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At the same time as the gliders of the coup de main party were diving down towards the bridges the aircraft carrying the advanced group of parachutists dropped their "sticks" on the RANVILLE DZ. Advanced Brigade HQ, piloted by Wing Comd D.I. McMONNIES, OC 296 Sqn RAF, was dropped with perfect accuracy. The two sticks of the Independent Parachute Company were landed, however, on the extreme East of the DZ and with little time available were forced to put out their navigational signals where they were, This inaccuracy resulted in the main body also being dropped more to the East of the DZ than had been intended. The four sticks of the 7 and 13 Parachute Battalions, for the protection of the DZ and 7 Battalion RV, although dropped on the DZ, were very scattered and took so long to rally that they did not carry out their task.

The aircraft of this advance group also met comparatively little flak and no serious resistance on the ground. Machine guns from the posts North of RANVILLE however, opened up sporadic fire.

Members of these early sticks obtained a unique impression of the coup de main party's assault. The gliders were still coming in as the men reached the ground. AA shells and tracer bullets were pouring into the sky and soon‘ illuminating flares and machine gun fire showed that the German defences were rapidly awakening. Fowa??? few minutes after the first glider touched down the fire was intense. Then, almost as rapidly it died down followed by the success signal sounded by Maj Howard on the whistle - most stirring sounds to Brigade HQ as they were hurrying to the bridges.

At 0050 hours, half an hour after the first landing, the main body of parachutists began to some in. This force was carried in 131 air- craft; the majority being Stirlings but including a proportion of Albemarles and Dakota C 47s.

The DZ, although excellent for recognition from the air, was only 1200 yds by 1400 yds and on to it were to descend in a mass drop, more than 2200 parachutists, a greater concentration than had ever before been tried by British forces, either in training or operations. 200 containers holding heavy weapons and RE equipment were also to be jettisoned on the DZ.

In spite of the guiding signals being too far to the East, the drop was made with good accuracy. It was found however, that in general the sticks covered more ground than had been usual in training. This was mainly due to the difficulty the heavily laden men experienced in managing their kit bags in aircraft which were taking evasive action. These long sticks resulted in a very wide dispersion on the DZ.

Had it been daylight the scene on the ground must have presented a remarkable picture; 2000 troops, of different units, but now completely mixed, some disentangling themselves from their parachutes in a fairish wind others searching for their kit bags, many of which had broken loose during the descent, and for their equipment containers. Everywhere little groups trying to locate themselves and to find their RVs. All the while the DZ under fire from MGs sited on its Southern edge and from sporadic mortar and shell fire.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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

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