National Archives catalogue number WO 170/1346.
Month and year : August 1944
Commanding Officer : Capt P.G. Baker
1st to 8th August 1944
From the First to the Eighth of this month there were numerous planning conferences and discussions for Operation DRAGOON (ANVIL). The Platoon was carrying out a great deal of night flying with their respective air-crews. Pathfinder problems were carried out by the air-craft, and the Night Map Reading by the Men the main item of training. The Platoon was also carrying out training on the setting up of aid patterns with the HOLLOPHANE LAMPS - FLUORESCENT GROUND STRIPS - and the new CREST BEACON.
9th August 1944
Exercise THISTLEDOWN. The Bde was to have dropped in a valley near LAKE BRACCIANO. Three skeleton Pathfinder Teams were dropped at 0330 hours from Pathfinder a/c. They were dropped accurately on the DZ through thick ground fog which completely obscured the valley from the air. The Platoon who were on the ground were to erect an aid pattern of a red HOLLOPHANE LAMP T, 1 EUREKA BEACON and 1 CREST M/F BEACON. The Brigade drop was cancelled owing to the thick fog. This exercise pointed out the value of the equipment and highly trained air-crews which enabled them to drop accurately through the thick fog. The Bde Cmdr instructed that every Pathfinder Parachutist should carry a compass as the skeleton teams which had dropped had been unable to locate their position without the aid of a compass until the fog had lifted.
10th August 1944
Brigade Cmdr granted permission for all Pathfinder Parachutists to wear the Pathfinder Wing, consisting of a winged flaming torch to be worn on the lower left sleeve.
11th August 1944
Briefing of Section Offrs for Operation ANVIL (DRAGOON).
12th to 13th August 1944
Briefing of ORs for Operation DRAGOON. Night exercise with 51 T.C. Wing. Complete rehearsal of Air Plan for DRAGOON. Not altogether satisfactory as one block missed DZ by 5 miles. Aid patterns were laid as for DRAGOON.
13th August 1944
Brigade Cmdr addressed the Platoon and told them of the great importance of our role in the operation.
15th August 1944
D-Day for Operation DRAGOON. The Platoon was sub-divided into 4 teams. 3 Teams to drop ahead of main force to home them to DZ area. 1 Team to drop with Bde HQ as re-inforcement for the Platoon for its role of homing the Glider Elements and re-supply. The Platoon (3 Teams) took off in 3 Pathfinder a/c from MARCIGLIANA AIRFIELD at 0120 hrs. Route was MARCIGLIANA - ELBA - N/CORSICA to I.P. between FREJUS / CANNES thence to DZ Area which was the valley N of LE MUY. Platoon dropped at 0334 hours as scheduled - at the time of drop there was a very thick ground fog which made the pilots task extremely difficult. The Platoon was however dropped accurately on DZ Area, approx 1 Mile from the selected point for the aid pattern. Great difficulty was experienced in re-assembly owing to the fog and the unexpectedly close country - vineyards thick hedgerows and numerous trees. The first part of the Bde drop was scheduled for 0454 hours which allowed the Platoon approximately 80 minutes. In this time the Platoon succeeded in getting a proportion of the Force together and moved roughly 1½ miles across country to the approximate selected area, where a skeleton T was erected and 2 Eureka Beacons erected by 0420 hours. Triggering was heard almost at once. The Brigade commenced dropping as scheduled. Good concentrations of Paratps were obtained on the aids. The fog was still very thick and the aircraft would have been unable to see the visual aids. It transpired later that a number of aircraft missed the DZ completely, owing to a complete electrical failure in the lead aircraft - the whole block dropping their sticks wide. It was stated by the Group Commander that it would have been quite impossible to have dropped the troops anywhere near the DZ without the aids. This was very encouraging for the Platoon, but it was disappointing that the entire Brigade Group was not dropped accurately as they undoubtedly would have been, had it not been for the failure in the lead ship of the block which dropped wide. The Platoon's next responsibility was the homing of the Glider Elements. The LZ was marked with a Red Ground Panel T and the 4 approx areas were marked with Roman numerals. Eureka Beacon and M/F (CREST) Beacon were used as usual. The remainder of the Platoon was busily employed in the removal of numerous ANTI-GLIDER obstacles in the form of stout poles which were fortunately un-mined. After the morning lift of Gliders it then became necessary to remove by burning as many of the gliders as possible in order to reduce the obstacle they presented for the afternoon lift of gliders. The same patterns were laid for the afternoon lift which was due to come between 1400 hours and 1900 hours. The mass landing was successfully homed and landed with a minimum of casualties. The Platoon assisted where possible with the unloading of the gliders.
16th August 1944
First automatic re-supply for the Bde. A Yellow T and Purple Smoke were used with Eureka and CREST Beacons. The aircraft were successfully homed to the DZ area, but the 9-ship V of V's formation and the altitude of the drop resulted in very wide dispersal of the supplies.
17th August 1944
Re-Supply - same aids and same results. Sea borne forces link up.
18th to 20th August 1944
Platoon employed in collecting re-supply & salvage of Air-borne equipment. No W3008 & W3009E was made out for the weeks ending 19th and 26th as no forms were available while in France.
21st August 1944
Platoon move to Bde Concentration Area near FREJUS to await embarkation for return to ITALY.
22nd to 24th August 1944
Platoon in FREJUS Area. Partial re-equipping.
26th August 1944
Embark early morning from RED BEACH - ST RAPHAEL.
29th August 1944
Bde disembarked NAPLES and returned by road to Bde Area near ROME (MAP REF:- ).
30th August 1944
Platoon re-equip and prepare for future operations.
Summing up Operation DRAGOON
In this operation the Platoon suffered only one fatal casualty - Pte Morley who was killed on the drop. All Eureka Beacons were accounted for and brought back to Italy undamaged. A small proportion of lights were lost or damaged. On the whole it was most successful. The weather conditions at the time of the Bde Drop were extremely bad and the fact that over 50% of the aircraft dropped accurately on the DZ and the report of the 62 Group (Troop Carrier) Commander prove that without the aids the operation would have been a complete failure. It was disappointing that 100% of the force were not accurately dropped, but electrical failure and the apparent inability of the aircraft to signal an alternative aircraft to take over the lead was undoubtedly responsible for the inaccuracy of the drop.
The Homing of approx. 400 gliders carrying the 64 Light Battery RA, 300 Air Landing Anti-Tank Bty RA, Airborne Division HQ and the U.S. Glider Battalion consisting of Guns, Infantry, Bulldozers and other heavy equipment (with very low casualties and every glider landing on the LZ Area, which was marked as requested by the Glider Pilots) was extremely successful.
The Homing of the Re-Supply Formations was also successful - it was the poor dispatching and the altitude which caused the wide dispersal in the drop.