6th Airborne 80th Anniversary Normandy Tour
Neil Barber, author of ‘The Day the Devils Dropped In’ and ‘The Pegasus and Orne Bridges’, has spent the last 30 years interviewing the veterans of the 6th Airborne Division and walking and researching its Normandy battlefield. And although private tours have been performed for friends, this is the first time he has agreed to act as the guide on an organised Battlefield Tour; the reason being that he believed that any such a tour needed to be a detailed journey around the area. With the professional help of Major John Redfern, this has been realised in ‘The Day the Devils Dropped in Battlefield Tour’.
Why the 6th Airborne Division warrant its own Battlefield Tour
The role of the Division was to act as a buffer for the eastern flank of the whole invasion area. A ‘perimeter’ was to be set up using the battalions in a network of defensive ‘bubbles’, supported by a network of anti-tank guns, Vickers Medium machine guns and minefields.
Within this overall task, it also had three primary objectives for D-Day. These were:
- The capture of the bridges across the Caen Canal and River Orne (the now famous Pegasus and Horsa Bridges), the only crossing points between Caen and the sea. Holding these bridges was vital in preventing the Germans attacking the most vulnerable area of the seaborne invasion; the flank.
- The silencing of the artillery guns of the Merville Battery. These four guns, protected by concrete casemates within a heavily fortified position, had the capability of causing carnage on SWORD beach, and so had to be put out of action before the seaborne landing began.
- The destruction of four bridges across the River Dives and another across the River Divette, to delay and force the German armoured reserve to detour further to the south.
The Tour describes the actions of the 6th Airborne Division, centred around the primary tasks and featuring a wealth of personal actions. It also addresses the many myths that have developed over the years, so much so that they have almost become ‘set in stone’. Other controversial issues that remain are also discussed
We believe that detail is vital in order to understand, and put into perspective, the achievements of the men of the 6th Airborne Division. Consequently, the furthest west we visit is Benouville, and to the east, Troarn
For a precise breakdown of the Tour, see the Itinerary Page