Discussion in 'Airborne' started by PRADELLES, Jul 9, 2015.
But it's not present in the war diaries.
You've done a good job in highlighting all the plans that were afoot to bring 45 RM Commando across the two waterways. The proposed reconnaissance by the RE in the area 113762 confirms the ferry operation would have been at the location where the York I Bridge was later built. There was a road that led down to the Canal to a stone house at that spot.
Lt. Parrish and his 7 Para Platoon were nearby during the day. Off the top of my head I can't remember him mentioning any activities by other Airborne units on either side of the canal at his location. In fact his group was rather isolated.
So from your last attachment it appears the the plan to cross the Canal by dinghy was still in effect up until the time they learned Pegasus Bridge was taken intact.
Not sure for me that the two bridges intact was the best reason to change the plan :
Extract of the 3rd Parachute Brigade HQ war diary :
(b) 1 SS Bde. One LO with 3 Para Bde HQ to meet 1 SS Bde on arrival at RANVILLE brs. One LO 45 (RM) Commando with 9 Para Bn to meet 45 (RM) Commando on crossing CANAL DE CAEN."
It's clear, the 9 Para Bn must cross the footbridge to join the Canal de Caen.
The losses of the 9th Para Bn could be a good reason...
“So from your last attachment it appears the the plan to cross the Canal by dinghy was still in effect up until the time they learned Pegasus Bridge was taken intact.”
Yes, the decision to cancel the dinghy crossing was made at the Commando RV/Checkpoint, about 1000 yards inland, as the bridges were intact.
The Commando Liaison Officer with the 3rd Brigade HQ was Lt. David Haig-Thomas of No 4 Commando. He was killed June 6th while his group was being led from Petiville to Le Mesnil by the young Frenchman Robert Godey. Lt. Peter Winston of 45 RM Commando was the LO with 9 Para. His stick was dropped wide east of the Dives somewhere near Trouville. He evaded for the longest time with many adventures but was eventually captured August 4th in Bordeaux. Without going into detail of his escape he did make it safely back to England on September 3rd.
So neither LO Officer had a chance to meet up with their respective units to inform them of the state of affairs and their route across the two waterways. Going by Danny's attachment word of the successful capture of the bridges had reached Lt-Col Reis of 45 RM Commando at some point and the decision was made to use the bridges for crossing rather than dinghies.
And Neil Barber told me :
"In the initial plan, the men of the 9th Para Battalion were to take the village. But with the far reduced numbers than anticipated, they couldn’t, and they just held the Château d'Amfreville when the commando arrived."
The east exit of the footbridge wasn't held by the 6th Airborne !!
About the position of the compagny of Lieutenant PARISH, 7th Parachute Battalion, it's clear for me, they were here to help the crossing by dinghies of the Commandos :
"7 Para Bn will give max fire sp during the move of 1 SS Bde to brs 098748 and 104746 and improvised crossing 113762.", extract from the war diary of the 5th Para Brigade HQ.
What do you think about "ferry" on the map now ??
The line marking the ferry could have been the site for the intended crossing of 45 Commando if needed? In the thread on the Bailey Bridges I think we took it as an existing service used by the French or Germans. Here's another map originally from Danny.
The O.O. in the 7 Para WD does mention that a 'C' Coy Platoon was to be sent to take out the Battery believed to be nearby (WN11).
"Battle Outposts. - to be found by C Coy.
i. Strength. One pl. Location. 107765. Tasks. Destroy or neutralise enemy bty. Occupy the bty posn."
Lt Parrish's account from the book "The Tale of Two Bridges."
"LO, 1 SS Bde is dropping with HQ 5 Para Bde and is meeting 1 SS Bde at X rds 0937[66?] with infm regarding river crossings. Commandos crossing by brs 098748 and 104746 are moving direct from ST AUBIN D'ARQUENAY to assembly posn on EAST bank in QUARRY 113749. Routes are being kept clear for this move. Commando crossing at foot br 113762 is being protected by patrols from post at X rds 122755."
