716 (Airborne) Light Composite Company, Royal Army Service Corps operated as a support unit for the 6th Airborne Division. Its personnel were inserted by parachute and glider to gather and distribute supplies to the Division’s fighting troops.
The unit was formed in May 1943, with an establishment of 420 men, under the command of Major E Clive Jones and first went into action for the Normandy landings in June 1944.
No 1 and 2 Parachute Platoons went in with the 5th Parachute Brigade and half of No 3 Parachute Platoon went in with the 3rd Parachute Brigade.
Although some transport elements were inserted by glider the limited air transport capacity meant that a significant part of 716 Coy went in by sea. However, by the end of the first week 716 Coy had re-established itself as a single entity in the battlefield. Eighteen members of 716 Coy lost their lives supporting the Division’s activities right through to the Seine breakout in August.
716 Coy returned to the UK in September 1944 to a new base at Minstead, in the New Forest, and a new Officer Commanding - Major ‘Storky’ Crane.
On Christmas Day 1944, the unit was deployed to support the Division during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes and later moved north to Holland where the transport platoons were each assigned to a Brigade; the parachute platoons took their place in the line on the River Maas with the 3rd Parachute Brigade.
Towards the end of February 1945, the Company returned to the UK to prepare for the assault on the Rhine Crossing into Germany, Operation Varsity. Again, limitations in air transport resulted in a reduced airborne company element: 12 Hamilcars carrying 12 Bren Gun Carriers, ammunition trailers and 80 personnel with the rest of the unit crossing the Rhine with the 15th Scottish Division.
In the ensuing six week chase to the Baltic 716 Coy acquired a motley collection of War Department and German vehicles in an effort to remain mobile and complete its tasks!
After the German surrender, the parachute platoons supported the 5th Parachute Brigade in Batavia and Semarang before rejoining the rest of 716 Coy in Palestine in mid 1946.
716 Coy amalgamated with 398 Coy in January 1948 although still retained its title.
It embarked at Haifa in April 1948 and was disbanded shortly after its return to the UK in June at Cheltenham.
During its short five year history members of the unit were awarded 1 MBE, 2 MCs, 2 MMs, 1 BEM and several Mention in Despatches.
Compiled from information supplied by John Ward.Read More
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