Sword Beach - Wn01 - Merville Gun Battery


Lt-Colonel Terence Otway, the commander of the 9th Parachute Battalion from 3rd Parachute Brigade (6th Airborne Division), landed at 00:50 with the rest of his stick 400 yards away from the drop-zone in a farmhouse being used as a command post by a German battalion, and after a brief fire-fight and helping other scattered paratroopers, only arrived at the drop-zone at 01:30.

By 02:35 only 110 paratroopers had arrived at the drop-zone, and only a single machine-gun and a small number of Bangalore torpedoes had been recovered. Under strict orders that the battery was to be destroyed no later than 05:30, Lt-Colonel Terence Otway felt that he could no longer wait for any more reinforcements and set off for the battery at 02:50, the under-strength battalion having been increased to around 150 paratroopers after a small group of stragglers arrived at 02:45.

The battalion arrived at the battery at 04:00, where it linked up with the survivors of the pathfinder group who had been hit by the RAF raid against the battery, and began readying for an assault on the battery whilst the pathfinders marked out areas for the Bangalore torpedoes to be placed. The battalion was divided into four assault groups, one for each of the casemates of the battery, and was ready by 04:30, when only two gliders carrying the Royal Engineer sappers arrived over the battery.

Otway launched the assault as soon as the first glider overshot the battery. A number of prisoners were taken by the paratroopers, and explosives were then readied to disable the artillery pieces inside the battery. Having completed the assault, the paratroopers gathered the German prisoners and their wounded and retreated, having no wish to remain by the battery; the battalion possessed no radio, and if no signal were received by the light cruiser HMS Arethusa by 05:30 it would begin shelling the battery as a back-up plan. The paratroopers had achieved their primary objective, but at a heavy cost, with fifty paratroopers dead and twenty-five wounded.