Maps

The positions of the 6th Airborne Division, from the 8th to 12th June

 

Pictures

Field Ambulance vehicles evacuating 6th Airborne wounded across Bénouville Bridge

 

On the 9th June, the 346th Division continued to probe the 3rd Parachute Brigade for weaknesses with their sights initially set on the 9th Battalion. Having been greatly understrength since the time of its arrival in Normandy, the 9th Battalion were gradually reunited with a good proportion of those persons who had been lost on the drop, and by the 9th June they numbered almost two hundred and fifty.

 

At dawn, the 9th Battalion were heavily mortared before an infantry attack was made against "A" and "B" Companies. The paratroopers allowed the enemy to come within 50 yards of their positions before opening fire with their rifles, machine-guns and mortars, completely decimating the attack. What survivors there were fled into the nearby woodland.

 

 

The village of Bavent, two miles to the east of Le Mesnil, was strongly occupied by the Germans and so the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion decided to make it the target of several probing patrols. The first of these was dispatched in the morning to test the strength of the defenders by encouraging them to open fire with all at their disposal. The mission came close to a disaster when the patrol casually strolled into Bavent and was fired on at very close range by a German machine-gunner, but amazingly not a single man was hit. The Canadians immediately went about their work and made as much noise as they could to awaken the garrison. Some men entered buildings and cleared them of enemy troops, whilst others opened fire on the many Germans who subsequently scampered through the streets and over the rooftops. A few wild rounds were even fired into the village from a captured mortar before the patrol withdrew. Once outside the village, Lieutenant McGowan ordered three men to break cover and draw the fire of the machine-guns to reveal their positions. The Germans opened up at these men with all that they had, but luckily none of them were hurt in the process. It had been a very successful patrol, although one man had been killed and another wounded.

 

 

During the day, the 6th Airlanding Brigade had received a report stating that the enemy were pulling out of Sainte Honorine. A patrol of the 12th Devonshires was sent to investigate but it had to fall back when they bumped into heavy resistance on the high ground of the Ring Contour. Nevertheless, Brigadier Kindersley believed that Sainte Honorine was there for the taking and so directed a stronger force, in the form of the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, to carry out an attack. They had some success on the way when "D" Company surprised a platoon of Germans, however a reconnaissance party found that infantry and armour were moving back into the village and so the Ulsters retired to Longueval.

 

The 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry had similarly been informed that the Germans had withdrawn from Escoville, and so "C" Company were ordered to take it. Despite being shelled as they entered Escoville, they met no resistance on the ground. After time, however, German soldiers and tanks came back and, with "C" Company's flanks threatened, they slipped away and returned to Herouvillette.

 

 

In the afternoon, "A" Company of the 9th Battalion observed that two platoons of German infantry were attempting to work their way around their position and so a fighting patrol, led by Major Charlton, was sent out to disperse them. Unfortunately these platoons were supported by several machine-guns and so the paratroopers lost many men in the attempt. Seven were killed, including Major Charlton.

 

 

In the evening, as a precursor to several infantry attacks, German guns pounded the southern flank of the 6th Airborne Division from Le Bas de Ranville to Herouvillette, even a number of fighters joined in the bombardment. The first attack was made against the 2nd Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry by the 192nd Panzer Grenadier Regiment, who managed to get within 100 yards of both "C" and "D" Companies before the sheer volume of their defensive fire broke up the attack. The Battalion's machine-guns and anti-tank guns had been well-sited and so the Germans suffered heavily. At 21:30, they withdrew, leaving behind many dead and twelve wrecked armoured vehicles.

 

At Le Bas de Ranville, the 12th Devonshires had suffered the worst of the artillery bombardment. The attack, beginning at 20:00, succeeded in getting in between the Devons positions, however a counterattack won back this ground. Half an hour later, three companies of the 125th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, supported by tanks, advanced under smoke to challenge "A" Company. From a range of 300 yards the Company opened fire upon the advancing infantry whilst the artillery of the 3rd Infantry Division put down a barrage in their path. In spite of this murderous fire, the Germans continued to struggle forward until, at last, they broke and fled.

 

 

During the night, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion made a further attempt to stir up Bavent with another patrol into the village. Twelve men of "C" Company were dispatched to protect a group of fourteen sappers, who were to place high explosive charges in several houses and on a heavy mortar position that had been located. At a cost of one man killed and another wounded, the task was successfully completed.