Anyone got a copy of Richard Todd's memoirs, 'Caught in the Act'?

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Old Git, May 10, 2021.

  1. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Just a quickie, anyone got a copy, to hand, of 'Caught in the Act' by Richard Todd? Looking for a digital image of pg 178 where Todd mentions meeting the RASC bridging unit before the relief column got to Pegasus. Doesn't have to be the best image, just readable/legible. Anyone?
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  2. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Yes--will do shortly.
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  3. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Just in case, here are the pages before and after, too.

    SmartSelect_20210510-233113_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20210510-233138_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20210510-233153_Gallery.jpg

    On this topic, I have the accounts by/about Gale, Poett, Pine-Coffin and Lovat--if needed.
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  4. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Blinking flip, that was fast. Thanks Charley you're an absolute star mate! Yes please to the other, would love to see them. Can you also provide details on the source/publication?
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  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    See this thread.
    That's a massive part of why we exist, that is.

    Nice one, Charley.
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  6. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I'm into work paperwork for a while (late night here in Expatistan), but will see what the other books have when I get a break.
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  7. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Here's another.

    Hard to photograph as it's a springy and firmly bound paperback. It's a limited publication, as you can see.

    SmartSelect_20210511-003712_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20210511-003724_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20210511-003739_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20210511-003754_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20210511-015617_Gallery.jpg SmartSelect_20210511-003909_Gallery.jpg

    Bold text is direct quotation from Pine-Coffin; regular text is interpretation by the author.

    'The noise' mentioned at the start of the extract is the commencement of naval gunfire at H-hour at 07:00; the noise range was sufficient that the explosions were heard at 07:01.

    No mention of the bridging unit in Nigel Poett's autobiography, Pure Poet.
    Last edited: May 10, 2021
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  8. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Also, hear him describe the scene himself here [REEL 8]:

    Todd, Richard Andrew Palethorpe (Oral history)
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  9. Alex1975uk

    Alex1975uk Well-Known Member

    I have the book...
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  10. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Thanks again Charley, fanatastic stuff mate. Truly appreciiated! Off to listen to reel 8 now :D
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  11. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Thanks Alex, Charley has it all in hand!
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  12. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    As a follow-up to this I have now listened to the recording of Richard Todd's interview at the IWM and have transcribed the section where he describes his encounter, on the afternoon of June 6th, 1944, with the RE/RASC Bridging Company that had made its way through to Pegasus bridge before the main body of the relieving infantry and was under the command of 'a rather fussed and florid ... a very red-faced Royal Engineer Major ".

    According to the IWM Website this interviews were conducted in June 2006, a few days before Richard Todd's 87th birthday (he was to die three and half years later). As one would expect there are a lot of um and ahs throughout the interview but I have not transcribed those, nor have I transcribed the very few questions\prompts of the interviewer. The rest I've tried to record as verbatim as possible. If anyone spots any mistakes do put a note below.

    Richard Todd Interview, © IWM 29069, reel 8. Starts approximately 3:12 minutes on the slider...

    Todd, Richard Andrew Palethorpe (Oral history)

    "Later in the day, I don't know why I took it upon myself , I think it was [as] Adjutant, I went off to find out what the hell was happening. I went down the road from LE PORT, going north, towards the sea. To go to that same area where the outlying platoon had been, to find out if there was any further news ... AND IF THERE WAS ANY SIGN OF SEABORNE TROOPS...coming in. Now this must have been at [long pause as he remembers] must have been in the afternoon because by this time we had expected to see them, and they hadn't reached us. But, on my way, I came across a small convoy, 8...9...10 maybe, three-ton trucks coming up from the sea towards our position. I sort of stopped them and a rather fussed and florid [interview interrupted by telephone ringing) ... I stopped the convoy and there was a very red-faced Royal Engineer Major who was, seemed to be, in charge of this convoy and he said he was the bridging company, Royal Engineers, who had arrived to build bridges across the canal and the river, and I said well there's no need the bridges are intact. And he said, 'Oh god haven't they been destroyed and I said no-no-no they're intact, they were captured intact, and I said you'd better get the hell out of this because you are the first people I've seen coming in from the bridges [I think Mr Todd meant to say Beaches], at the moment, so far as I can make out, there's nothing between you and the Germans. So what I suggest you do is you get out of your trucks and get your chaps to take up defensive positions and wait until some British troops come through, because they must come through from the beaches soon. Which he did! But that was an example of how long the delay had been, waiting for ... and I thought at the time, I thought well Christ, IF, a convoy, of soft skinned vehicles, can get through, from the beaches, to us. Where the hell are the troops! Where's the infantry, where's the armour, where's everybody. I subsequently discovered that, I only discovered this from reading, that they had been pretty slow in getting, in taking advantage of the situation, getting on with things, they had been digging themselves in instead of charging on, and they were taking time. And in fact, we weren't reached, by any relieving infantry, from the seaborne relieving troops, until after 9:00 O'Clock that evening. And that was the Warwickshire regiment, a battalion of the Warwickshire Regiment. So the whole day had gone by when we had been expecting to be relieved in the morning."
    Last edited: May 12, 2021
  13. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Good stuff.

    No mention of this aspect in Windy Gale's book With the 6th Airborne Division in Normandy or, unsurprisingly, in Lord Lovat's book March Past (given that the commandos had 'passed through' already).

    Not sure who else was involved or nearby at the time--any other 'names' you can think of?

