Extracts from Interview with Brigadier James Hill focusing on Normandy experience, part 3.
Interview conducted by the Second World War Experience Centre. Continued from part 2.
The 3rd Parachute Brigade was formed in England on 7th November 1942 and became part of the 1st Airborne Division. In April 1943 it was reassigned as the nucleus brigade to the newly created 6th Airborne Division, formed in anticipation for D-Day.
The 3rd Brigade jumped over Normandy during the night of the 6th June 1944 in the area of the flooded Dives, its 9th Battalion assaulted the key Merville gun battery and it participated in the heavy defensive fighting around Ranville and Breville before the 6th Airborne Division was withdrawn back to the UK after the break out in August.
The Brigade fought in the Ardennes during the winter fighting of 1944-5 and in March 1945 participated in the Rhine Crossing operation. It spearheaded the subsequent advance through Germany to the Baltic and was the first unit to meet with the Russians at Wismar in May 1945.
The 3rd Parachute Brigade’s final operational tour was internal security operations with the 6th Airborne Division in Palestine between 1945 to 1947. It was disbanded in October 1947 on its return to the UK.
Order of Battle:
Arab intransigence over the surge of Jewish immigration that followed the Holocaust in Europe led to the forming of extreme dissident Zionist groups such as IZL (Irgun Zwai Leumi) and the Stern Gang, all seeking to promote their aims through violence.
The airborne soldiers were well suited to exploit the fluid situation that occurred following the collapse of the Rhine barrier defence. Short fierce actions were fought from the tanks of the 4th Tank Battalion of the Grenadier Guards and whatever transport could be purloined.
The 6th Airborne Division was tasked to seize the high ground of the Diersfort Wood, overlooking part of the Rhine to be crossed by the British 21st Army Group.
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