Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Reconstructed Trenches RAF Halton

Earlier this month Guild Members Bob Darby and Piers Storie Pugh were invited to visit a reconstructed trench system at RAF Halton. This is a project funded by the RAF and carried out by young airman under training at Halton and between courses. The original trenching system was the work of Kitchener K3 volunteers before leaving for France.

The reconstruction has been carried out using drawings from the original Field Training Manuals. The site is within the grounds of RAF Halton and therefore not open to the general public.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Who were the first to land in Normandy on D Day?

Further to the claim at Deadman's Corner Museum near St Mere Eglise the following responses have been received from members.

Pete Hawtin

The DMC sign is probably correct. Team A of 502nd Pathfinders jumped at 0015hrs commanded by Captain Frank Lillyman and landed on DZ A near St Mere Eglise. they landed intact and set up their beacons for the main force. To be switched on at 0040hrs. In the US Official History no mention is made of times but Devlin in his book 'Paratrooper' states that 'the first man to land was Captain Frank L Lillyman a 101st Pathfinders who set down at 0015hrs'

The first intact fighting troops to land were John Howard's glider-borne company of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry at the Benouville Bridge (Pegasus) at 0016hrs with the caveat that the US Pathfinders were ordered to avoid contact and to take evasive action if discovered.

Valmai Holt

Gallic enthusiasm is a wonderful thing! The memorial plaque on the Marie at Benouville claims to be the first Marie liberated at 2345hrs on the 5th June! Trying to decide upon the 'first' anything in France and you will have trouble!

John Howard said that his watch stopped at 0016hrs.

Tonie Holt

Gordon Brown in his book 'Wartime Courage' says the first allied soldier to arrive in Normandy on D Day was SAS Lieutenant Noel Poole who landed at 0011hrs whilst taking part in Operation 'Titanic' the distribution of the Rupert 'dummies' around Carentan. This information came to Brown via Professor M R D Foot the historian for SOE who was also a Captain in, and IO for the SAS

I think it is probable that the US Pathfinders as a formed body were first to land, but the first to 'close with the enemy' was John Howard's action at Benouville Bridge

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Tank turret at Arnhem

Bob Hilton
Member of the
Guild of Battlefield Guides

Here are several photo's taken recently on a walk around the Arnhem area. They are unusual and show a Sherman tank turret (possibly a Firefly), minus its barrel, on the side of the lower road on the way into Arnhem from Oosterbeek. I wondered if anyone had seen this before or if anyone knows about it?

Wybo Boersma
Member of the
Guild of Battlefield Guides

Badge Number 30

It is very simple. In the 1950’s we had to defend Holland along the river IJssel. The plan was to inundate the whole area around that river with defensive positions. To have enough water a special harbour was made west of Arnhem in the river Rhine. It is still there. Then we put some caissons in the river so the water would flow into the river IJssel rather than going back to the North Sea. To protect the harbour the army used a number of old tank turrets manned by conscripted soldiers. After the idea of “forward defence” in about 1960 of moving the front line to West Germany, the defence system we had put in place was no longer required and subsequently deserted. Some of the tank turrets are still there on both the north and south of the Rhine. Because the vegetation very few people had noticed them before now. Since the vegetation was cleared round this turret so it can be seen, it has been subsequently protected as a historical object. It has nothing to do with the Battle of Arnhem, but it is a leftover from the Cold War.

Opposite the tank turret look at the house no 134. There is a new plaque near the door to mention  four soldiers of the 18 pel. C Coy, 2nd batt. The South Staffordshire Regiment who were taken POW by the Germans SS troops in  September 1944.