    Frustratingly, I don't have Mills-Roberts' account Clash By Night, although he likely has nothing here for the same reason as above.
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  14. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    I'll throw this out for consideration. It is a page on the movements of Major James Cuthbertson on D-Day from the book "D-Day 1944: Voices from Normandy" by Robin Neillands and Roderick De Normann". It was copied off Google Books when still available. I can see some similarity but there is no mention of meeting Lt. Richard Todd. Sorry I know nothing about 90th Company RASC?

    Major James Cuthbertson.jpg

    Regards ...
  15. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    I should have read the Major Cuthbertson account more carefully. When he returns in the evening to collect his convoy they were located in Colleville, no where near Benouville.

    Lt. (Captain?) Todd claims he was on his way to an outlying platoon when he came upon the RE convoy north of Le Port. In his account Lt. Parrish tells how Capt. Todd visited the 7 Para outpost on the Caen Canal in the afternoon filled them in on what was happening and told them to return to the bridge where they were needed.

    I suspect the RE Major described by Todd was Major DJ Willison who was Commander of the 17th Field Coy Group who were tasked with erecting additional bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne. Neil Barber covers the early seaborne arrivals in Appendix D of his book, "The Pegasus and Orne Bridges" and connects Major Willison with the convoy met by Todd. He also claims that Major Willison was present to witness the 'ceremonial' crossing of the bridge by the Commandos.

    Regards ...
  16. David Woods

    David Woods Active Member

    Page 178 as requested

    Attached Files:

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  17. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    I too got thrown off track by Maj Cuthbertson but as you noted he arrived first on a motorbike, alongside a DR also on a motorbike, and It was much later in the afternoon, about 1400hrs, before he went back for his trucks and he didn't get back to the bridge area, with his trucks, till much later again.

    There were several Sappers at the bridge before the Commando's arrived and from what I can ascertain these were mostly 1 Pl of 71 Fd Coy with OC of 17 Fd Coy in Command. 71 Fd Coy were part of 7 A Trps Engrs but were attached to what was loosely known as '17 Fd Coy RE Assault Group', this was made up of 17 Fd Coy who had under command 71 Fd Coy and 106 Br Coy RASC. There's an interesting little typescript document in the IWM which appears to have been knocked up by the HQ Section of 71 Fd Coy at the end of the war, it is called 'From the Orne to the Rhine: A Short History of 71 Fd Coy in North Western Europe, June 1944 - May 1945'. I have a photostatic copy here (missing the map sadly) and on the first page it give a good account of how the Fd Coy was broken down into various groups for landing and what vehicles they had/or did not have. I've started transcribing this also and as soon as I've got it typed up properly I shall post it up here. However, given the nature of which groups landed when and what vehicles they have with them. it becomes obvious that 1 Pl of 71 Fd Coy were most likely the first members of this ad hoc assault group, who had landed with vehicles, and who raced along the tram-tracks by the side of the canal (avoiding the roads) to get to their designated rally point at 'Benouville Crossroads'. This unit had a couple of 15 cwt. 4x4 Trucks/Cars (one of which had a motorbike slung on the back) with them and it is probably these chaps that John Butler of C Coy 7 Para encountered by Café Gondrée before noon on 6th June (this encounter is mentioned in Robin Neilland's other book, 'Battle for Normandy, 1944'. In British nomenclature 15. cwt. 4x4 Trucks/cars are normally the White Scout car (there was also a Morris 15. cwt 4x4 truck but I believe all RE Units were allocated WSC's rather than Morris trucks...of course TRUX may be along to correct me on that in just a mo ;-) )

    Interesting to note that all of Robin Neilland's research is held at the IWM and I hope to be accessing this in a couple of weeks to see if I can find the original letter from John Butler, and a few other items, that Robin cites in his book.
  18. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    There is a taped interview of John Butler available for download on the University of Victoria (B.C.) site:

    Butler, Henry John: my armed forces recollections :: Canadian Military Oral History Collection

    At about the 27+ minute mark he mentions seeing a White Scout Car and Bren Carrier near the bridge that were carrying a Sergeant and 9 Engineers with whom he had a bit of a chat. In his account on the Pegasus Archive he claims the same Scout Car was later used to evacuate the wounded of 'A' Coy, 7th Parachute Battalion from south Benouville.

    There is a well known aerial of the Pegasus Bridge area taken on D-Day which shows a vehicle astride the road about 100 metres west of the canal. Perhaps placed there as a barrier to prevent armoured German vehicles from reaching the bridge itself. Could it be a White Scout Car? I suspect, however, there are a few other theories on that particular vehicle.

    Aerial Pegasus Bridge June 6.jpg

    Regards ...
    Last edited: May 13, 2021
  19. Old Git

    Old Git Harmless Curmudgeon

    Fantastic Cee, wouldn't have thought to look on the Canadian archives for that! I transcribed that section of the tape, not a very long section but interesting nonetheless.

    27:58 on slider

    "Alongside the Canal, a White Scout Car, (it's not a colour it's a make 'White' ) and it's like a one ton truck, 4 wheeled-drive truck.It's heavily armoured, quite heavily armoured, enough to stop small arms fire. And behind that was a Bren Gun Carrier, a small tracked vehicle, and in these two vehicles there was a Sergeant and nine other Royal Engineers. They'd landed on the beach, kept off the road. There's a sort of tramway/rails all along the canal, they'd hit this and travelled all the way down into our lines, never saw a soul (laughs). They were the first people who got through to the bridge, after a couple minutes chattering to them, ... they were there to survey, they were expecting the bridge to be blown, they were there to survey the area for a Bailey bridge"

    Last edited: May 12, 2021
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  20. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

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