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At nine o'clock on the following morning the battalion paraded in full jumping order, each stick complete with its weapons and containers, and moved off in lorries to the airfield. Each lorry carried one stick or aircraft-load and drove straight to its correct aircraft, where the aircrew were waiting. Containers were loaded into the bomb racks and checked, parachutes issued and fitted, and the aircraft itself inspected by the pilot and stick commander together. Each man, after inspection by the stick commander, marked his ‘chute with his last two numbers and replaced it on his seat in the aircraft. These were twin-engined American Dakotas for the most part, although some of the battalion were jumping from Albemarles and Stirlings. Everything was thus ready for take-off except for the actual emplaning of the men, and the battalion returned to camp relieved of all equipment worries.

The next day was June 4th. Take-off was scheduled for that evening and everything was ready. The padre, the Reverend John Gwinnett, held a drumhead service in the morning, to which came practically the whole battalion and many of the Ulster Rifles. He dedicated a Pegasus flag, presented to the battalion that morning by the transit camp staff, and preached a sermon on the text: "Fear knocked at the door. Faith opened it and there was nothing there". His words made a deep impression on many men and are still remembered by the survivors of that congregation. Later in the morning Brigadier S.J.L. Hill, DSO, MC, talked to all officers. His address was typical, confident, imperious, full of enthusiasm and a delight to hear. He was a true prophet in his final words:-

"Gentlemen, in spite of your excellent training and orders, do not be daunted if chaos reigns. It undoubtedly will!”

Then just before lunch a signal came in postponing the operation for 24 hours. This caused a temporary easing in the tension and a welcome relaxation in the commanding officer's teetotal rule. More briefing, letter-writing, games and sing-songs made the time pass like lightning, until next morning, June 5th, another signal confirmed that the invasion was on for next day, and take-off would be that evening.

Life in the transit camp had been made as comfortable as possible for the battalion by the camp staff and by the ceaseless work of the officer commanding the battalion home details, Captain Frank Tavener and the quartermaster, Captain Albert Chilton. They had a difficult job, and the enthusiasm and high spirits in the camp must have made staying behind a severe ordeal for them, however obviously valuable was their own work. Two accidents did not dim people's spirits for long, tragic though they were. A firearm accident wounded Lance Corporal Hall of A Company's glider assault party, so that he died soon after D day, and a grenade explosion among the Royal Ulster Rifles killed Lieutenant Scale and several men and wounded Major Tom Warner and others of his company, all of that regiment.

In the afternoon of June 5th all ranks went to compulsory rest, and then after tea the companies began to get ready. The glider assault force, the battery reconnaissance party and the RV party were taking off from Bridge Norton and Harwell respectively and by 8 pm they had left the camp on their way there. At the same time the battalion paraded in camp by sticks for

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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

Page: Page 8