login   |    register
For all ground-operating modelling subjects.
Postcard from Normandy
Antwerpen, Belgium
Joined: April 14, 2005
KitMaker: 14 posts
AeroScale: 0 posts
Posted: Monday, September 08, 2008 - 09:13 AM UTC
Nice article Jim.
Myself and four Belgian friends (I am a Brit ex squaddie BTW) went to Normandy last year for 9 days (St M E to Caen), we had a great time. Very moving too, we also passed Arras on the way where my Great Grandfather is comemorated on the WWI memorial.
We did Ypres this year and its off to The Ardennes next year (we are doing that in Dec so we can fuffer some of the conditions those poor guys had to endure). I have a lot of pics and vids of Normandy (and Ypres and lots from wtaerloo) if anyone needs extra material.

Wales, United Kingdom
Joined: February 11, 2008
KitMaker: 79 posts
AeroScale: 0 posts
Posted: Sunday, September 07, 2008 - 12:39 AM UTC
Thanks for the comments. I can fully recommend the Pegasus archive website, it’s a great resource for anyone interested in the part of 6 airborne division in Normandy. Jim, I certainly think that the public perception of the battle for Pegasus bridge needs to be changed. When I first visited Benouville all I knew about battle came more or less from the Stephen Ambrose Book, Pegasus Bridge. However, following that conversation with Arlette Gondree, where she was quite forthright in her support of 7 Para I became interested in uncovering more on their role. I bought a small book in the museum called a Tale of Two Bridges which is the story of 7 para’s role in Normandy based on the diary of Col Pine-Coffin, the commander of 7 para along with contributions from other member of battalion published by Col Pine-Coffins son. I got in touch with the Pine-Coffin family, and thanks to his grandson, who is planning to publish a second book on the battalion I was able to find out more about my uncles time in the battalion. I also visited the records of the National Army Museum, the Airborne Museum at Aldershot and the National records office in Kew.

All that research showed that there was much more to the battle than presented in the Ambrose book. He doesn’t get things wrong more in concentrating almost exclusively on the glider troops has left out the contributions of the other units involved (and not just 7 Para). The book also suffers form being based primarily on the recollections of certain individuals who took part. However Ambrose did not allow those who contributed to view his manuscript before publishing and this lead in his own words to mistakes. He acknowledges this in the text of Band of Brother.

Once 7 para had arrived at the Bridges they became responsible for the defence and the Ox and Buck became attached to them, Major Howard passing over control to Pine-Coffin. He placed the glider troops in reserve in between the two bridges. The eastern end of the bridges, the river bridge was actually defended by a company of 12 Para. From then on the vast majority of fighting for the bridge was undertaken by 7 Para. That fighting would go on almost all and well beyond the arrival of the Commandoes. 7 Para would lose 70 men killed that day opposed to 3 by the initial glider coup-de-main, two of which were killed in the initial landing.

I was unaware that the planning of invasion assumed that the glider attack would fail and that the bridges would be blown. Both the Ox and Bucks and 7 para took folding boats with them and a platoon of the Para’s were specifically trained to use the boats to ferry troops across the river and canal. The 2nd Battalion the Warwickshire Regiment who were the actual troops to relieve 7 Para had been told that the bridge would be blown and to expect to have to fight for control of the western bank of the canal. Furthermore, the actual first troops to reach the bridges were not the Commandoes but there is evidence that it was a recce troop of engineers who were tasked to build a bailey bridge to replace the expected blown one (They are said to have arrived in a jeep and white scout car). This was actually built as the original bridge is narrow and wouldn’t have been able to cope with expected traffic across it.

There’s also evidence that a troop of sherman’s got into Benouville and disappeared along the Caen Road never to be seen again. You armour modellers might be interested to know that the “tank” described has having been knocked out by PIAT early on in the battle was probably a half track. This is described as having a small gun so may have been a 251 with a 37mm doorknocker. This seems reasonable as there was a german engineer unit in the area and would explain both the ease with which it was knocked out by the PIAT and why the remaining vehicles retreated so quickly. The armoured vehicles that were used in the attack on Benouville seems to have comprised a mix of Panzer 1V’s, Marders and what are described as French tanks, which I assume were Renaults.

Anway I could on like this for hours so will pack it in now. Please everybody if you’ve got some time read the 7 para history on the link that Jim sent or if your realy interested get hold of A tale of two bridges.
England - North East, United Kingdom
Joined: September 24, 2007
KitMaker: 312 posts
AeroScale: 0 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 10:19 PM UTC

really nice,
im will get there one day, thanks.

