Maps

The planned positions of the 2nd Parachute Brigade

The 2nd Parachute Brigade, 15th August

 

Photos

British and American Paratroopers

 

Brigade Headquarters arrived on DZ-O intact and by 06:15 had set up shop in Le Mitan, from where they established wireless communications with the 4th and 6th Battalions. As "B" Company was the only component of the 5th Battalion to land on the drop zone, it was not possible for them to carry out their original tasks of forming a strong point to the North of Le Mitan and capturing the bridge over the River Endre to the East. Instead standing patrols were sent out in the direction of both, while the main body formed a defensive position around Brigade Headquarters and prepared to act as a reserve.

 

The 4th Parachute Battalion

 

The 4th Battalion began proceedings without their commander, as Lieutenant-Colonel Coxen, together with "A" Company and half of Support Company, had been dropped near Fayence with the rest of the 5th Battalion. In his absence, just half of "B" Company and a section of the Medium Machine Gun Platoon, sadly without their guns, reached the rendezvous during the first hours. Major Hargreaves led these against the Battalion's primary objective, the high ground to the East of Le Muy, which they quickly gained after several brief skirmishes with German patrols. They were joined at 09:00 by Major Martin, the Battalion Second-in-Command, who had brought with him "C" Company, a section of the Anti-Tank Platoon, and one mortar.

 

Leaving "B" Company to dig-in on the hill, "C" Company moved off towards the next objective; the bridge over the River Nartuby to the North of Le Muy. The precise timing of events is unclear, but it is likely that they were preceded by a four-man patrol, led by a Resistance guide, who had been sent to the bridge to report on its condition and the state of the enemy defences around the crossroads immediately to the North of it. Having worked their way along the riverbank to take up a position close to the bridge, they spotted a German party advancing towards them with two American prisoners. At close range they called on them to get down and then shot their escorts. With their presence revealed, the patrol decided that they had no option but to rush the crossroads, accompanied by the Americans who took up the arms of their fallen captors. An exchange of fire followed, but when the 4th Battalion's mortar on the hill intervened, the Germans believed they were being attacked by a much larger force and withdrew towards Le Muy, leaving the bridge in British hands.

 

Pivotal to the security of the bridge was the small group of houses at Les Serres, 300 yards to the East. As the leading platoon of "C" Company entered it, the troops behind came under fire from some nearby buildings, and a medical orderly and Lieutenant Stewart of No.9 Platoon were killed with two others wounded. Covered by mortar fire and smoke, "C" Company attacked the buildings, killing 16 Germans and taking 29 prisoners at a cost of a further 5 killed and 5 wounded. One of these buildings was found to be a Field Post Office which contained much useful information, and this was passed back to Brigade Headquarters. "C" Company then proceeded to organise Les Serres into a defensive position.

 

At 10:15, a small group of enemy troops attempted to drive "B" Company off the hill, but were repulsed with at least 4 killed. Several Germans were later spotted assembling in the area of the factory, near the railway station 1,000 yards to the South, and these were duly mortared. With the enemy now quite aware that the British were on the hill, they subjected the area to sniper and machine-gun fire throughout the remainder of the day.

 

The 6th Parachute Battalion

 

The 6th Battalion had emerged from the drop in better shape than they had thought possible in view of the weather conditions. Lieutenant-Colonel Barlow and all of his company commanders quickly assembled at the rendezvous with 150 men, and that number doubled as the morning progressed.

 

While the Battalion waited for more men to arrive, Sergeant Thomas of the Intelligence Section brought in a German he had taken prisoner on the drop zone, and on being questioned he revealed that the Clastron farm, "C" Company's objective, was held by 100 men. A patrol confirmed this, and when "C" Company advanced on it they came under rifle fire, fatally wounding one man. While this was going on, the first glider lift began to arrive at 09:20, and this impressive spectacle, coupled with the fire of the disembarking Americans, had a most demoralising effect on the Germans in the farm as it became clear that their position was untenable. They held a number of British prisoners, including Captain Thomson of "A" Company and Sergeant Tucker who had been captured along with most of his No.2 Platoon when they landed on top of the farm. At Tucker's suggestion, the whole force of one officer and 85 men surrendered themselves to him. He tried without success to signal the Americans to break off their attack, and it was only when a German medical orderly held up a white flag that the firing ceased, allowing "C" Company to move forward and occupy the farm.

 

The 6th Battalion's main objective was to hold La Motte and the surrounding area. The original plan had been for "A" Company to secure the high ground to the North-East of it, while "B" Company captured the bridge to the South before moving in to occupy the village after it had been cleared by the 2nd Battalion, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment. In the event, it was not until the early afternoon that "A" Company were able to reach the high ground, and when "B" Company arrived outside La Motte at 08:45 and could find no evidence of either Americans or Germans, they simply marched in and occupied it. At midday, they captured and subsequently destroyed a nearby ammunition dump, killing two enemy and taking several prisoners.

 

With the capture of La Motte, Le Mitan, and the high ground overlooking Le Muy, the 2nd Parachute Brigade had achieved all of its primary objectives and occupied a firm position from where it could frustrate any enemy movement into the area from the North and the East. There was little enough of this, however, and with every hour that passed the strength of the Brigade increased as those who had been dropped wide of the zone reported to their units. By the end of the day, even the 5th Battalion had arrived in sufficient numbers to expand their defensive screen further northwards.

 

The main secondary task assigned to the 2nd Parachute Brigade was the capture of Le Muy, which was reported to be held by several hundred Germans. The original plan had been for a company of the 5th Battalion to relieve the 4th on the high ground to the East of Le Muy, thereby freeing-up the latter to attack the town. The 5th Battalion, however, did not yet have the strength to do this, and with most of their "A" Company still missing, the 4th Battalion could not hold the high ground and clear Le Muy at the same time. A shortage of manpower was not their only concern because they were also deficient in support weapons, as not only were many of their mortars and machine-guns missing, but the 75mm guns of the 64th Airlanding Light Battery had failed to arrive with the glider lift. As it was clear that the 2nd Parachute Brigade could not attack Le Muy without imperilling its positions elsewhere, Brigadier-General Frederick relieved them of the responsibility in favour of the 550th Glider Infantry Battalion, who were due to arrive at 18:00 with the second glider lift.