Colonel Parker receiving his Distinguished Service Order from Field Marshal Montgomery on the 1st September 1944

Colonel Reginald Goulbourne Parker


Unit : Headquarters, 6th Airlanding Brigade

Army No. : 17679

Awards : Distinguished Service Order


Having commanded the 12th Parachute Battalion from the time of its formation in 1943 until early 1944, Colonel Parker was made Deputy Commander of the 6th Airlanding Brigade. In Normandy, Parker was to command a composite unit known as Parkerforce, consisting of the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, "A" Company of the 12th Battalion The Devonshire Regiment, the 211th Airlanding Light Battery, and one Troop of the 3rd Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery. This mobile force was to roam the 6th Airborne Division's area and harass the enemy at will. However, when they landed in Normandy, the reduced manpower of the Division forced Major-General Gale to abandon this plan and so the various elements of Parkerforce were returned to their conventional role.


On the 12th June, Major-General Gale gave the order to attack Bréville. Colonel Parker was observing the attack with a group of fellow senior officers when an Allied shell, believed to have been fired from a gun of the 51st Highland Division, fell short of the village and exploded amongst them. Brigadiers The Lord Lovat and Hugh Kindersley were seriously injured, and amongst the dead was Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson of the 12th Parachute Battalion. Although Parker had himself been wounded in the blast, he immediately recognised that the attacking battalion was now leaderless, and so he resumed command of his old unit. Once he was inside the village, Parker toured the defences ceaselessly and, with the assistance of an artillery observer of the 53rd Light Regiment, called for artillery support on German positions outside of Bréville to prevent a counterattack. Unfortunately the order passed to the Allied guns was misunderstood, possibly because of similar codewords for attacking and defensive fire, and, believing Bréville to still be in the hands of the enemy, the artillery opened fire on the village for a second time and caused yet more casualties amongst the 12th Battalion and Devonshires.


For his actions at Bréville, Parker was awarded the Distinguished Service Order:


For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. At the outset of the attack on Breville on the night of 12th/13th June the Commanding Officer {Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson} of the 12th Parachute Battalion was killed. Colonel Parker, who was on the spot, immediately assumed command of the Battalion. With the utmost gallantry and with complete disregard for his own personal safety Colonel Parker led the men on. By this time he himself was wounded, was in great pain and was suffering from loss of blood. On capture of the objective the Battalion was subjected to the heaviest mortar concentration. Colonel Parker was everywhere, cheering the men on, encouraging them and reorganising them for defence. At the conclusion of the operation the Battalion had been reduced to a mere handful of men. It was not until the morning that Colonel Parker in an exhausted condition finally consented to be taken to the Main Dressing Station. His brave action, his complete disregard for his own safety and his tactical skill was beyond all praise.


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