Major Smith commanding the Guard of Honour for Field Marshal Rokossovsky at Wismar, 7th May 1945

Major Smith commanding the Guard of Honour for Field Marshal Rokossovsky at Wismar, 7th May 1945

Officers of the 6th Airborne Division with Field Marshal Montgomery in May 1945

Lieutenant Richard Arthur Amyas Smith


Unit : No.14 Platoon, "B" Company, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Service No. : 228638

Awards : Military Cross


Lieutenant "Sandy" Smith commanded "B" Company's No.14 Platoon. Major John Howard's "D" Company had been selected to carry out the coup de main raid on the Bénouville and Ranville Bridges, however to augment their strength two platoons of "B" Company were attached to the force; Lieutenant Smith and his men were one of these and so became No.3 Platoon.


After several months of intensive training, at the end of May the coup de main force was moved to RAF Tarrant Rushton, from where they were to take off, and here they learned the full extent of their role in the Invasion. On the 31st May, despite the fact that this base was sealed and no person was allowed out without special permission, for reasons of security, Smith and his fellow "B" Company platoon commander, Lieutenant Fox, somehow managed to break out of the camp to have a meal with their girlfriends in a nearby hotel.


No.3 Platoon was the last of the three Horsas to arrive near Bénouville Bridge, however they had a particularly rough landing, at 00:18, and came to an abrupt halt when the fuselage was ripped from the glider. Six men were trapped inside the wreckage and several were thrown from it, one of whom drowned in the neighbouring pond. Smith was catapulted from his seat through the cockpit screen. He wrote, "I went shooting straight past those two pilots, through the whole bloody lot, shot out like a bullet and landed in front of the glider... I was covered in mud, I had lost my Sten gun and I didn't really know what I was bloody doing. Corporal Madge, one of my section commanders, brought me to my senses. He said, "Well, what are you waiting for sir?"". Smith quickly recovered from his temporary daze, collected his Sten gun and led the available men of his Platoon to the Bridge where they carried out their allotted task of clearing and securing the western side, where No.1 Platoon were currently fighting.


Smith recalls the ruthless manner in which this work had to be carried out, "the poor buggers in the bunkers didn't have much of a chance and we were not taking any prisoners or messing around, we just threw phosphorus grenades down into the dugouts there and anything that moved we shot." He had injured his knee during the hard landing and had to awkwardly hobble across the Bridge. On the other side he came face to face with a German soldier in the process of throwing a stick grenade in his direction. Smith immediately shot the man with his Sten gun, however the already primed grenade exploded and Smith received a deep cut to one of his wrists, yet he continued to carry out his duties and was still able to fire his weapon.


Following the fatal wounding of Lieutenant Brotheridge, Smith also took command of No.1 Platoon on the western side of the Bridge. They were later joined here by Lieutenant Fox's No.6 Platoon, who had been brought across from Ranville Bridge. Lieutenant Smith continued to command his men for as long as he could, but he eventually had to leave to receive medical treatment. For his actions during the raid, he was awarded the Military Cross:


Although injured in the hand during a crash landing of a glider in the airborne operation at Benouville Bridge on 6th June 1944, Lieutenant Smith brilliantly led his platoon onto the bridge and successfully cleared several houses and co-ordinated the defence of his platoon. It was only when their duties were finished that he allowed himself to be attended to and was finally evacuated to the Main Dressing Station.


Smith returned to the Battalion after recovering from his injuries, and on the 7th May 1945, as a Major, he had the honour of commanding the Guard of Honour for Field Marshal Rokossovsky's meeting with Field Marshal Montgomery.


See also: The Gondrée Family.


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