Thursday, 29 May 2014

#D-Day70 6th June 1944 Airborne Troops

There won't be many people who have not heard of Stephen Ambrose or Band of Brothers - the excellent book he wrote about Easy Company of the 101st U.S Airborne Regt, which  was adapted for television. One of the best Christmas presents I ever received from my other half was the box set of Band of Brothers, available at and other good outlets. I'm not solely writing about U.S involvement on D-Day, the common view is that there is so much publicity about American involvement that they forgot that it was also British, Commonwealth and Allied European troops who took part in the fighting.

There are plenty of excellent books out there, in particular I do enjoy reading Pegasus Bridge by Ambrose, which goes into detail about the British 6th Airborne. It's origins, training, the people who took part, the landings and action after D-Day. These men were tough. They had to be. Howard during training like the rest of D Company marched the men from Devonshire to Bulford, 130 miles in 1942. (Ambrose, p.p 35,36).
They trained at night and slept during daylight hours, this was unheard of at the time, but because of good training, on D-day itself 6th Airborne successfully captured the 2 bridges over the River Orne at Ranville and the canal bridge at Benouville (later called Pegasus Bridge). Taken to their destination in towed Horse gliders, the glider pilot training also paid off, landing with pin point accuracy next to the bridges and not in the canal or river. The bridges would be held until relieved, as they were vital for the allied advance inland on the outskirts of Caen.

British Paratroopers also took part in the battle in the early hours of the 6th June 1944. the Merville Battery was a target as it covered the coast, in particular Sword Beach Like most Paratroopers on D-Day, most were scattered over a wide area considerable distances from their objectives. To attack the battery Lt-Col Otway could only muster around 150 men, instead of 650 (See this link on the BBC History Website : .The battery had to be taken before the seaborne landings took place, Otway had to attack as planned. The Paras went ahead, won the battle capturing around 30 Germans.
Plan Of Attack of Merville Battery
Observation Photograph Of Merville

Canadian paratroops also deserve a mention. The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was part of the 21st Army Group and their objectives included; securing Drop Zone V by destroying a German HQ, destroying bridges at Robehomme and Varaville, providing cover to the British 9th battalion at Merville and securing high ground at Le Mesnil Crossroads


Ambrose, S, Pegasus Bridge.

Neillands, R, De Normann, R, D-Day 1944 Voices From Normandy.

#DDay70 P.L.U.T.O - Pipeline Under The Ocean

Cross Section Of  P.L.U.T.O Pipeline

P.L.U.T.O - Pipeline Under the Ocean. Assuming that the Normandy invasion was successful, and the Allies had gained a foothold on French soil then logistical problems would arise. As well as food, ammunition spares and medical supplies, fuel was vital for the Allied advance inland. Due to the problems of transporting fuel via ship, (the Allies did not plan to capture any harbours) they did not want to clutter up the landing grounds with fuel tanker. So, arose an ingenious solution, to lay a pipeline from England to France across the English Channel.

Planning for P.L.U.T.O began in 1942, and eventual production and testing encountered many problems, such as kinking, twisting, collapse due to water pressure and other factors. 
 Each mile of pipe used 24 tons of lead, 7.5 tons of steel tape and 15  tons of steel armour wire and smaller amounts of lighter materials. The external diameter of the pipe was 4.5 inches.Combined Ops Website
Route Of P.L.U.T.O Pipeline

In all about 500 miles of pipeline were laid in an average laying time over the 30 mile stretch of about 5 hours. In January 1945 the system delivered a disappointing 300 tons but by March this had increased to 3000 tons and later still to 4000 tons. This amounted to over 1,000,000 gallons per day giving a total of 172,000,000 gallons delivered in total up to the end of hostilities. During the operation to lay the cables an HQ ship, several cable ships, tugs, trawlers and barges were employed on this specialised work - a total of 34 vessels with 600 men and officers under Captain J.F.Hutchings.Combined Ops Website
Most of the work to manufacture the pipeline was completed in Britain, but due to the volume needed the U.S helped, making a total of 140 tonnes of pipeline out of a total of over 700. D-Day saw much ingenuity, PLUTO was a great idea.
P.L.U.T.O Pumping Stations in 2009.