Overview - 6th Airborne
We saw the coast of France from the plane a little after 3 am, the red light came on we all stood up ready to jump, and things immediately started to go wrong. The enemy flak batteries started firing at us, and the pilots of our transport planes started weaving around to avoid the streams of tracer and shell bursts. When the green light came on everyone in my plane was still trying to pick themselves back up off the floor, so we missed the drop zone when we jumped.
Thankfully as first out I only overshot slightly, and was soon able to make it to the RV, where I was given the bad news that instead of an entire brigade, only about three companies were at the RV, the rest being scattered all round northern Normandy, thankfully the rest would remember their training and another two companies worth would report to the RV as the day wore on. The good news was that the Ox and Bucks had succeeded in capturing the Bridges over the canal and the Orne.
I immediately dispatched Major Grabbe-Goolies with a company to Ranville, another company to Benouville and the third to Le Port , with orders to secure and hold the villages and prevent the enemy getting to the bridges.
Luckily the Germans were sound sleepers and were still in their billets when we attacked Ranville and were relatively quickly overcome, though Benouville was a tougher nut, and we would spend all day trying to subdue the Bosche there. Unfortunately the company sent to Le Port was very understrength ( In fact only four sections) and too weak for the task they'd been given- to rush the defenders (who were also in much greater strength than expected) before they had a chance to react. In fact at one stage it looked like our troops might be wiped out, so I sent three platoons of the Ox and Bucks, our only reserve at the time to assist them. Thankfully that stabilised the situation and they were able to start clearing the village, a task that would continue all day against ever strengthening enemy forces.
I am pleased to say that by the time Lovats commandos arrived the enemy had been largely cleared from Le Port, we had a solid hold on Benouville, despite SP guns and tanks making a thorough nuisance of themselves as the day went on, and were hanging onto Ranville in the face of a major enemy counterattack supported by more SPs. We sorely missed our support weapons: having no mortars or machine guns meant we had to allow every enemy attack to close to point blank range before opening fire whilst they could stand off and shell us with impunity if we gave our positions away.
Late in the day a couple of 6 pdrs joined us, and we were able to get some revenge on the German tanks. I was very happy to receive the code word BOVRIL from 9 Para letting us know that they had destroyed the Merville battery, though I believe at grievous cost: Colonel Otway and 34 men being the sole survivors from the battalion .
CHEESE and PICKLE were received early in the day, signifying that the Dives bridges at Troarn and Bures had been destroyed, and slightly later we heard ONION the code for the destruction of the bridge at Robehomme. It was several worrying hours later that we finally heard TOMATO to let us know that the last bridge and the radio station at Varraville had been destroyed. The delay was caused by the Canadian Paras, whose drop had also been badly scattered arriving at the bridge without any means of blowing it! They had held it and the village for several hours against some very aggressive Germans, until some of the sappers who had blown the bridge at Robehomme were able to fight their way through to them and destroy the bridge!
Mention must be made of the O'Potato brothers, both sergeants in different companies. Both of them was killed: one leading his platoon in an attack against enemy tanks in Benouville; the other storming into Ranville. Both a credit to the regiment.
Brigadier (Egg) Poett, CO, 5 Para Brigade