2023 will feature two specific tours to the battlefield area of the 6th Airborne Division during D-Day and its first crucial week in Normandy.
Although I have performed private tours for friends, this is the first time that I have agreed to act as the guide on an organised Battlefield Tour; the reason being that I believed that any such a tour needed to be a detailed journey around the area. With the professional help of Major John Redfern and his new Army Group 1944 Battlefield Tours, this has been realised in ‘The Day the Devils Dropped in Battlefield Tour’.
Outline Detail of the days are as follows:
Day 1: Travel to Normandy. Films; Setting the Scene.
- Introduction to the immediate Caen Canal Bridge area and local situation as it stood in June 1944.
- The assaults on the bridges across the Caen Canal (Pegasus Bridge) and the River Orne (Horsa Bridge) by the Coup de Main Party comprising the Oxf and Bucks Light Infantry, Glider Pilot Regiment and 249 (Airborne) Field Company RE.
- The expansion of the Coup de Main Party perimeter into Benouville by the 7th Parachute Battalion and its actions in the defence of the village during D-Day.
- The arrival from Sword Beach of the Commandos of Lord Lovat’s 1st Special Service Brigade, and also the Seaborne Engineers.
- The explanation of the Coup de Main Party actions during the remainder of D-Day, including an integrated visit to the wonderfully atmospheric Cafe Gondree.
- An integrated visit to the fabulous Memorial Pegasus Museum.
- A visit to the Ranville DZ/LZ ‘N’, detailing the arrival of the Pathfinders of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company, the arrival of the Main Drop of the 7th, 12th and 13th Parachute Battalions, the Divisional reinforcements by glider, and also the lead into the following day’s visit that explains the blowing of the Troarn Bridge.
- A walk around Le bas de Ranville, the area of the Divisional Headquarters and also the Main Dressing Station of 225 (Para) Field Ambulance.
- A visit to the area of the Ranville Chateau and the explanation of the German armoured attack on the morning of D-Day.
- The Dropping Zone ‘V’ at Varaville: Actions of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company and the Advance Parties; the Main Drop on ‘V’; The Canadian Parachute Battalion’s capture of the Varaville Strongpoint; 9th Parachute Battalion Assembly and move towards the Merville Battery.
- The arrival of the 3rd Parachute Brigade Commander, Brigadier James Hill, and the setting off of this group towards the Merville Battery.
- Gonneville: The tragic bombing of Brigadier Hill’s group.
- The actions of the 9th Parachute Battalion Advance parties, the arrival of the Battalion and the move towards the Merville Battery.
- Visit to the Merville Battery Museum and explanation of the assault; the placing of the bangalore torpedoes; arrival of the assault gliders; the blowing of the gaps in the wire; Actions on casemates; Aftermath;
- Calvary Cross: Arrival of the remnants of the battalion; the wounded at the Haras de Retz; Heading off to Amfreville. Evacuation of the wounded from the Hara de Retz.
- Amfreville: The 9th Parachute Battalion’s arrival in Amfreville. Arrival during the early afternoon of 3 Troop, 3 Commando, and their liberation of the village.
- The 9th Parachute Battalion’s subsequent position at the Bois des Monts, opposite the Chateau St Come, on the Breville Ridge. Explanation of the crucial 5-Day battle there.
- Le Mesnil Crossroads – 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion actions. (also potentially a visit to Brigade HQ/224 (Para) Field Ambulance buildings).
- The Triangle (Road Junction): The importance of the Triangle. Explanation of the events on DZ ‘K’. The 22 IPC; 8th Parachute Battalion; Reminder of events on DZ ‘N’. 3rd Parachute Squadron Royal Engineers’ demolition of the Bures bridges.
- A visit to the Troarn Bridge: The events during the journey and the initial cutting of the bridge. The second attack during the afternoon.
- Ranville Churchyard/Cemetery – Visiting the graves of many of the men featured over the previous three days.
Day 4: Travel back to the UK; Films; Discussion.
Also, if any attendee has a personal link to a member of the Division, then every possible effort, within reason, will be made to incorporate relevant visits. This would need to be stated in advance on the booking form.
The forthcoming dates for these Tours are as follows:
1st – 4th May
4th – 7th September
For the cost and further information or go to www.armygroup1944battlefieldtours.com