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For several weeks in the woods and paddocks between the English and German lines a steadily dwindling band of horses, mares and foals roamed at will, growing, daily wilder. Some were caught and led away to safety near the Orne canal, where the Mayor of Amfreville had arranged pasture for them, but many were killed by bomb, shell or bullet and their corpses lay where they fell for weeks to come. Among many good horses died Lord Derby's Plassey and Plassey's son Arcot, almost certainly in the stables fire.

These English and French thoroughbreds did not lack company. Each day the Germans left a few more of their number lying dead in the woods and fields and as the fighting grew in intensity in the week that followed the battalion's arrival there, the casualties mounted on both sides. Over the woods, orchards and buildings of the Chateau and of Bois de Mont settled the menacing silence of positions in close contact with the enemy, broken only by the intermittent noise of battle. As the days went by the smell of death crept slowly about the woods and soon permeated the whole air round the Chateau and its stables.

Very early in the morning of June 10th another patrol was sent to reconnoitre the Chateau, since it was vital for the commanding officer to know what was going on in those buildings and woods. Serjeant Frith and Lance Corporal Watkins took their section of A Company forward along the drive ditches, working right into the Chateau itself. It was empty, and Serjeant Frith sent Watkins and Private Pattinson across to the stables. After searching them they were on their way back to the house, when a sudden burst of fire from an enemy machinegun somewhere in the buildings they had just left wounded Pattinson in the leg. He fell down and Watkins, who had reached the cover of the house, at once ran back and carried Pattinson to safety, ignoring, the enemy's fire.

This section were a good team. Frith had earlier laid a wager that his section would kill more Germans than any other. He had led his men since the drop with unfailing dash and courage and was to continue doing so, until his death in action two months, later. By June 12th the section score had risen to a bag of 40 Germans, each one confirmed by a corpse, and the men's confidence in themselves and in Serjeant Frith was solid. Pattinson was typical of many men in the battalion. He was full of aggressive spirit, volunteering continually for patrols and protesting bitterly at his evacuation with a bullet in the leg. He had himself killed eight of the enemy.

Strict orders against any firing except at point blank range kept the battalion area quiet all through the night and paid a rich dividend next morning, When the enemy showed that they had no detailed knowledge of the battalion's defences. Enemy patrols were heard all along the North and East of the area and occasional bursts of machine-gun fire whistled through the trees over the slit trenches. No reply was made.

Soon after dawn on June 10th Captain Gordon-Brown rejoined the battalion with about 30 men after their three days fighting round brigade headquarters. This brought the battalion strength up to 270 at a time when reinforcements were badly needed. The companies were now commanded by Gordon-Brown, Smith and Dyer in A, B and C respectively, Major Parry was second in command, and Lieutenant Slade had taken over Adjutant. Food and water were adequate and the only ammunition shortage now was 3-inch mortar bombs. Men were tired, but most of them had had some sleep the night before and morale was very high.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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

Page: Page 24