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Linking up with the Paras on the Orne Bridgehead

News was now received that the Brigade was to come under command of the Sixth Airborne Division, and that the 5th Parachute Brigade had captured their objectives, the bridges over the Orne and Caen canal, intact. The

Brigade Commander, Lord Lovat, therefore decided to pass us over the bridges as soon as possible in order to link up with the Airborne troops.

The men of the Airborne Division had been hard pressed: there was no doubt about that. 

When, at a quarter past twelve that afternoon we finally crossed the bridges, we found them tired, grimy, but still cheery, after twenty-four hours' continuous fighting.

(Actually 12 hours after number one glider crashed into the barbed wire surrounding the canal bridge defences at 00:16 beginning the operation)

It was an historic meeting. The first inkling they had of our coming was the sound of Lord Lovat's piper playing a lilting Highland march as we advanced to meet them.

They cheered us, a ragged cheer, broken with the wicked chatter of machine-gun fire in the distance: and then, quite suddenly, we found ourselves among them. The green berets mingled with the red....

Yes, it was a great moment; but we, for our part, had not got over the bridges without casualties. There had been a German sniper covering our particular bridge who had succeeded in picking off every alternate man with deadly accuracy.

Machine-guns had harassed us from a flank, too.

Our most serious casualty at the hands of this sniper was our Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel N. C. Ries, R.M., wounded in the thigh. He had to be evacuated, and we heard later that he was wounded a second time whilst lying on a stretcher on the beaches, waiting to be taken off to a ship.

With the C.O. out of action our second-in-command, Major Nicol Gray, took over. His task was unenviable, since he had been thrust into command in the middle of a battle, with scant knowledge of how many men in the unit had survived the landing and the fighting so far. However, he proved more than equal to the task, and although we did not know it then, this was the man who was destined to lead us across Normandy, Holland, and Germany.


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