Major Roger Symonds Neale


Unit : "B" Company, 7th Parachute Battalion

Service No. : 124898

Awards : Military Cross


Major Neale commanded "B" Company, who held Le Port throughout the 6th June despite constant enemy attacks and harassment. For his actions here, Neale was awarded the Military Cross:


Major Neale's Company took part in the airborne operation at Benouville bridge on 6th June 44. He held an important sector of the western bridgehead. During the 21 hours of continuous fighting Major Neale's courage, energy and skill were an example to all his men and played an important part in the successful outcome of the operation.


On the 10th June, a large formation of enemy infantry exploited the Bréville Gap between the 1st Special Service and 3rd Parachute Brigades, and advanced on Ranville. They were brought to an abrupt halt by fire from the 7th and, in particular, the 13th Parachute Battalions, whereupon the survivors scattered into the neighbouring woodland around Le Mariquet. The 7th Battalion was ordered to clear the woods under the cover of a smokescreen laid down by the tanks of "B" Squadron of the 13th/18th Royal Hussars. The Squadron's task did not go according to plan and they lost five tanks under heavy enemy fire, however all their crews escaped safely. Shortly after 16:00, the 7th Battalion proceeded to clear the woodland, with Major Neale's "B" Company leading the way into the first wood. It turned out to be little more than an orchard, and the Company secured it without any substantial enemy interference. They had, however, come under loose fire from snipers, but Major Neale sensibly ignored their attempts to delay him and pushed his men on to their objective before dealing with them one at a time.


Major Neale personally dealt with one of the snipers. Lieutenant-Colonel Pine-Coffin describes the incident: "He went after one of them himself, together with Private Cornell, his runner. The two worked themselves back inside the hedge until they got a view of the sniper, whom they promptly shot, but not before he got a lucky shot himself which hit Major Neale in the leg. The wound was a serious one which necessitated Neale's evacuation at the time and was, later, to cause him the disappointment of being barred by a Medical Board from leading his Company on further operations."


Major Neale was succeeded by the Second-in-Command of "C" Company, Captain Bob Keene. The attack on the Le Mariquet woods, however, had been a great success for the 7th Battalion, who had taken their objectives with great speed and efficiency and accounted for twenty German dead and three hundred prisoners at the cost of just ten wounded.


See also: Pte Butler.


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