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2.50 am the strength had risen to 150. There were now 20 lengths of Bangalore, enough wireless sets and signallers to make do with, six battalion medical orderlies and hair one of the fire groups. There were no gliders and therefore no jeeps, guns or trailers, there were no 3 inch mortars ,only one medium machine gun, no Sappers, no mine detectors, no field ambulance section, and no naval bombardment parties.

Time was passing and the commanding officer decided to advance without further delay. The order of march followed the original plan as far as the depleted state of the battalion allowed. About 30 men of A Company formed the advanced guard, followed by the commanding officer and his order group. Then came a few of the anti-tank platoon diversion party, half one fire group under CSM Harries, 30 men of B Company with their Bangalores, 20 men of C Company, and lastly rear battalion headquarters, the MO and half a dozen medical orderlies. The route lay along country lanes and tracks bordered by banks and thick hedges with farms and orchards on each side. It skirted the North side of Gonneville sur Merville and ended at the cross-roads with a stone Calvary 300 yards South East of the battery. The distance from the dropping zone to this cross-roads was 2,400 yards. During the slow advance intermittent rifle and automatic fire could be heard from East, South and South West and the damaged buildings, dead and dying cattle and frequent craters were evidence of the RAF‘s preliminary bombing. Frequent halts were made to check direction by the light of the moon, occasionally visible through the clouds and at one point A Company spotted an enemy patrol of 20 men, but without being seen themselves.

North of Gonneville Major Smith and his party met the battalion as arranged. They had cut the outer cattle fence, penetrated the minefield to the inner wire and had there spent 30 minutes, locating enemy posts by the sound of talk and coughing, When approaching the battery a German patrol had passed down the road within two feet of the ditch in which they were crouching. The taping party under Captain Greenway had met them at the edge of the minefield, and had reconnoitred four lanes through the minefield by feeling forward with their hands. Several trip wires were located and neutralised and the lanes marked by guides and by scraping furrows in the earth with entrenching tools and boot-heels. Both parties had completed their job without being discovered in spite of enemy patrols in the neighbourhood and the nearness of the battery,

On receiving Major Smith‘s report the commanding officer decided to make two gaps in the wire only, sending two assault parties through each. B Company was divided into two breaching teams of about 15 men each and A and 0 Companies were joined together into one assault force of four parties, each of about 12 men and one for each gun. At about 4.30 am the battalion reached the firm base and simultaneously six enemy machine guns opened fire, three from each flank and all apparently outside the battery perimeter. The one Vickers gun was ordered to engage the enemy machine guns on the left, and the diversion party, now reduced to one NCO and six men, was told to silence the three machine guns on the right on their way round to the main gate, a job which they succeeded in doing.

At this moment two gliders appeared. out of the darkness, low down over. the battery. Both were under fire from 20-mm guns in the battery and in Merville and the tracer shells could be seen hitting the fuselages. No star-bombs or flares were available to

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: 9th Bn The Parachute Regiment North West Europe 1944 - 45

Page: Page 10