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by Captain Gordon-Brown made their way through enemy territority to Le Mesnil. Here they fought for two days in defence of brigade headquarters, rejoining the battalion at the Bois do Mont on June 8th. They took with them the Pegasus flag, presented to the battalion in the transit camp, which was to become the battle flag of every subsequent action,

Lieutenant Pond's glider met poor visibility over the Channel and the first pilot, Staff Sergeant D. F. Kerr had to switch his lights on several times in order to keep the towrope and tug in view. As they approached the French coast, bomb flashes and flak could be seen ahead and the pilots were able to distinguish clearly the Orne river estuary. Over the approximate area of the battery no flares were seen and no radar signals were received and only after circling six times under 20mm fire did the pilot see a triangle of flares and a flashing red letter A on the ground. This must have been a signal on the landing zone for the main force of divisional headquarters and artillery gliders North of Ranville. The glider now released after a final word of good luck from the tug pilot and began to circle, delaying descent as long as possible in the hope of seeing the target. Four bursts of flak then hit the glider wounding four men and the inside of the glider began to smoulder. Pond told Kerr to put her down as quickly as possible onto the 20mm position. As they dived down, the men inside linked arms to brace themselves for the landing, Kerr could now see the casemates and it looked as if the glider would overshoot them. Another burst of 20mm hit the fuselage near the tail of the glider. It swerved to the left of the casemates, still going very fast, and the pilot headed for a large field two hundred yards beyond them. As his wheels touched down, a hedge loomed up in the moonlight a few yards ahead and in it a large white board inscribed with a black skull and cross-bones and the word "MINEN". Pulling back sharply on the control column, Kerr lifted the glider over the hedge and the sunken lane beyond it, streamed his arrester parachute and crashed the glider into an orchard, In spite of the arrester gear it was a very heavy landing. Both wings came off and the fuselage was broken in several places. The men stumbled out, dazed with the shock, and a few minutes later for no explicable reason the glider caught fire and burnt out.

Shortly after they had reorganised, a body of men was heard approaching from the South East and it was soon realised that they were Germans. They were engaged by fire and dispersed into some nearby bomb craters, Lieutenant Pond's party taking up a defensive position astride the track running North Westwards. Behind them the sound of heavy firing showed that the assault on the battery had gone in, and Lieutenant Pond rightly assumed that the enemy force of about two platoons opposed to him were on their way to the help of the battery. Eventually the enemy withdrew and just after first light CSMI Miller arrived with a message from the commanding officer, ordering the party to rejoin the battalion at the stone Calvary 400 yards to the North West.

One of the problems to be solved in planning was the recognition of the glider force by the rest of the battalion in the confusion of a night attack. Eventually each man's smock was marked in luminous paint with a skull and cross-bones on the left breast. As the men lined up in the dark to enter the gliders on Harwell airfield, the line of shining skulls made so good a target, that each officer ordered a last minute scramble to rub earth over the tell- tale badge. But months later the survivors of the fighting still wore their "G-B" force badge with pride, refusing to part with their old smocks, however ragged and torn.

While those men of the battalion who had reached the RV were approaching the battery and fighting for its destruction, many others were trying to make their way back to the British lines from the scattered places in which they had dropped. About 350 of them had been unable to reach the RV, and of these some 100 to 115 rejoined the battalion in the next few weeks. 45 were taken prisoner and 192 are still missing to this day. The Dives marshes South and East of the dropping zone had been flooded by the Germans and many men had dropped into them. Heavily laden us they were with weapons, ammunition and equipment, they must have sunk at once beneath the water and drowned among the

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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

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