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the defence of the Normandy bridgehead. On 17 Jun 3 Para Bde was relieved in the line by 5 Para Bde, which had been defending the southern approaches to the RANVILLE bridgehead.

17.  For three days the brigade remained in the RANVILLE - HEROUVILLETTE area, 1 Can Para Bn occupying positions just outside the village of RANVILLE (115734). The only enemy activity was occasional shelling of the main road that ran through the village, and the Canadians enjoyed their first relaxation since D-day. Then, on 20 Jun, they moved to a rest area by the ORNE River, near ECARDE (1176). During their five days' stay they were blessed with fine, warm weather, and parties were daily organized for bathing in the ORNE. An Army cinema at LUC-SUR-MER provided welcome entertainment. Sight-seeing tours were arranged to enable all ranks to visit the beaches at OUISTREHAM, the scene of the landing of 3 (Brit) Inf Div, where they might learn something more of the vast, scale on which "OVERLORD" was patterned.

18.  On 25 Jun 3 Para Bde returned to the LE MESNIL crossroads, the Canadian Battalion relieving 13 Para Bn at its former position. The week that followed saw an intensifying of enemy fire upon the brigade area, and the Canadian casualty list mounted as a result of long range artillery shells, harassing mortar fire and sniping, and, on at least two occasions, close-range bursts from 75-mm anti-tank guns. Because the closely wooded country did not allow long vision O.Ps., it was difficult to observe fire, and ranging by the battalion mortars in their counter-fire had to be effected by sound and map reference. Vigorous patrolling continued in an attempt to pin-point enemy positions, but the results gained were generally meagre and unsatisfactory (W.D., 1 Cdn Para Bn, 27 Jun 44). Both sides had developed strong defensive positions, supplemented by wiring and road blocks. By the first week of July, when 3 Para Bde was again relieved by 5 Para Bde, the situation on the ridge had become one of completely static warfare.

19.  From 4 Jul to 21 Jul the battalion again enjoyed a respite from fighting when it moved to the Divisional Rest Area on the River ORNE. The first week was spent in cleaning up and resting after the tour of duty in the line. ‚ÄúProgress towards a complete mental and physical recovery was aided by rumours that the Division was shortly to return to England to reform and refit" (ibid: 12 Jul 44). The cheering news of the fall of CAEN (9 Jul) and the American success at ST. LO (18 Jul) suggested that the period of static warfare was ending, and from their battalion area the Canadians saw, pouring across the ORNE on newly constructed pontoon bridges, the huge masses of armour and troops that were taking part in the big push southwards. During this period the unit was reinforced by the arrival of seven officers and 100 other ranks from a Canadian Base Reinforcement Battalion. This was a welcome addition to the fighting strength of the Parachute Battalion, which had sustained three hundred casualties since D-day (see para. 40). The fact that these reinforcements were not trained parachutists mattered little. Indeed, for the role in which the battalion was to be engaged during the remainder of its stay in France, well-trained and equipped infantrymen provided the most valuable acquisition that could have been supplied.


(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion in France (6 June - 6 September 1944)

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