We made our 13th
jump at night in England because we had not jumped since the states and
also I suspect to get that unlucky number behind us.
We were finally
sent to our airfields in early June and housed in hangars. The people of
Nottingham sensed that this was something more than just an exercise, as
many towns’ people lined the streets waving flags as we got on the buses.
Our briefings, to
my mind, were devised by some seriously unbalanced people. We were shown
maps with names of towns and villages cut out for security reasons, which
rendered it a sheet of paper with a bunch of lines. (i.e., no reference
points.) At the eleventh hour when the complete map was shown, it
Next came an order
that we were to drop with our weapons broken down or otherwise unloaded,
the theory being that if we were only using knifes and bayonets, any
firing could be assumed the enemy. (Any fool could have figured that out.)
Some heeded the weapons order, but most ignored it.
Our regiment, being
green in a veteran division, was dropping further inland in Normandy to
straddle key approaches and stop anything with mines. So each of us
carried a landmine which is about the size of a six-inch car hubcap.
Besides the mine
addition, we carried bandoleers of extra ammunition, smoke grenades, and
extra socks. Grenades and other things were carried in our musette bag.
Any one carrying exposed grenades in a paratroop jump is someone to avoid
at all cost.
We also carried a
gammon grenade, this was a British concoction which was a plastic
explosive wrapped around a detonator and bound with black tape. It looked
like a water canteen, more so because you twisted off the cap to activate
Our jump suits were
anti-gas impregnated which made them look like something dipped in a light
coloured mud. They were stiff and wrinkled and hot.
We earlier had an
opportunity to write last letters to be mailed only in the event of you
being killed. I declined; otherwise my mother would have gotten it when
later I was reported killed in action. (KIA.) in Normandy on the first
We bordered the
planes on the night of 5th June, 1944 at about 11.00 pm. Dusk
was falling and we took off.
The mood was sober
and sombre as on any other routine jump, as we had all learned to mask our
private fears. The only diversion on this flight was when someone on this
long flight had to relieve himself, usually at the last minute.The bulk of
our equipment and the simple mechanics of relief would require the
greatest or desperate urgency beyond belief.
The ride then began
to get a little turbulent and some low clouds came into view, thickening
at times to obscure the other planes. I could see something through the
clouds, like a light show, far ahead of us on the horizon.
I quickly resumed
my jump position (No. 3) assuming that we would jump before or after all
that light.The ride seemed to be more turbulent and the plane appeared to
bank to the left, then levelling off.The "Go" (Green.) Light came on and
we hit the door.
The opening shock
of my parachute was the hardest that I have ever encountered. I quickly
and automatically checked my canopy overhead.
But that wasn’t my
immediate problem; things were going Zip, Zip, Zip.
I had no time to
study the terrain or try to pick out any landmarks as my attention was
focused on the light show below me. All kinds of tracer bullets were
arcing around me, coming up as lazy fireflies and then Zipping past.
Two guns did
finally isolate on me as I was coming down on a field about 50 by 100
yards, each straddling a corner of the field and holding me in a shallow
crossfire. I came down between both guns which continued to fire at me.
Just then another
paratrooper was coming down in the field and the guns were turned on him,
he simply blew up in the air. They must have hit his landmine or gammon
grenade for that kind of explosion.
The field suddenly
lit up with what I thought was a flare, but it was a plane overhead on
fire, and for the first time I saw "Rommel's Asparagus" planted in the
field. These were wooden stakes to break up glider landings, but also to
catch unwary paratroopers.These had mines placed on top of the wooden
Everything was then