Airborne troops study D-Day battlefields

Posted on: June 6th, 2014 by Simon No Comments

Paratroopers have visited the battlefields in Normandy that helped to form the formidable reputation of the British Army’s airborne forces.

As part of commemorations of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, junior soldiers from 16 Air Assault Brigade are carrying out a battlefield study of significant sites from the campaign.

In the early hours of 6 June 1944, some 7,900 troops from the British 6th Airborne Division landed by parachute and glider in Normandy. Their mission was to secure the eastern flank of the invasion beaches by destroying or capturing key transport routes and attacking German positions. Key actions such as Pegasus Bridge and Breville les Monts have become iconic demonstrations of the flexibility and reach of airborne forces, as well as their robustness and fighting spirit.

Pegasus Bridge

Study organiser Major Chris Price, of Woodbridge-based 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault), said: “It is vitally important that soldiers understand the history of their unit, which shapes its spirit and character. The outstanding achievements of 6th Airborne Division on D-Day set the standards that we expect of the soldiers who wear the same maroon beret today.

“There is also strong military value in learning about the tactics used in the past, and how and why they have changed to reflect modern operational demands.”

At Pegasus Bridge, troops from 2nd Battalion, The Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry landed by glider to capture key bridges across the River Orne and Caen Canal to prevent the Germans reinforcing the beaches. The mission was achieved with total surprise and the bridges became the first part of occupied France to be liberated.


Pictured: Junior soldiers of 16 Air Assault Brigade on a battlefield cemetery visit in Normandy. By Corporal Andy Reddy; Crown copyright

Airtrooper Darren Lumbard, of Wattisham-based 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, said: “To fly into enemy territory in a glider required an amazing amount of bravery. It’s very special to be able to be here for the 70th anniversary to join in the commemorations to show our respect to the veterans and those who died.”

Breville les Monts, situated on high ground overlooking the invasion beaches, was a hotly-contested village in the weeks following D-Day. In an attack to recapture the village on the night of 12/13 June, every officer and sergeant major from the 12th (Yorkshire) Parachute Battalion, a company from the 12th Battalion Devonshire Regiment and 22nd Independent Parachute Company was killed or injured.

Corporal Paul Ruttledge, of Colchester-based 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, said: “It’s fascinating to come and see the locations to properly understand our history. The determination they fought with in 1944 to just push on and achieve their objectives, regardless of losses, is humbling.”

Across the week troops are joining D-Day veterans for commemorative services and events, including a jump by 300 British, Canadian, American and French troops onto a drop zone used on D-Day on Thursday (5 June).


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