Provincia de Lugo, Spain / España
Joined: April 23, 2003
KitMaker: 12,925 posts
AeroScale: 291 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 09:05 PM UTC
Here's the link for an abbreviated Unit history of 7th Parachute Battalion (part of 5th Para Brigade);

Queensland, Australia
Joined: April 15, 2006
KitMaker: 886 posts
AeroScale: 9 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 04:43 PM UTC
Very well done article Jim .

This article will be part of my guide for the trip o/seas for next year to slot inbetween Euro Miltaire.

The photo's taken by your wife certainly captures a serenity and moment to reflect of such a, how can I can I say ,world saving cause .
To be a related to a person who fought or served in this theatre should be very proud of their family achievements for what they have done .

Donegal, Ireland
Joined: May 14, 2002
KitMaker: 9,762 posts
AeroScale: 35 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 01:43 PM UTC
Great article Jim ... one of the best for a long time. Its a refreshing change of pace from new kits and niggling over small details. I enjoyed looking through the pics and seeing these places of how it is today. Have never been there myself, but this article really makes me want to go. Hopefully some day!
Victoria, Australia
Joined: March 14, 2006
KitMaker: 1,973 posts
AeroScale: 59 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 01:00 PM UTC
Great & informative article Jim.


I'll be going to Normandy next June.

Provincia de Lugo, Spain / España
Joined: April 23, 2003
KitMaker: 12,925 posts
AeroScale: 291 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 12:38 PM UTC
Jason, thanks for that post. No, you're correct. 7 Para are pretty much missing from any 'official' report on the action at Benouville. Unfortunately, that night, there was a lot of confusion and I think that Lovatt was given the credit (though not asking for it) - what your comments suggest is taht there should be another look at the 'official' histories..

I was 'taught' the operation while in the Terriers (T.A./ National Guard) and, I make no bones about it, I still consider it one of the greatest acheivements of Airborne Troops ever. I've been to Pegasus 4-5 times and every time I have to pause and think at just what an extraordinary operation was acheived that night. Even now, 60+ years afterwards, there's still an 'air' about the place...
Wales, United Kingdom
Joined: February 11, 2008
KitMaker: 79 posts
AeroScale: 0 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 08:16 AM UTC
Great article. Im not an armour modeller but my uncle was in 7 para who fought at Pegasus Bridge so I've got a specific interest in this part of WW11. I've been lucky enough to visit Normandy twice and can back Jim up that the Pegasus Memorial Museum was by far the best I visited. If you’re going to visit Benouville I recommend visiting the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Ranville. This is a relatively small but beautifully looked after cemetery that is the resting place for most of the casualty’s of 6th Airborne and the commandoes. (It also has a number of German graves). Not only does it contain the grave of Lt Den Botheridge who was the first allied casualty of the war (he died in the attack on Pegasus Bridge) but also my uncle.

One point on Jims text though, and I don’t want to sound picky here but the Ox’s and Bucks were relieved not by the commandoes (who actually just passed through the paras) but were relieved by 7 Para at around 2.30 in the morning. The role of 7 Para is often forgotten completely or at best lightly touched (see Stephen Ambrose’s Pegasus Bridge) but most of the fighting to protect the bridge was undertaken by them. They fought off concerted attacks by the Germans who attacked in company strength backed by tanks and self propelled guns. Having lost their heavy mgs in the drop 7 Para (who could only muster half their strength at this point) fought off these attacks with nothing more than small arms and gammon bombs. At one point the battalion aid post was overrun and the wounded and Chaplin killed.

On one of my visits I was luck to be able to speak to Arlette Gondree who now runs the cafe at Benoville. She was very passionate about the role that 7 Para played in the battle and felt that their contribution had been long overlooked, in fact she went as far as to say that if weren’t for the paras the village would have been overrun and the villages "killed in their beds". Her words not mine.

Sorry about the length of the post but Imp proud of my uncle who was killed at 19 having given up a reserved occupation to fight.

Michigan, United States
Joined: November 02, 2006
KitMaker: 389 posts
AeroScale: 0 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 07:53 AM UTC
Jim, that was great!

Pennsylvania, United States
Joined: March 23, 2006
KitMaker: 229 posts
AeroScale: 4 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 06:20 AM UTC
Outstanding, I was there in 2004 and would like to recommend anyone who has the chance to visit Normandy should do so. Not only for the WWII history, but it is a beautify country side and there is a lot of other history there besides the D-Day beaches. I've include a link below to some of the pictures I took.

Staff MemberEditor-in-Chief
England - South West, United Kingdom
Joined: May 14, 2006
KitMaker: 10,884 posts
AeroScale: 283 posts
Posted: Saturday, September 06, 2008 - 04:15 AM UTC
Jim Rae takes you for a walk around Normandy showing the sites and remnants of DDAY.

Link to Item

If you have comments or questions please post them here.