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and the "feel" of the battalion were unforgettable. James Hill, Martin Lindsay, and Terence Otway and leaders of every rank responsible for preparing these men for battle could be proud of their work.

The commanding officer had given his orders to the company commanders on May 24th and 25th and on the 27th they in turn briefed their platoon commanders in the heavily wired and guarded briefing tents. Here were the maps, air photographs and models of the dropping zone, of the battalion‘s objectives and of the ground between them. They were accurate, detailed and realistic and helped to overcome the lack of ground reconnaissance, which is always a handicap in the preparation of an airborne or seaborne assault.

Next day was Whit Sunday and after Church parade the battalion went by companies to the airfield to be taught water drill with RAF escape dinghies and the use of the new Mae Wests. This tickled the men‘s imagination and for days afterwards the camp echoed to the cry of "Dinghy! Dinghy!" Two days later on thy 30th the commanding officer briefed the whole battalion, helped. by the Intelligence officer, Lieutenant Worth. He explained to a silent, still mass of men the outline plan for the main landings and the tasks given to the battalion. For once the clever, the stupid and the idle were alike intent on every word that was said, and the coughing restlessness of an exercise briefing had vanished. Both speaker and listeners were concentrating their energies into a singleminded effort, on the part of the one to make his words plain, on the part of the many to understand them. All knew well that only if these orders worked would the battalion be able to reform after the drop as a fighting team and to carry out the orders given to it. When the commanding officer had finished, the RAF station commander came in to wish the battalion good luck. He ended by saying that his pilots had never missed a dropping zone yet, or even been late over one, and got a loud cheer from the battalion. It was lucky for him that there was no chance of any discussion on this point after the operation.

During the next two days companies and platoons went by turns to the briefing tents and received orders from their own leaders. The outline plan for the sea-borne landings and the tasks of 6th Airborne Division were repeated to them before the issue of detailed orders on their own particular job, so that each man knew not only his own orders in detail, but also the reasons for them. This knowledge might be a risk to security in the event of any man being captured, but it paid a high dividend in confidence and efficiency. In the event those few men who were taken prisoner showed a high standard of security, which was commented on by their German captors. On the afternoon of June 2nd the divisional commander, Major General Richard N. Gale spoke to an assembly of everyone in the camp. He was in good voice and form and the men raised the roof with cheering, as he said:-

"The Hun thinks only a bloody fool will go there. That‘s why I‘m going!"

Later in the evening the RAF air-crews came over to meet their "sticks" of parachutists and they chatted together for about an hour.

(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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