On 22th June 1944, 7th Hampshire landed on the Normandy beaches near le Hamel, where 1st Hampshire had landed 16 days earlier.
Initially in reserve, but on 10th July they were given the task of capturing and holding the village of Maltot and the woods beyond. This entailed a long advance down a slope with little cover and in full view of the enemy.
7th Hampshire attacked at 8.15am supported by tanks. Advancing towards Maltot, they met fierce opposition and sustained heavy casualties. Part of the Battalion did manage to enter the village where they attempted to secure defensive positions. Unfortunately, they ran into a very strongly defended enemy position with Tiger tanks concealed and dug in on the outskirts of the village. Consequently, the enemy were able to counter attack strongly and the situation for the companies in the village became hopeless. Although help came from reinforcements, they eventually had to withdraw. The casualties suffered were high, 18 officers and 208 Other Ranks were killed, wounded or missing.
7th Hampshire continued in the line and towards the end of July were part of the general operation for the breakout. On 30th July their attack began on the village of Cahagnes, in the difficult close wooded country of the bocage. A night advance to capture the enemy position was unsuccessful but constant pressure was maintained and the enemy withdrew.
Their next task was a deceptive frontal attack on Mont Pincon. This dominated a large area and it was essential that this feature was taken. The attack stared and the first objectives were taken without much difficulty. When phase two started, the enemy, now fully alert, inflicted many casualties and an effort had to be made to by-pass this opposition by crossing a stream in order to reach the final objective.
Despite this, 7th Hampshire’s operation was successful and fulfilled its task of engaging the enemy’s attention. They had advanced to the foot of Mont Pincon and in the next few days took up the defence of the reverse slopes. On 14th August they moved forward for a successful assault on St-Denis-de-Mere.
The 7th Hampshire was now part of the historic break out through the ruins of the defeated German Army. They moved to a position at Chambois through the confusion and devastation. After two further moves they crossed the River Seine on 27th August and took up a defensive position on the other side. Here they were ordered to capture the village of Tilly. This was taken despite opposition from pockets of enemy in the woods with the help of tanks.
The battalion remained here for 11 days until selected to go to Brussels for garrison duty. Here they were involved with escorting prisoners, providing guards and clearing areas of suspected enemy before taking part in Operation Market Garden to relieve the beleaguered 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem. Some 160 casualties were incurred in fighting on the south bank of the river Lower Rhine.
Winter brought a move to Maastricht area after tiring months in defence east of Nijmegen. Hurriedly moved to defend river Meuse bridges against the German threat through the Ardennes, Christmas was celebrated late before a return to Maastricht to take part in 43rd Division’s attacks towards Geilenkirchen and the ‘Siegfried Line’. After the Reichswald battle in February, the Battalion crossed the river Rhine to fight its way across the river lower Ijssel back into the Netherlands. Hengelo ‘turned into a triumphal procession’ to liberate the town.
Into Germany, and a grim fight in Cloppenburg before advancing on Bremen, liberated by other units of the Division. The Hamm-Ost canal was reached driving north on Bremenhaven, where news was received of the end of the War in Europe. During the Occupation of Germany, the 7th were stationed at Winsen-Lühe, on the river Elbe, Soltau – appropriately in the re-named Bournemouth Barracks, and finally Berlin, before disbandment at Luneberg in July 1946.
To the disappointment of many the reformation of the TA in 1947 saw the 7th Battalion re-formed as 524 (later 642) Light Anti Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.