The War Illustrated, No. 241, Vol. 10, September 13th 1946

Passed over the field o f Waterloo. Then, at 10.20, fifteen minutes before we were due to land, 1 saw a wonderful, exhilarating spectacle—the stream o f American tugs, with gliders towed two by two, joining us. More than 3,000 aircraft, carrying about 16,000 airborne trocfps, filled the sky while Allied troops below (whom we could not see) waved their hats, thrilled with awe and pride. It was the crowning achievement o f the war, the aerial transport fleet o f two nations stretching 75 miles from van to tail. Foggy World Peopled by Spectres I expected to seethe Rhine, but straining over the pilot's shoulder 1 discerned instead a drifting black cloud o f smoke obscuring everything beneath. The pilot shouted back, “Casting oft'. Strap yourselves in !”Then for a few hectic minutes we were banking, twisting and plunging, the“ unneutralized ” Rak bursting all around. Mercifully hidden was the sight o f Wellington tugs and gliders dissolving inflames and rocketing to earth. Then, with a bump we hit the earth. Our landing flaps did notwork, and the shock broke oft' our tail. We prayed that those German m achine-guns had been “dealt with,” iiule knowing that on this field where gliders were crashing, gam bolling and burst­ing into flames, some gallant U.S. parachutists of 513 Parachute Regiment, dropped by mistake, were already beginning to do our job of cleaning-up and capturing Kipenliof Farm as Divisonal Headquarters. Most of the gliders, lost in the unexpected fog— apparently caused by our smoke-screen and gunfire—landed far from their intended place. But we were not 100 yards from the right spot, and the only casualties were two cr three men in the tail with broken bones. N o individual sees much of a modern battle, least o fall the kind o f diffused affair o f small parties that follows an airdrop. I saw men running about with tom m y-guns and heard a few bullets whining over. Then, flat on my belly, I saw dozens o f submissive prisoners lining the distant h e d g e,-Jhands above iheir heads. Frankly, in this dan­gerous, foggy world, peopled by wild spectres, 1 had no idea which way to turn for safety. But, guided by the Colonel. I at last found my cautious way to the farm. Contrary to the reports published at the time there was no effective link-up between 6th Airborne and the 15th Scottish for at least 24 hours, during which time the situa­tion .was extremely mixed and hazardous. Snipers were busy all round us in the*Dicrs- fordter Wald a German company almost stumbled into our Headquarters by mistake during the night and 1 was rushed into a trench, unarmed non-combatant though I was, to help repel them. General Ridgway himself, who visited our headquarters during the night on his way back to his command post, drove into a party o f Germans moving cast. In the mad. confused melee .which ensued .he was slightly wounded in the shoulder, but he shot o:ie German dead. The most heroic exploit o f that memorable day was accomplished by 6th Air Landing Brigade, whose headlong assault on the Issel bridges and the key village o f Ham inkcln was a modern Balaclava. While their comrades o f the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades, rallied by hunting horns, were clearing the flanks, and in some cases dropping among the German batteries and receiving terrified submission, the 6th Air Landing Brigade made good its objectives but at the expense o f heavy losses. Great Stories of the War Retold Gliders carrying coup de, main parties o f the Royal Ulster Rifles and the OxfortU shire and Bucks Light Infantry landed near enough to their objectives to secure them within an hour. aBut number of gliders carrying the O xfordshire and Bucks men were set inflames by light flak, the funeral pyres burning throughout the action. That night we had a message that a German counter-attack had been launched against the 6th Air Landing Brigade, headed by a Tiger lank which was “brew ing-up ”gliders on the ground. The counter-attack, though it necessitated blowing up one o f the captured bridges, petered out. In 24 hours the link-up with 15th Scottish was firm and the R ei DeVils had begun to swan towards Bochoit. German Flak Exacted High Price Battle casualties in the 6th Airborne Division on that first day totalled 108 officers and 1,300 men killed, wounded, and missing out o f a divisional strength o f 8,000, and although some o f the missing have since up,turned it was a high price. The Germ ans, admittedly, were not fighting with the disci­pline and fanatical resolution o f 1940-44. Nevertheless they wrought terrible execution with their flak, and" in places resisted with the courage o f despair.• v MAs ontgom ery's armour flooded through the hole torn in Germ any’s last defences-, on the victory tide, the British public tended to forget the part played by our airborne boys. A picture comes to my mind o f a figure lying dead, his half-opened parachutc lying beside him where he fell. His body was complete, apparently uninjured, yet every bone must have been broken, and on the hard earth was an exact impression, two inches deep, o f a human form. STIRLING BOMBERS AND HORSA GLIDERS crossing the Rhine, just before the gliders’ tow-ropes were castoff. These were among the 3,000 aircraft taking part in the greatest of all airbcrnc operations :the combined landing, behind the east bank of the Rhine and in advance of our land forces, of the 6th British and the 17th U.S. Airborne Divisions on March 24,1945. All flew from 26 British and Continental bases. See also i 1 1 us. cases 776-77/ and 786, Vol. 8. PAGE 324 Photo, Urilish Official
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