Francia / Storia
Right form the beginning on 6 June 1944, the village of Ranville was at the heart of British airborne operations. Surrounded by paratroopers from 2:30, the small town thus became “the first liberated village of France”.
The Bénouville and Ranville bridges were taken by Major Howard, whose three gliders landed within 100m of their objectives. Meanwhile, from 00:50, 2,000 paratroopers of the British 5th Brigade of General Poett were dropped on the other side of the canal and the River Orne, at Drop Zone N north of the village.
The square church tower provided a useful night-time landmark for the paratroopers, who found themselves quickly isolated. Having managed to regroup at Ranville crossroads by blowing whistles and hunting horns, the survivors of the 5th Brigade positioned themselves around Ranville, Bas-de-ranville and Mariquet. Their mission was to uproot the many ‘Rommel’s asparagus’ (tall poles placed to damage Allied gliders and paratroopers) in the Drop Zone to protect the southern flank of the British 6th Airborne Division Brigade, then meet the commandos who landed a few hours later on Sword Beach.
At 3:15 the main obstacle clearing was finished. Paratroopers of the 12th and 13th battalions had gradually surrounded the village from 2:30. Ranville was the first village liberated by British forces.
An hour later, at Hom Castle (Ranville), General Gale Commander of the 6th Airborne chose to install his Command Post. From here he led the battle. He had been dropped by glider during the third assault wave bringing heavy equipment and his Division’s HQ. His jeep had been destroyed during landing, so he had made his way on foot, then horse (found along the way), to liberated Ranville. The castle Château Rohan-Chabot served as the headquarters of the 5th brigade.
Early the next morning, Grenadiers of the 125th Regiment of Major von Luck’s German 21st Panzer clashed with the paratroopers and tried to recapture Ranville, before new orders sent them west of the River Orne, where English and Canadian troops had landed en masse.
The British paratroopers who fell on 6 June and during the summer of 1944, and the French fallen, members of the Kieffer Commando that landed on 6 June, were first buried in the Ranville Communal Cemetery. They were later buried in a temporary plot arranged around the church and the bell tower.
Today, in front of the town hall and opposite the British Cemetery, stands a bust of General Gale. It pays tribute to the chief of the 6th Airborne and his 10,000 men who, on 6 June 1944, aided the liberation of the entire area and construction of the bridgehead of the Orne estuary.
Mairie 3, Rue des Airbornes, Ranville, 14860