By creating these possibilities major German forces (150,000 troops in Norway plus other units in reserve throughout Europe) were not immediately deployed to counter-attack the invasion forces in Normandy. It was estimated that even after six weeks, many of these units remained uncommitted and held back from Normandy.
Part of Airborne Army
Once the D-day landings on the 6 June 1944 were under way we were immediately given a new role and became air-transportable infantry which involved two brigades of the Division, the third brigade and heavy transport were dispatched to France to be ready to join us after we had made our airborne assault. We were now part of General Brereton's Airborne Army; he was a American general. His force included 82nd and 101st US Airborne Divisions and 1st and 6th British Airborne Divisions, with 52nd (Lowland) Division in Dakota aircraft and the Polish Parachute Brigade. It was regarded as a powerful strike force ready to land behind the enemy lines whenever the Allied Army was held up, for instance in getting across the River Seine. It was necessary to become acquainted with 'Dakota pay-loads' and how to organise the battalion and its equipment on and off these planes.
We were ordered to prepare and brief officers and men on an air operation to land on the other side of the River Seine; a landing site was selected close to the Forest of Rambouillet, the estate surrounding the country residence of the French President. However, the Allied ground forces moved so fast they did not need this assistance and we then became involved in the planning for Arnhem (Operation Market Garden). The early phases of the operation ran into unexpected difficulties, and unable to a secure an air-strip to land our two brigades. We were not committed to the battle but quickly dispatched to Belgium where we met up with our third brigade and heavy transport, the 52nd (Lowland) Division coming under command of the Canadian Army.
On disembarking at the newly liberated port of Ostende, I went with the C.O. for a short stay with the 1st Glasgow Highlanders who were in action south of Breskins, and for the first time came into close contact with a German fighting unit. Our visit was to gain a quick appreciation of the quality of Germans troops that we were to face as we prepared to embark in landing-craft and assault the beaches of Walcheren Island in the Scheldt Estuary.

 


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