6th Airborne Division - 3rd Parachute Brigade - 8th Parachute Battalion - War Diaries


5th June 1944
Place: Blakewell Fm. Airfd Transit Camp
D-1 and all preparations complete.
1930 - Major G. Payne with two Bn "pathfinder" sticks move off for HARWELL AIRFD.
2115 - Bn moves from Transit Camp to BLAKEHILL FM AIRFD.
2240 - GLIDERS TAKE-OFF. (HORSA gliders - TUGS C.47s.)
2311 - C.47 Parachute A/C TAKE-OFF.

6th June 1944 - D Day
Place: Normandy, Touffreville
0020 - PATHFINDER STICKS arrive on D.Z.
0045 - GLIDERS arrive on L.Z., but are widely dispersed.
0050 - BN MAIN BODY - Time of 1st DROP on D.Z.
Place: DZ
0020 - Two Recce parties of 8th Para Bn were dropped on D.Z. Slight opposition was met at R.V. which was quickly overcome and one German killed. One German on a bicycle was taken prisoner.
0045 - O.C. Recce Party saw gliders come over very widely dispersed. He was only able to locate two of them.
0050 - Saw main body arrive and states that aircraft were flying in every direction at different altitudes and all flying well above dropping speed.
0120 - C.O. arrived at R.V. and situation was as follows. There were about 30 men present and one R.E. Jeep and trailer. It was reported by Recce Party that Bn appeared to be very widely dispersed and that no container A/C had dropped on D.Z.
Note  The R.V. signal was a red and green verey light put up at frequent intervals which could be seen a considerable distance away. Actually it was seen on RANVILLE D.Z.
0145 - Sgt. Fesq of F.S.P. was sent into TOUFFREVILLE to get information from the local inhabitants. He reported that TROARN was held and also ESCOVILLE and SANNERVILLE. The prisoner was also interrogated and he confirmed the statements of the local inhabitants. He reported that the Fmn in TROARN was a mobile coy with half-tracks - strength of about 200 and that all main rds were covered by MG fire.  During this period elements of the Bn were arriving slowly at the R.V. and there was considerable M.G. fire on the D.Z. Everybody reported that they had been fired on on the way to the R.V.
0330 - Situation as follows:-
Bn Strength
11 officers and about 130 ORs. 1 Officer and 2 ORs were wounded and 6 ORs had D.Z. injuries and were not in a condition to fight. The C.O. was wounded in the hand.
0300 - C.O. appreciated situation as follows:-
1.  From reports from Recce Party it appeared that remainder of Bn had dropped to the north of the D.Z. in area RANVILLE and LE MESNIL.
2.  That Bn was not strong enough to capture TROARN and that we had no R.E. assistance to destroy the bridge.
3.  That we had sufficient strength and explosives to destroy the bridge at BURES which was of single span type and could be destroyed without much technical assistance.
4.  That if a position was taken up in area X rds 146695 and track running east to BURES sufficient force could be collected to attack TROARN later in the day from the north.
Therefore the plan was as follows:-
1.  Strong fighting patrol of 1 Pl from "C" coy would move to TROARN to make a recce and report on defences at west end of town.
2.  Remainder of Bn would move to area X rds 153700 leaving two dets P.I.A.T.s and covering force in area X rds 146695 to cover any movement of enemy north, and to guide any stragglers to Bn posn.
3.  1 Offr and 2 ORs to remain at R.V. till first light to guide any stragglers who may have arrived at R.V. after Bn had left.
0400 - Bn moved off.
0430 - Bn arrived at posn X tracks 153700. Recce patrol sent off at once to recce BURES and another I.O. and Maj. Wilson to recce northern approaches to TROARN for purpose of attacking it.
0500 - Capt. Shoppee who had been detailed as Trowbridge Party arrived at BURES. He had landed at BRIQUEVILLE 173722 and moved straight to BURES which he found unoccupied and recce'ed bridges. At 0545 hrs he met R.E. party and reported he also met recce patrol from Bn and a runner was dispatched to bring up pl for protection of R.E. party and Jeeps landed with R.E. stores.
