Maps

The positions of the 6th Airborne Division, on the 7th June

 

Pictures

Looking towards Bréville from the edge of DZ-N

Looking towards the Bois de Bavent from the edge of DZ-N

Soldiers resting beside a Horsa glider

An airborne soldier and an officer standing beside the discarded tail section of a Horsa glider

Commandos look on German prisoners are taken away by Jeep

Frenchmen of No.10 Commando meet the people of Amfreville

Frenchmen of No.10 Commando meet the people of Amfreville

A crashed Dakota near the coast

 

The 8th Battalion, in control of the Bois de Bavent, were rather isolated from the other actions of the 6th Airborne Division and were effectively fighting their own private war. Conditions in the dense woodland were made miserable by a lack of sunlight, leaving both the ground and everyone's clothes forever wet, furthermore the area was infested with swarms of mosquitoes and flies. Due to the nature of the closely wooded terrain and a great deal of mine-laying by both sides, heavy attacks could not be mounted upon the 8th Battalion and so actions were largely confined to fighting off enemy patrols and dealing with snipers. In the first few days the Germans shelled the woodland and caused casualties, mostly as a result of lethal splinters from tree bursts. This was, however, greatly reduced when the Battalion's positions became more established and proper overhead cover was constructed to dampen such threats. Lt-Colonel Pearson always ensured that the initiative remained with his paratroopers by incessantly sending out fighting patrols far and wide in the surrounding area, sometimes as far as Troarn and Bures. With such short and sharp raiding techniques, the 8th Battalion were able to aggravate any German activity in this south-eastern point of the Divisional perimeter.

 

To the west of the 8th Battalion the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment came into the line. It had originally been intended that the Reconnaissance Regiment would form a roaming Armoured Group, consisting of its Tetrarch light tanks, the artillery of the Light Regiment's 211th Battery, and a company of the 12th Devonshires. However, in light of the fact that the Division's strength was stretched more thinly than had been anticipated, the Devons were retained in their infantry role, whilst the Reconnaissance Regiment was redeployed to the west of the Bois de Bavent. Here they fell back into their traditional role of being the eyes and ears of the Division, by setting up a series of observation posts to monitor enemy movements in the area. They also sent patrols, some mounted in Jeeps, others on bicycles, extremely deep into enemy territory to locate troop concentrations and vehicle parks. Their discoveries were then relayed back to Divisional HQ so that the position could be bombarded by their artillery, the air force or the Navy's guns.

 

 

On the 7th June, "B" Company of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion were still holding their positions in Robehomme. By this time the loneliness of their situation was becoming apparent, with no friendly forces upon their flanks whilst the village of Bavent, to their rear, was swarming with the enemy. Orders were received to pull back to the Battalion's positions at Le Mesnil as soon as darkness began to fall. The paratroopers successfully made their way back via Briqueville, to the south, having fought several engagements at no cost. The leading unit, which scouted ahead for opposition, attacked and overcame a roadblock, accounting for seven Germans killed and one wounded man taken prisoner. Pushing on they also encountered and dealt with a German truck, a pillbox position and several enemy patrols.

 

The 9th Battalion had spent the 6th June in the Chateau d'Amfreville, but towards the end of the 7th June, now that the 1st Special Service Brigade were taking over responsibility for the northern flank of the 6th Airborne's defence, the Battalion received orders to proceed to the woodland around the Chateau St Côme, to the south of Bréville, in order to tighten the 3rd Parachute Brigade's position. They arrived during the early hours of the 8th June and proceeded to dig in around the area, centred on a villa in the Bois de Mont woodland. Lt-Colonel Otway was concerned about the ability of his weak Battalion to adequately defend such a wide area, and so it was agreed with Brigadier Hill that they would defend the woods and hope to deny the Chateau St Côme to the Germans by means of heavy patrolling.

 

 

No.6 Commando had been teased by snipers during the night, who fired aimless shots in the hope of drawing a response which would give away their positions. The Commandos, however, maintained their discipline and did not reply. During the next morning their positions at Le Plein were shelled, in return for which, British artillery pounded Bréville Wood, where the nearest enemy were located. Shortly afterwards a paratrooper emerged from this wood, Sergeant Sanderson of the 9th Battalion, who had been captured when he landed there on the previous night but took the opportunity to escape during the shelling. He gave the Commandos a thorough account of the German positions and added that they had been badly shaken by the bombardment. No.6 Commando immediately put in an attack and, for the loss of one man killed, they took fifteen prisoners, four field guns, two 20-mm guns and five machine-guns, all of which were brought over to their lines.

 

A report had reached Divisional HQ that the guns of the Merville Battery were operational again and that they were in the process shelling Sword Beach. With an adequate reserve force now in Ranville, Major-General Gale gave back No.3 Commando to Lord Lovat's command, and two of their Troops, under Major Pooley, were ordered to attack the Battery. When they arrived, the Commandos found that the Germans had indeed reoccupied the position and these were soon overwhelmed. The 9th Battalion, however, had done their job well and the guns had not, in fact, been fired at all. But before they could pull back a strong counterattack, supported by self-propelled guns, was brought down upon No.3 Commando and they suffered heavily in the ensuing fight before they could pull back to the Brigade's lines. Major Pooley was killed during this action and half of his men became casualties.

 

 

The 7th June also saw considerable activity amongst the units of the 5th Para Brigade. At Ranville, "A" Company of the 13th Battalion were attacked by three self-propelled guns, all of which were beaten off. In the hours before the 12th Devonshires arrived to relieve them, matters proved more serious for the 12th Parachute Battalion at Le Bas de Ranville. Their "A" Company was made the target of seven tanks supported by one hundred and fifty infantry. The paratroopers struggled to hold their ground against this heavy assault, and their position was made all the worse when the crew of their only anti-tank gun were all hit. A paratrooper named Private Hall, however, ran across to this gun and proceeded to man it single-handed, very quickly destroying three tanks, the shocking effect of which persuaded the remaining enemy to withdraw.