The tasks set 5 Parachute Brigade were, to secure intact, the bridges over the River ORNE and the Canal de CAEN immediately East of BENOUVILLE and to establish a bridgehead to include the village of BENOUVILLE on the West Bank and RANVEEE on the East bank. The Brigade was to be relieved on the West bank by 3 British Division as soon as the seaborne forces passed through. On the East bank the Brigade bridgehead was to be enlarged into a Divisional bridgehead by 3 Parachute Brigade, when they had completed their other tasks, and by 6 Airlanding Brigade, which was due to land on the evening of D day.

The canal bridge was thought to be held by a garrison of about one platoon occupying well sited and constructed positions which included at least one pill box, a flak tower, entrenchments, wire and possibly mines. The improvement of these defences progressed rapidly as the date of D day approached, and it was possible to watch the various improvements through the frequent and excellent photographic cover. Included in the improve- ments was the clearance of fields of fire; a Nissen type hut was removed from the South side of the road early in May and a two storied cottage overlooking the canal North of the road vanished two weeks before D day. It appeared also that the wire was being thickened up. The bridge over the river appeared to be defended by entrenchments only and from the lack of activity visible in the photos it was thought that this would not be defended in strength.

In spite of those preparations there could be no doubt that with the forces available the bridges could be secured. The problem was to prevent their destruction during the capture. It was known that both bridges were prepared for demolition.

The ground West of the canal and East of the river was very suitable for parachute landings. It would also have been suitable for glider landings but for the obstructing poles - Rommels asparagus - which had been put up to prevent such an attempt. The ground between the river and the canal consisted of grass fields surrounded by hedges and usually marshy. There were only two possible glider landing places in this area: an oblong field close to the river bridge marked Y on sketch II and a triangular patch leading up to the canal marked X. Both these landing places were extremely small and 3 or 4 gliders was the most either of them could take.

The German forces likely to be engaged consisted of 736 Infantry Regiment whose dispositions as known during the planning stage are shown on the sketch: miscellaneous troups were thought to garrison RANVIILE but there was little information as to their strength. Various posts on the Northern outskirts of the village as shown in sketch IV were known to be in use and thought to be garrisoned from 736 Regiment. 21 Panzer Division moved to the vicinity of CAEN during May, and this city in addition had a miscellaneous garrison of local defence troops estimated at two battalions.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: 5 Parachute Brigade: operations in Normandy 1944 June - Sept

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