0530 - Lt. Thompson reported to Bn HQ. He stated that he had landed on the RANVILLE D.Z. with the Mortars and M.M.Gs. He landed at 0100 hrs and collected 3 M.M.G. dets. and 3 with 2 Mortars and 3 M.M.Gs. and some 50 O.Rs. mainly from "A" coy.  At 0200 hrs he left DZ with the object of making for TROARN. In RANVILLE he met a Frenchman who said he would act as a guide and he moved via RANVILLE - LE MESNIL X rds to rd junc 140704 where he met at 0450 Maj. Roseveare R.E. and 1 Offr. and 20 OR.s of the Bn and a party of R.E.s. Lt. Thompson had 1 Offr casualty with him. Maj. Roseveare took command of the party and ordered them to hold a firm base on the rd. junc. as he had no idea where the Bn was. He with a party of R.E.s was going to try to blow the bridge at TROARN. Lt. Thompson organised the defence of the rd. junc. then moved down the road to make a recce, when he met the force at X rds 147695 who directed him to Bn H.Q. The C.O. directed him to bring his force to the Bn area and it arrived at 0615 hrs.
0630 - P.I.A.T. det. at X rds 147695 reported six half-track vehs moving on rd TROARN - LE MESNIL and approaching their posn. They opened fire and scored hits on all six vehs causing their crews to dismount and take up posn on the far side of the rd. A fire fight then ensued and after a spirited action the enemy withdrew with their casualties leaving 3 dead who were identified as 21 Pz Div and six half-tracks, four of which were inadequately destroyed as they were recovered by the enemy that night.
0900 - Patrol arrived back from TROARN. Patrol comd stated that he had moved to TROARN Sta. and was fired on from the high ground to the south of the Sta.  Patrol could not get on and lay up and observed half-track vehs moving north on TROARN - LE MESNIL rd and TROARN - BANNEVILLE rd. C.O. then appreciated that most of mobile coy had probably left TROARN and that as soon as R.E. party were finished with BURES bridges TROARN bridge could be dealt with.
1000 - Capt. Juckes R.E. reported to Bn HQ that bridges had been blown at 0915 and that he thought that TROARN br. had also been blown.  He also stated that there was an A Tk gun and Jeep and a glider and 3 casualties in the river.  C.O. went to BURES. An attempt was made to extract the A Tk gun but this was found to be impossible.
1200 - R.E.s returned from BURES and it was decided to send with Jeep and explosives and one strong pl into TROARN to blow bridge or, if already blown, to widen gap. Remainder of Bn would move to rd junc. 140704. No words had been received of patrol that had gone to recce northern approaches to TROARN. Force to blow bridge at TROARN was to move via BURES and then down axis of road south to TROARN.
1230 - O.C. "A" coy and Sigs Offr. reported to Bn HQ. They had been dropped some 5 miles south of the D.Z. They brought one man with them. Maj. Wilson's patrol arrived back at the same time. Maj. Wilson stated that he had met no opposition to the north of TROARN, but on moving further west down rly. line they ran into a strong German posn at 159678 which pinned them down by fire. When they started to withdraw the I.O. moved by a different route from the remainder of the party and has not been seen since.
1300 - Bn moved to new posn and force moved to TROARN.
1330 - O.C. "C" coy arrived with 4 offrs and 51 ORs. He met Bn at 143702. He stated that he had been landed on RANVILLE DZ and gathered together 51 members of the Bn. He saw in the distance the green verey lights being fired at the Bn R.V. and decided to make straight for them. His route took him through HEROUVILLETTE where they ran into the enemy and had to fight their way through the village. Force suffered 6 casualties.
Place: 140704
1400 - Bn in area rd junc 140704 and Bn disposed in following areas:-
"A" coy : Area 140707 (Reserve coy)
"B" coy : Area 139703
"C" coy : Area 142705
Bn HQ : 140706
Mortar Pl : "C" coy area
M.M.G. Pl : In posns by day in "B" coy area firing to west over D.Z. By night pl withdrawn to Bn HQ area
A Tk Pl : Secs under command of coys
1700 - Lt. Brown returned from TROARN. He stated that they had met a little opposition in TROARN which had been dealt with and the R.E.s had increased the gap in the bridge to 40 feet. 7 prisoners were brought back from a M.G. post which was attacked. They were identified as 21 Pz Div.
1740 - Attack made on "B" coy posn by 5 A.F.V.s. Attack beaten off and one enemy 6-ton truck full of stores captured.
1800 - Strength of Bn approx 17 Offrs 300 O.Rs. Weapons Bn very short of L.M.Gs. 2 x 3" mortars and one captured German. 3 M.M.Gs. 6 P.I.A.Ts. Sigs 2 x 68 sets. 4 x 18 sets which allowed comn with coys. By 2000 hrs line was laid to all coys.
During the night D/D+1 local patrols were sent out. No contact made with enemy except for snipers and small patrols. Bn concentrated on getting well dug in.

