Bringing the past to life.
𝐖𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐛𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐩𝐡𝐨𝐭𝐨𝐬, 𝐢𝐭'𝐬 𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞 𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐭, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞'𝐬 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐡𝐨𝐭𝐨𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐝 𝐖𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝 𝐖𝐚𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐮𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐬𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞𝐝 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐧𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐥 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥 𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐟𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐭 𝐡𝐨𝐦𝐞.
𝐈𝐭'𝐬 𝐬𝐨 𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐰𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐦𝐛𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐱𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐨𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐝𝐢𝐝.
The photo shows paratroopers of 6th Airborne Division, including members of the Parachute Ambulance units, enjoying a last cigarette with RAF aircrew before boarding their transport into Normandy, France, 6 June, 1944.
On DDay, the 6th Airborne Division took part in Operation Tonga during the Normandy landings. The 3rd Parachute Brigade landed on their own drop zone to the north-east of Ranville. The brigade had to capture two bridges crossing the Caen canal and the River Orne and hold them until relieved by forces advancing from the British Sword beach. At the same time, they had to secure the landing zone for the divisions glider-borne forces arriving later that day.
The 224th commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel D.H. Thompson was divided into groups for the landings. The commanding officer and sixty-five men who were to establish the Main Dressing Station (MDS) travelled in the same aircraft as brigade headquarters, while Nos 1, 2 and 3 Sections were attached to the 1st Canadian, 8th and 9th parachute battalions.
Arriving in Normandy from around 01:00, many of the units landed too far to the east in the flooded marshes beside the River Dives. One of those men was the commanding officer who then spent three weeks trying to rejoin the unit from behind German lines before being captured.
The members of the 224th who landed on the correct drop zone proceeded to set up their Main Dressing Station in a farm at Le Mesnil. By noon, around two thirds of the 22nd were still missing, but the MDS had managed to treat fifty-five wounded and conduct ten.
The following day, the Germans counter-attacked and the MDS was surrounded on three sides with the nearest German forces only 300 yards (270 m) away, but they kept on operating. Over the next few days, the front line was very fluid and it was not unknown for the unit's ambulances returning to the MDS from battalion aid posts to drive through German patrols and positions. Being co-located with brigade headquarters, the MDS could not be given the protection of the Red Cross and was subjected to small arms and artillery fire.
It was also twice attacked by Royal Air Force rocket firing Typhoons. On 18 June during a German artillery attack, all the unit's transport, apart from one ambulance jeep and two captured trucks, were destroyed. After the last attack, Brigade headquarters issued orders for the MDS to move further to the rear at Ecarde. Between the 6 and 19 of June, the MDS had treated 800 wounded and carried out 112 surgical operations.
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