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the German garrison and parachutists dropped there in error or patrols from 5th Parachute Brigade in Ranville. At about 9 p.m. the remnants of the battalion were much cheered by the great fleet of tugs and gliders bringing in two battalions of the Airlanding Brigade and swaying down to a mass landing a. mile to the South.

The battalion's first day in action had ended. They were now about 90 strong and tired from a night and a day of strain and physical effort. Four fifths of them were killed, wounded or missing, but the survivors were justified in feeling that they had carried out their orders; Many men had distinguished themselves between the cool skilful courage of Major Smith and CSMIs Miller and Harold in that first reconnaissance of the battery and Pte Millward's gallantry in action at Le Plein with B Company, in spite of face wounds from bomb splinters. Men were still trickling in from the East and from England and the battalion was still very much a fighting unit.

During the night information on the course of the battle arrived from brigade headquarters together with orders to move to a defensive position on the Eastern perimeter of the divisional area between Breville and Le Mesnil. The area allotted. was that of the Bois de Mont and the Chateau St Come and the move was to take place on the following night, 7th - 8th June.

During the morning of June 7th Commando officers were shown the position preparatory to relief by their troops and the second in command, Major Charlton, went off in the French car with one guide from each company to reconnoitre the new area. At last light the battalion marched off from Le Plein, A Company in the lead. By now they had acquired a second Vickers gun and any number of German No 34 machine guns with plenty of ammunition for them. A farm cart pulled by two stout greys and driven by Sgt MoGeever and CSM Bockwith carried the Vickers gun and spare ammunition until at a point near Breville, the cart stuck in a bog and the greys became pack transport. Since the situation was fluid and the enemy locations were uncertain, the battalion commander had laid dovm a route skirting Breville to the West and entering the woods round the Bois de Mont from the Eastern edge of the divisional landing zone. However, someone in the lead went astray and the whole column found itself marching through the middle of Breville. The town was empty of Germans, but a useful find was an intact lightweight motor-cycle still in its dropping frame. At 1.30 a.m. on June 8th they met the advance party at the appointed place. Here Major Charlton reported that all was quiet and the battalion took up temporary positions in all round defence in the deep ditches astride the Breville - Le Mesnil read.

All through June 7th Major Dyer's composite company had been fighting off enemy attacks round the Le Mcsnil cross-roads. Lieutenant Lepper, Sergeants Dowling, Hennessey and Gower, Corporal Morriss and Private Toulson had all distinguished themselves in this fighting, and a counter-attack by the company in the afternoon had cleared the farm 200 yards East of the cross-roads. Lepper and 7 men were now its garrison, and they held it all that night and all next day under constant attack.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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

Page: Page 19