 62nd and wounded one of the crew.

The lorry reached the railway crossing and headed towards Rye.

09:36. The Germans suffered from wireless failures and only the 19th Battalion was able to communicate.  The only effective firing was a machine gun of 4th Company 62nd which knocked out the 2nd Platoon MG of 7th Devonshires.

The cyclists managed to move off the beach south of the large lake, while a battery of 105mm guns disembarked on the same beach.

09:42. The 25pr guns hit one of the 75mm guns east of Rye, wounding three of the crew and disabling the gun.

09:47. The mortar of 4th Company 62nd Infantry destroyed one of the empty 15cwt trucks in Rye, while the remaining company MG hit the last MG team of 7th Devons.  The remnants of that battalion retreated Northeast towards Brookland.

19th Infantry Battalion was impeded by hedgerows but continued their slow progress towards Rye from the southwest.  Two more barges beached at and south of Rye Harbour.

09:48 British RHQ gave orders to pull out of Rye and move northeast towards Brookland.  The RA observer team moved northeast to rejoin the regiment and thence on to Brookland

09:51. All German shooting was ineffective.  A second 105mm battery landed at Rye Harbour and a third immediately to the southwest, on the beach.  The 7th Infantry Regiment HQ with a PzJg I SP anti-tank gun landed east of the river mouth.

C Rye 17 08 m Final barges head ashore

Most of the troops on the beach by the lake were struggling to move.

09:56 The British Regimental HQ left Rye, followed by the Royal Irish Fusiliers on foot.  Rye was now open for occupation and by 10:10 the first German infantry cautiously entered the town.

C Rye 17 08 q Rye in German hands

10:11 The last of the British troops left the area along the road towards Brookland.

10:15. The Germans commenced regrouping.  19th Infantry Battalion in Rye, 62nd Battalion on the Rye Harbour Road. The anti-tank guns at the castle and the howitzer batteries between the two lakes.

C Rye 17 08 n Rye harbour to Rye

C Rye 17 08 o German cyclists and artillery