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Private Eric Woods

Private Eric Woods

 

Unit : No.17 Platoon, "B" Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

 

This personal version of events of the landings of 6th Airborne troops on 5th June,1944 was dictated by Private Eric Woods, a short time before his death.

 

"It was almost 11pm on 5th June 1944 as quietly we climbed into the Horsa glider that was hitched up to the Halifax tow plane, ready to drag us into the sky. Previously in training, boarding the glider had been a common event with quips and wisecracks from your mates, but this time it was different. Each man clambered aboard and hardly a word was spoken; we knew that our practice was over and that this was the real thing. All must have felt the burn of adrenaline and excitement as, at, midnight, we crossed the French coast; the tension rose further as with a jolt, the glider separated from the Halifax and we commenced our glide down to French soil. Hardly any glider lands without mishap and in unknown territory the chances of a rough landing were high. Our pilot was great in bringing it down in the darkness of the night and we hit the ground with a mighty thump and slithered to a halt. No one was injured. I am still not sure which glider landed first but I was always under the impression that it was ours. Our platoon, commanded by Lieutenant Fox, quickly made our way across the fields to our target, a bridge that crossed the river Orne. It was, fortunately, very lightly defended, the main episode being when a phosphorous bomb was hurled at German defenders who were attempting to man a gun position. The situation was quiet almost as quickly as it started; it was all over in approximately fifteen minutes. Guards were left at the bridge and the remainder of the platoon was redirected across fields to join Major Howard's team at Pegasus Bridge."

 

"One of my most vivid memories on reaching the bridge was finding myself lying alongside Sgt Thornton, who was armed with a Nat anti-tank weapon. On the road on the opposite side of the bridge was a junction and from this emerged three French tanks which had been commandeered by the Germans. Sgt Thornton, nicknamed "Wagger", sighted the Nat and fired, hitting the foremost tank broadside on. It must have been a direct hit on the tanks magazine, for there was a almighty explosion and ammunition continued to explode for more than an hour afterwards. The two remaining tanks quickly retreated from whence they came."

 

"Another of my memories was with a German motorcyclist who had been blown off his machine; his legs were severely injured. A German officer was also at the scene and immediately surrendered to me, passing over his revolver. He was most concerned about his wounded colleague and in very good English, asked for medical assistance, saying, "I don't think you would want to leave one of your mates in this condition, would you?" I assured him that I would return to his comrade with medical assistance as soon as he had accompanied me to surrender himself to a British officer, which he did. I returned and a corporal helped me to get the wretched man to the medics."

 

"The following morning while on guard with a colleague, I asked, "Do the Germans played the bagpipes," to which he replied, "I donít think so." I said that, "I thought I could hear bagpipes." Confirmation came a few minutes later. The sounds of the pipes grew louder as the Green Berets of Lord Lovat's force, advanced towards Pegasus Bridge."

 

Eric Woods died on his birthday, 8th March 2000, aged 77 years.

 

Thanks to Eric's brother, Bertram James Woods, for this account.

 

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