On the 23rd August, Lieutenant-Colonel Luard, Commanding 13th Parachute Battalion, was ordered to force a crossing over the River Touques and secure a bridgehead on the far bank up to the outskirts of Pont L'Eveque. On the previous day his Battalion had succeeded in penetrating into the Western part of the town but had been unable to cross the river owing to stiffening opposition and the fact that the town had been set on fire and the approaches to the only crossing - a steel girder 80 feet long by 18 inches wide - had become impassable.
Although the fire had died down during the night the town was still burning fiercely and the iron girder crossing was under fire from snipers and mortars; nevertheless Lieutenant-Colonel Luard succeeded in getting his three rifle companies and a small Battalion Headquarters across the river and established a small bridgehead which was in reality only a footing on the far bank.
The enemy resistance in the town, however was very strong and his Battalion was unable to make progress and were themselves being strongly counterattacked and enemy infiltration was taking place towards the girder bridge. As a further advance was clearly impracticable Lieutenant-Colonel Luard was ordered to withdraw his Battalion to the West bank.
The return journey over the water obstacle and through the burning streets involved a most hazardous operation in the face of the steadily increasing enemy pressure. Lieutenant-Colonel Luard organised his withdrawal with the greatest skill and by his personal leadership, courage and example completed it successfully.
There were some 30 wounded men who had to be got across the river by means of a rope, the crossing by the girder being too vulnerable. He organised this evacuation of the wounded with the utmost coolness and not a single man was left behind.
This fine performance followed close on three months of outstanding work: Lieutenant-Colonel Luard had dropped with his Battalion on the night of June 5th/6th and had speedily secured the objectives allotted to him. His leadership and example had played a big part in keeping up the morale of his Battalion during the difficult period of defensive fighting at Le Mesnil. During the advance to the River Seine and particularly at Putot-en-Auge on the 19th August his energy, determination and courage was a source of constant inspiration to all ranks.
Complied by Bob HiltonRead More