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final inspection and an hour Later clambered into lorries and moved off to the airfield. By 10.45 pm they were in their 'planes and at 11.10 pm the leading aircraft, took off. Conditions were fair, although the moon was obscured by clouds and the flight to the French coast was smooth and uneventful. Each aircraft carried thermos containers of tea and jam sandwiches to be eaten during flight, as well as sick-buckets and urine-tins in case of need. The aircrew were supposed to give verbal warnings 30 minutes, 15 minutes and 5 minutes before the jump, and most of them managed to remember at least some of these warnings. Sticks had already hooked up their parachutes to the static line during flight and stood up on the five minute warning. On four minutes the red warning light was to come on, but many stick commanders had arranged with the pilot to reduce this to one minute. As soon as the red light appeared, Number 1 stood to the door of the Dakotas or braced himself over the Albemarle holes, while the rest of the stick prepared to follow him out.

By this time aircraft were coming in over the coast three or four minutes flying time from the dropping zone. Light flak began to come up at them and one or tvro were caught for a few seconds in a searchlight beam. They were using radar aids for navigation, but in many cases these failed, and pilots were having difficulty in distinguishing which was the Orne and which was the Dives estuary. The less experienced pilots began to take evasive action in the flak, throwing many of their stick to the floor of the aircraft. Once down with an 80 lb load and a parachute pack on the men found it impossible to get up again quickly, and many sticks were caught by the green jumping light half up and half down. Some of them on landing stretched for over three miles as a result, instead of the normal six to seven hundred yards. Other aircraft were circling in an attempt to locate the dropping zone by eye and dropping their sticks as near as possible to the right place.

While the main body were approaching the coast, the battery reconnaissance and RV parties landed on the dropping zone at 12.20 am, admirably flown and dropped by their Albemarle from Harwell airfield. They found the RV at once and while Major Parry's party set about the layout of their lights and signs, Major Smith and his two stalwarts set off in the darkness towards the battery. Five minutes went by and then ten, until the roar of bombs a mile to the North West showed that Bomber Command were on time. The reconnaissance party, hurrying towards the battery, were caught in the edge of this bombing and were lucky to escape alive from two or three 4,000 lb bomb-bursts within 200 yards of them. The attack missed the battery completely. There was no sign of the gliders with the vehicles, now overdue, and by ten to one the aircraft carrying the battalion were overhead. Some sticks landed correctly on the dropping zone and had soon reached the RV and their company assembly area. Others dropped in the Dives marshes, some a mile or two to the South and some East of the River Dives on the high ground between Cabourg and Dozule. The drop, as a whole, covered 50 square miles instead of a field 1900 yards by 800 yards.

The commanding officer’s stick dropped onto a small form close to the dropping zone, which was in use as a Column headquarters. After a short exchange of fire, the commanding officer's batman, having ruined the greenhouse in his landing, heaved a large brick into the window of the farmhouse and "silenced" the enemy. The whole stick then made off quickly to the RV. By 2.35 am 110 all ranks had reached the RV out of the 500 who had jumped, and with only 10 out of the 60 lengths of Bangalore torpedo dropped. By

(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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