Merville Battery

The German battery at Merville protected the entrance to the small port of Ouistreham and would have been able to fire on the many ships supporting the attack on Sword beach. To neutralise the battery a hundred Lancaster Bombers dropped 400 tons of bombs during the night of 5/6th June.  Unfortunately not one of the four bunkers was damaged. The 9th Parachute Battalion had been given the task of taking the battery some months before D-day. Lieutenant Colonel Terrence Otway was given the task of leading his men with the objective of taking and putting the battery out of action before the main invasion force landed. They built a mock up of the battery near Newbury in England and trained for several months before D-day. They would parachute into Normandy split into two groups, the first landing just after midnight to scout the area to assess the damage caused by the bombers. The main body of the Regiment dropped thirty minutes later from Albemarles aircraft, a plane that had a bad reputation for breaking up in the air. As at St Mere Eglise, many planes dropped the paratroopers off target and only 150 men arrived at the rendezvous area in time to take part in the attack, this was only 25% of the force that should have been available. Most of the larger artillery pieces never arrived and Otway decided to attack with what forces he had. This amounted to one Vickers Gun and side arms and twenty Bagalore Torpedoes. The three gliders bringing in the main party fared no better, the first broke its tow rope on take off. The second landed several miles to the east. The third flew over the battery and landed a hundred yards to the south. This glider did attract fire from the battery and caused a diversion. Otway and his men attacked, without the support of any Engineers or mine clearing equipment. Nearly half the attacking force were killed or injured during the attack. The German garrison was decimated leaving only twenty two prisoners. By now it was 05:30 and the battery was secure, just thirty minutes before the British Battleship H.M.S. Arethusa was scheduled to pound the site with her six inch guns. Whilst the attack was a success the guns found in the casemates were not what intelligence had reported. They were in fact first world war horse drawn Czech guns of 100mm not capable of interfering with the invasion of Sword beach.

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