Francia / Storia
During the night of 5 to 6 June 1944, British paratroopers of the 3rd Brigade were ordered to destroy four bridges on the River Dives, and a fifth one on the Divette. The aim was to prevent German forces from occupying the right bank of the River Orne, and to protect the attack on the Merville battery.
The Engineers of the 8th Parachutist Battalion led by Lieutenant-Colonel Alastair Pearson were tasked with the destruction of the two metal bridges in Bures: a railway bridge and a road bridge.
Following a catastrophic parachute drop at 12:50pm, west of Touffréville’s Drop Zone K, Pearson was only able to gather 120 men from the more than 550 of his battalion that were scattered around. Among them were no sappers or machine gunners, and many containers of explosives were lost.
Nevertheless, at around 3:45am Pearson set off. However, he was overtaken by Captain Juckes' Royal Engineers, who had parachuted to the north of Bavent Wood and were already on spot with their equipment. Tired of waiting for the 8th Battalion, at around 7:15am the Royal Engineers blew up the two bridges, and then retreated.
Shortly before this, at about 6:30am, Company B of the 1st Canadian Battalion, reinforced by sappers of the Royal Engineers, had blown up the Robehomme Bridge.
At approximately 9:00am, in Varaville, the Canadians of the C Company of the 1st Canadian Battalion destroyed the bridge over the Divette and then withdrew to the Mesnil.
Finally, thanks to a burst of brilliance by Major Roseveare of the 3rd Parachute Squadron of the Royal Engineers, Troarn bridge, the largest of all between Troarn and Saint-Samson, was destroyed. Driving a medical jeep and towing a trailer full of explosives, to which eight of his men clung, Roseveare hurtled down the main street before reaching the bridge, located at exit of the village. The explosion of the charges and trailer placed on the bridge opened a 5m breach. At midday, Juckes’ Royal Engineers arrived on the spot and completed the bridge’s destruction by around 14:00. They detonated new charges, which quite literally cut the large Troarn Bridge in half over its entire width.
After their successful mission, the Engineers of the 8th Parachutist Battalion retreated into the woods in Troarn and Bures, to take part in the battles of Normandy.