CSM Knight’s account of the attack on Merville Battery.

We were to attack the Merville battery, a group of four massive concrete gun emplacements with full overhead cover, surrounded by a lot of barbed wire, an anti-tank ditch and a minefield. These guns were all facing the coast and covered Sword Beach where 3rd Division were due to land, so they had to be destroyed. My orders were to take a diversionary party of six men around the perimeter and make a noisy break-in at the main gate while the rest carried out a main assault through the breaches in the perimeter. I actually dropped quite a way off target because when I'd gone to jump, my harness had somehow hooked on to a handle on the door leading to the pilot's cabin. I'd hammered on the door, which opened and set me loose, but this delay of a few seconds meant that I landed in a field full of cows.

Suddenly these Lancasters started dropped their 400-pounders around me, so I was bouncing up and down in a ditch. As these bombs were coming down and the cows were being blown to bits, I suddenly thought of this old Cadbury's advert, which said, "Where is your chocolate?" I thought, "It's with a soldier alone in an unfriendly country!" Anyway, things became a bit quieter after the bombs dropped, so I made my way round to the rendezvous. The planning was so good that when I dropped I knew where I was immediately. The first bloke I saw was Sergeant Salter, so we ran together to the rendezvous. When I arrived, there was hardly anyone there at all. Then one of my old mates turned up plus a few more. My diversionary party was attached to Headquarters Company so we were given orders to do what we could, but we had no weapons. I had just one pistol, one Bren gunner and one Sten in my party. Anyway, Colonel Otway then decided that we'd go off to the battery, and do our job there.

It was night-time, very dark and we all went through the lanes from the rendezvous at Varaville to the Merville battery. When we got near to the battery, everybody had his job to do. We numbered about 150, that's all. At the battery we found Major Alan Parry with the battery reconnaissance party. I was close to the Colonel and Hal Hudson the adjutant all the time.

There was hardly any noise whatsoever, and the battery loomed out of the darkness. You could see the outlines of the four big guns facing the sea. We'd come over the barbed wire and there was an old perimeter track leading up to the battery so I started to make a movement around this road when machine-guns opened up from both sides. Someone shouted out, "Get those bloody machine guns!" I had only one man with me and I took his Sten gun from him. We found there were three guns, one outside and two inside the perimeter in front of No.1 battery. I got the bloke on the outside corner by the forming-up point, then went into the battery. It was very dark, but I could see that one of the gunners was by a whacking great lump of concrete that had been blown up. His tracer gave him away, so I got right round behind him and put my gun on him, which soon quietened him.

I had a go at the third one, whether I got him or not I don't know, but it all went quiet. I went back to report to the Colonel and was just going towards the actual objective when I saw Major Parry on the right-hand side of the track wounded in the leg. On the left side was Captain Hudson and he had a terrible wound in his stomach - I think a shell must have hit him. I carried on with my diversionary party inside the perimeter and as we reached the main gate, we saw some Germans walking in, waving white flags. A couple of our blokes were shouting out, "Shoot them." Of course, I shouted, "You can't shoot them - they've got the white flag up," and so we rounded them up. I went and had a look in the batteries myself. Some chaps put two shells in the gun - one at the breech and one in the barrel! When the gun fired, the shells blew one another and the gun to pieces, I did not see the actual firing but I heard the explosions.

Courtesy of Mark Hickman and the Pegasus Archive

Mark Hickman

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