Extract of the 5th Para HQ
From that it seems like they were going to use the ferry/footbridge crossing even if the bridges were successfully captured. As we know the ferry crossing by dinghy was called off. Is there any evidence the Commandos sent patrols down to the River Orne from X rds 122755? That is a fairly wide area between the D514 and river. You have to wonder how many Germans caught between Ouistreham and Pegasus Bridge escaped the area via the footbridge. If you were on one of those gunboats encountering opposition at both Pegasus Bridge and Lt. Parrish's position where would you go to escape?
I have LO Lt. Haig-Thomas dropping with the 3rd Brigade HQ, on the same aircraft as Brigadier Hill. LO Lt. Winston dropped wide on an aircraft carrying 9 Para men.
Note: I completely missed there was in fact a 3rd LO 1 SS Bde that dropped with the 5th Para Bde HQ. Xavier picks up on it later in post #254.
Sorry for my late answer.
It's not the commandos who sent patrols to the Orne footbridge from X rds 122755, it's a Parachute Battalion. The 9th I think !!
Where was x rds 122755 for you ?
Yes I agree it was 9 Para who were tasked with sending a patrol down to the footbridge. I can't see how they could afford such an excursion as they only had about 80 men by the time they reached Amfreville. Is there any evidence that happened?
Map reference 122755 is near the crossroad at the La Basse Ecarde here. I wondered as well if the Commandos, once they arrived in the Ecarde area, also sent patrols down to the river flats to see if any Germans were about.
Sapper Brian Guy, sapper on ww2talk.com has passed away.
How are you ?
On the Bigot map, where is 104760 for you ?
I would say very near the first set of fuel storage tanks going north. Google Maps puts it where the current tanks are though a little further north it seems?
The last information I found about the 45RM :
"The Commandos decided to use the bridges instead of the rubber boats they had carried but, during the crossing, the CO suffered injuries and was evacuated, while several others were wounded by snipers and a machine gun firing from upstream."
Who took this decision ? And why ?
The Commander of the 45RM ? Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Ries ?
Presumably it was Lt. Col. Ries as he was in command up to the point of his wounding. According the 45 RM Cdo WD:
"Snipers were proving themselves a nuisance in this area and while 45 RM Cdo was between the two bridges LT.COL. RIES was wounded in the left leg by a sniper and MAJ GRAY took command of the Cdo."
Capt. Day's account in Danny's previous post (#215) also confirms Lt. Col. Ries made the decision. I have no idea if Ries received an order from a higher level. He did have information on the situation at the Bridges before entering Benouville and crossing over.
Yes, it's him, I just saw that.
It's strange, why did he took this decision so early ?
The 45RM landed at 9.10 and arrived at the bridge at 14.15.
They carried the dinghies to the bridge during 10 km and 5 hours for nothing ???
It's the missing link...
Did the road to the bridges was clear at 9.10 ?
The war diary of the 1st SS Brigade HQ gives some idea of where 45 Cdo was in relation to other units as they entered Benouville. Lt. Col. Ries would have been in contact with Lord Lovat in person and perhaps earlier by radio. It was a pretty dicey situation at the bridges and the dinghies were probably transported the complete distance as another means to cross the Canal on the chance crossing by bridge became untenable.
There is an interesting account in the Barber book by Emlyn Jones of the Commando Signal Troop, attached to Lieutenant Colonel Ries’ 45 Royal Marines Commando. They reached the bridges at at 1430 hours.
"A halt was called and we were thankful for the break but still we couldn’t relax as the enemy were keeping up a relentless bombardment. The time came for us to cross the bridge, which was under a smoke haze. Lord Lovat was standing in the middle of the road, just a few yards away from the bridge, oblivious to enemy fire which came raining down from the Chateau de Benouville … Lord Lovat standing there reminded me of a policeman on traffic duty, urging us on. ‘Don’t run across the bridge, walk’ was his order. Then it was my time to go, passing some Airborne lads dug in at the side of the bridge. ‘Good luck, keep going, there’s another bridge’ they shouted. I think it must have been one of the fastest walks I’d ever undertaken, feeling so vulnerable with bullets pinging off the steel girders and a fair amount of mortar fire. Soon I was across and into the ditch on the other side, a slight breather. A shout: the Colonel had been hit by a sniper. Lieutenant Colonel Ries was immediately evacuated. It looked as if he’d caught it in the thigh. His second-in-command, Major Nicol Gray took over."
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