Lance-Corporal James H. Bowden

 

Unit : No.3 Troop, 591st Parachute Squadron, RE.

 

The following was researched and compiled by Peter Paul Rea for the Airborne Battle Study Group, Northern Ireland. My thanks to Hugo Mitchell for supplying a copy. See also, Sergeant Jack Campbell.

 

 

Jim dropped on DZ 'N'' at about 0050 hrs on D-Day, the 6th June 1944, under the command of Major J.F. Cramphorn. His task was to destroy the anti-glider poles which the enemy had erected on the LZs.

 

Jim's drop was scattered and he found himself alone in German occupied France. Hearing some soldiers advancing down the road beside him, he hid in a ditch as he could not make out the language. When one of the figures shone his flashlight onto a signpost pointing to Ranville Jim knew they were British. Crossing the road he found that he had dropped on the very edge of DZ 'N', close to the road to Sallenelles. Finding out where he was Jim made his way to the R.V. at Ranville. Under the command of Major J.F. Cramphorn, he began to clear the anti-glider poles on the DZ. In England he was trained to place explosives into a cycles inner tube, wrap it round the poles and explode it. In Normandy he found that he could just kick or push the poles down. The poles were cleared in time and the gliders carrying General Gale and advance Headquarters landed safely. Jim then made his way to positions close by Monsieur Vaast's orchard in Ranville. From there he was sent to the forward positions to lay a minefield to the front of the Paratroopers positions facing Breville. In the early morning mist, as he finished laying the mines, he heard a clattering sound coming towards his position. Thinking he was being attacked by tanks he threw himself into a ditch ignoring the mines laid around. Out of the mist came some twenty German horses and clattered through the minefield without setting of any mines.

 

Another task set for Jim was to accompany an officer in a patrol towards Breville. Finding a column of abandoned German vehicles in a country lane beside a farm (Photograph used in many books) they set about searching them. When Jim returned he found the officer dead, shot through the head by a sniper. He quickly made his way back to Ranville. Close to the Cemetery at Ranville, he shared his foxhole with a Sapper Gammon and through a shell hole in the Cemetery wall they helped to bury the first of the 6th Airborne Division's dead. During the breakout he was in charge of one of four Class 40 Bailey bridges over the Dives at Troarn.

 

After the advance he went back to England for further training and was back in Europe for the Rhine Crossing. On the 24th March 1945, at about l000 hrs he dropped at Hamminkeln. As before he dropped on his own and while making his way to the R.V. he was wounded in the hand by shrapnel. He was ordered to the F.A.P. and on his way there he met Col. Pine Coffin and was able to direct him to the R.V. After Hospital in Belgium he returned to England and was there when the war in Europe ended.

 

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