|Title||4/7 Dragoon Guards: extract from "The First and the Last," 1944 May, June|
|Description||Extract from "The First and the Last," telling the story of the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards in the invasion of Normandy.|
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The camp was run on what was called "the hotel system", which meant that all administration, cooking, and fatigues were done by a permanent staff. This was an excellent idea from our point of view, as it gave us a free hand to get on with all the jobs that had to be done.
The (30th) Corps Commander,
visited all Regiments of the Brigade.
As soon as the last occupants had arrived and settled in, the camp was sealed. It had always had a thick barbed wire fence round the perimeter, and now the gaps left by the gates were closed, and one could only go out on essential duty with a pass from the Camp Commandant. As soon as this had been done, "briefing" began. This was the issuing of orders for the battle, with the greatest possible detail, and with every effort made to illustrate each point and to ensure that not only commanders, but also every man concerned, knew what was to be done and what would be his own particular task.
Like everything else in the organisation of this gigantic operation, this was superbly arranged. The Colonel had known the plan for some weeks, and had attended various conferences and discussions on it. A few days before general briefing began, he had begun to put the Squadron Leaders through it; not unnaturally a task of this size and complication was not a thing that could be passed on and learnt in one conference. The actors had to learn their parts and be word perfect, and they could only do that by referring to the book continually, until they were satisfied.
Thus, when general briefing began, the Squadron Leaders already had a sufficient grasp of the picture to be able to concentrate on helping the rest, outlining particular tasks and explaining difficulties to the troops concerned; and running overagain for them points which might have seemed complex at the first hearing.
The equipment for this job was one hundred per cent complete and quite magnificent. In a large room there was a big scale model on the floor showing all the essential features of the beach and the country behind it, and the walls were covered with maps of all sizes - including large-scale maps with every known piece of defence overprinted on them - and with a set of aerial photographs of the beach and local defences. These photographs were absolutely excellent. Some were in plan, taken by high-flying aircraft; some which had been taken from low-flying aircraft gave the head-on picture that we ourselves should see from the ships.
Any Troop Leader who had a particular task could ask for a photograph of it and get a very clear picture, in which he could see details not only of what he had to do but also what it would look like when he got there.
This briefing room was right up to date; photographic sorties were flown every day by the Air Force, and stop-press photos were continually arriving; any changes that they showed in the defenses thus became known at once, and were included in the maps or plans, and broadcast to everyone.
(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)