The Pursuit - 17th to the 27th August

A map of the 6th Airborne Division's area



The Princess Irene Brigade, landing in France

The Princess Irene Brigade at Courseulles-sur-Mer

Soldiers of the Brigade en route to Arromanches

Soldiers of the Brigade en route to Arromanches

Soldiers of the Brigade en route to Arromanches

Soldiers of the Brigade relaxing in the Sun, en route to Arromanches

A Daimler armoured car is unloaded

Belgian soldiers dug-in within the 6th Airborne Division's lines


On the 7th August, as the American break-out was taking place, Major-General Gale received instructions from his seniors in I Corps, who were now under the command of the 1st Canadian Army, to prepare the 6th Airborne Division to follow up an anticipated enemy withdrawal.


The prospect of an advance presented a series of difficulties to the Division, to the fore of which was their distinct lack of vehicles. All standard infantry formations have a full range of transport vehicles at their disposal, however the 6th Airborne Division had none beyond what they had been able to borrow from I Corps. Fortunately, both the 1st Belgian and Princess Irene Brigades had their own transport and so they were not a further drain on the Division's slender resources.


Another serious problem that the Division faced was the number of rivers that lay ahead of them. It was expected that the Germans would destroy all bridges as they retreated, and again, unlike standard infantry formations, the Airborne troops had only meagre supplies of bridging material available to them. It was most fitting, therefore, that the pursuit was given the codename "Operation Paddle".


In terms of artillery support, Gale was told to expect nothing beyond what he already had at his disposal. The Division had quite a number of guns, though it was an extremely diverse collection, the managing of which was a constant headache for Gale's Commander Royal Artillery, Colonel Faithfull. In addition to the Division's own Light Regiment, there were two Field Regiments and a Battery of the 1st Belgian Brigade's 25-pounders, as well as a Medium Battery and Heavy Regiment of anti-aircraft guns, the latter of which was currently being used as field artillery.


The German withdrawal had yet to take place, but Gale had alerted all of his Brigades to intensify their patrols and, without orders from him, follow up the withdrawal upon the first sign that it was taking place. His plan was for the Division to move up to the River Dives and cross it in two places. In the north, the 6th Airlanding Brigade, with the 1st Belgian and Princess Irene Brigades under command, were to cross at Cabourg, on the coastal road, whilst the main Divisional effort was to be made in the area of Bures-Troarn.


The plan was for the 3rd Parachute Brigade to lead the advance, capture Bures, cross the River Dives and then move on to the large island in the middle of the Dives Valley. The 4th Special Service Brigade were to move in to Troarn and secure the southern flank, whilst the 5th Parachute Brigade moved through the 3rd Parachute Brigade to carry the advance forward and off the Island. As this was taking place, the 1st Special Service Brigade was to take Robehomme and examine the prospect of making a crossing there.