Breville Normandy

Between 10-12th June 1944 the Germans launched a series of tenacious counter-attacks at a gap in the line between the 1st Special Service Brigade and 3rd Parachute Brigade in the area of Breville, east of the Orne River, overlooking Ranville. German attacks aimed to split the 6th Airborne Division area screening the Normandy Invasion beaches. The gap was plugged by the timely intervention of units from the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades.

The first attacks were beaten off with great loss to the enemy by 13 PARA and a counter-attack by 7 PARA restored the situation killing over 200 Germans and capturing 150. Nevertheless, the Germans held onto the village of Breville, still posing a threat to the division position and beat off an attack by the British 153rd Infantry Brigade, inflicting heavy losses.

Two more major German assaults with infantry and tanks were repulsed by 9 PARA on 12th June, reducing it to 200 all ranks. Both sides were completely exhausted, yet the situation was restored by a counter-attack by a company from the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion personally led by an already wounded Brigadier Hill commanding 3rd Parachute Brigade.

All that was left of the Division reserve was a weak 12 PARA, which supported by the 22nd Independent Parachute Company and another from the 12th Devons, attacked the village of Breville supported by armour.

Friendly shell fire straddled the start line killing the 12 PARA Commanding Officer and the Devon Company Commander and seriously wounding many others. Rallied by platoon commanders and NCOs the Germans were ejected from the village in bitter and bloody hand-to-hand combat.

At a cost of eight officers and 133 airborne soldiers Breville was cleared by nightfall and the threat to the Invasion beached removed.

Units Engaged:

HQ 3rd Parachute Brigade
1st Special air Service Brigade
153rd Infantry Brigade
7th, 9th, 12th, 13th  and 1st Canadian PARA and 12th Devons Air Landing Bn
6th Airborne Division supporting arms and Services including 22nd Independent Parachute Company

Battle Honour Conferred:


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