7th June 1944
0830 - Elements of Armoured Recce Regt began to arrived in the Bn area. Lt. Col. Stewart liaised with C.O. and arranged that 8th Bn. would provide protection for them at night. Mortars ranged in on plain N.W. of TOUFFREVILLE and established O.P.s. Bn got well dug in. It was reported that Lt. Cooper and 1 Pl "C" coy were at Div H.Q. Recce patrol to BURES to see if held and to report whether it was possible to salvage A Tk gun and Jeep from river. Patrol reported impossible to salvage A Tk gun but they brought back a Sgt of the 9th Bn. who reported that there were 6 casualties from a wrecked A/C outside BASSENVILLE 1870 in a farm at 194708. C.O. decided to bring them in that night.
1600 - Armoured Recce reported that an S.P. gun at was giving them trouble and would we deal with it. O.C. "A" coy was detailed for the task with 1 pl. By the time he reached posn of S.P. gun it had withdrawn so he pushed on to recce ESCOVILLE which he found to be clear of enemy.  Patrol returned about 2100 hrs with an enemy 6-ton truck filled with petrol and oil.
2100 - R.S.M. 13th Bn informed us that TROARN was lightly held and that a strong fighting patrol could carry out a successful raid. Following patrols took place on night D+1/D+2.

1) Fighting patrol of "C" coy to TROARN. Strength - 1 coy.
2) Fighting patrol of "B" coy to cut TROARN - BANNEVILLE road and recce enemy posns. Strength - 1 Offr 15 O.Rs.
3) Strong patrol to bring back wounded from farm at BASSENVILLE. Strength - C.O. 3 Offrs. 1 Pl "A" coy, Mortar pl, M.G. pl. Total - 4 Offrs 60 O.R.s. and two Jeeps. Reason for the strength of the patrol was that the Jeeps could not go any further than BURES since bridges were blown and it would be necessary to carry the wounded some 3 miles.
Results of patrols night D+1/D+2
1) Fighting patrol "C" coy under command of Maj. Hewetson attacked TROARN from the north and entered the town at the church at 166679 and ran into heavy M.G. fire at west end of village from posts and a tank and armoured car. Casualties were inflicted on the enemy before they were forced to withdraw as firing started from most of the house in the village. Our casualties 3 O.R.s wounded.
2) Patrol had difficulty in negotiating very thick country and was late in reaching road. 1 enemy m/c and rider destroyed at 145675. No casualties.
3) 5 stretcher cases, 1 walking wounded and 2 unwounded O.R.s were brought back. No incidents to report.

8th June 1944 D+2
Mortar O.P. locates 8 gun A.A. Bty in area 1168 and 1268. Mortars and M.G.s open fire and by the end of the day 3 A.A. guns had ceased firing. Enemy retaliated with S.P. guns - no casualties. Daylight recce patrols continue in BOIS DE BAVENT and close country to S. and S.W. of Bn posns.

Two long distance patrols were briefed for the following tasks:-
Patrol No.1 Capt. Shoppee and 2 O.Rs. - Task - to cut TROARN - ARGENCES road and bring back any information about enemy movement.
Patrol No.2 Lt. McClaine-Cross and 2 O.Rs. - Task - to cut CAGNY - CAEN rd and bring back any information about enemy movements.
Both patrols left our own lines at approx 1830 hrs.
Patrolling for night 8/9 Jun
1) Fighting patrol to TROARN - Strength 2 Offrs 40 O.Rs. "C" coy O.C. - Maj. Hewetson.  Task to ascertain strength of enemy at level crossing 159677.
2) Strong recce patrol to cut TROARN - BANNEVILLE rd.  Strength 1 Offr 10 O.Rs "B" coy.
Results of patrols night 8/9 Jun
1) Patrol moved south on to rly line and then S.W. along rly line and ran into enemy patrol. After short exchange of fire enemy withdrew having suffered some casualties. Patrol pushed on and came under heavy M.G. fire from houses at rly crossing. Enemy fire returned but it was not possible to push home attack owing to strength of enemy.  Valuable information gained as to enemy dispositions.  Our casualties two slightly wounded.