Maps

The Pursuit - 17th to the 27th August

 

During the morning of the 18th August, the 3rd Parachute Brigade resumed their advance and attempted to move off the Island by crossing the canal just over half a mile to the east of their position. They were halted, however, by accurate machine-gun fire and shelling, the latter being directed from the high ground around Dozulé, two miles to the east. It was vital that the 3rd Parachute Brigade should get off the Island as soon as possible because the Dozulé heights offered German artillery observers an excellent view of the whole area.

 

The German plan was not to halt the 6th Airborne Division, but for a determined rearguard to delay them as much as possible. Although their positions were not held in great strength, they had been excellently sited and could heavily punish a careless attack. Because the enemy at Dozulé could see every movement that the Division made by day, Major-General Gale favoured a night-attack. He felt that it would be too much to ask of the 3rd Parachute Brigade to secure the canal as well as the key ground on the other side. The plan, therefore, was for the Brigade to secure each of the four crossings over the canal so that the 5th Parachute Brigade could pass through them and take the southerly village of Putot-en-Auge as well as the high ground beyond it.

 

The 3rd Parachute Brigade began moving towards the canal at 22:00, making good progress and meeting less resistance from the 744th Grenadier Regiment than had been expected. To the north of the Island, "C" Company of the 1st Canadian Battalion captured the railway bridge, and although it had been blown before they arrived, it was found that it could still be used to transfer infantry to the other side. The next bridge, to the south, had been thoroughly destroyed, and patrols indicated that the other two bridges had also been blown. This proved to be incorrect, however, because "A" Company of the 1st Canadian Battalion had managed to secure the southern-most bridge intact. The Canadians had got the operation off to a most successful start, having secured two crossings and overcome two companies of German infantry in the process, taking one hundred and fifty prisoners.

 

The final objective of the 3rd Parachute Brigade was for the 9th Battalion to cross the canal and capture the railway station at Dozulé. Proceeding across the northern-most and partially wrecked bridge, the Battalion assembled on the far side and headed southwards with great speed. By 01:00 they had taken the station, but for their trouble they received a good deal of attention from the German guns, which by late morning had inflicted fifty-four casualties upon them.