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The period of planning for the operation extended from early April until the end of May. A Divisional Exercise was held late in April, which was intended as a final rehearsal. Intelligence regarding enemy anti- airborne obstructions had, however, been received just before the exercise and had necessitated a re-allocation of tasks to brigades. The exercise did, however, provide useful lessons for the coup de main force.

The Brigade plan was complete by mid May and during this month both 7 Parachute Battalion and the six platoons 2 Oxf & Bucks went down to EXETER to carry out intensive training making use of the bridges over the R. EXE and EXETER canal just South of the City. All possible contingencies were rehearsed. Although neither officers nor men had been briefed, there is no doubt that all realised that the intensive training had a bearing on future operations and tremendous enthusiasm and energy were shown.

For reasons of security briefing of Commanding Officers and Seconds in Command was delayed until 21st May, and all other officers and men until early June. By this latter date all units had concentrated in transit camps close to the airfields where arrangements for briefing including models and air photos had been made. These arrangements were very compre- hensive and the Divisional Staff had prepared large scale plasticine models of the bridges and surrounding country accurate to the last detail. There is no doubt that the completeness of the briefing played an important part in the subsequent success and reflected great credit on those responsible.

The Brigade Group was split up between five airfields; BRIZENORTON, KEEVIL, FAIRFORD, HARWELL and TARRENT RUSHTON. Fortunately battalions were mostly concentrated at one airfield each, but the area over which the Brigade was spread involved a good deal of travelling for commanders and staff visiting the troops and issuing last minute instructions and for the circulation of Intelligence reports. Intercommunioation - aircraft were very valuable for this and the weather was good until the lust two days.

Weather, and in particular the wind, was the vital factor in the plan. The seaborne force could not be landed on the open beaches in anything worse than a moderate wind. On June 2 the heatwave broke and gales followed. The prospect looked gloomy. Postponement of the operation was only possible for three days otherwise tides in relation to the moon and first light would necessitate a complete postponement for a month. If this had be an necessary endless security complications would have arisen.

Fortunately by the morning of 5 June the weather had improved and although far from perfect the decision was taken by Supreme Allied HQ to mount the operation that night.

The gliders had been loaded two days earlier and parachutes had also been fitted. Little therefore, remained to be done at the airfield. Take off was to be at 2300 hours for the 1st Echelon and 2330 hours for the main body. In general troops arrived at the aerodrome About 1 1/2 hours before emplaning. The attitude of the troops during the wait at the aerodrome and during the journey was interesting: the hour for which they had been training, in most cases for four years, was close at hand, but there was little forced singing or unnatural gaiety; instead a spirit of quiet but cheerful confidence and determination pervaded all ranks.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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

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