On D-Day June 61h 1944, the 8th Para Battalion Group was an independent force of about 760 men, within the 6th Airborne Division, They were Commanded by The legendary Lt. Col. Alastair Pearson, aged 29 who had already been awarded The D.S.O and Two Bars and The M.C for personal Bravery and Leadership.
The group's task were to capture and destroy three bridges over The River Dives in Normandy before 09.15 hours (H+2) hours. Two of them were at Bures and the other was at Troan. After that they had to hold this remotest area of the Airborne Bridgehead to protect the extreme left flank of The Allied Beach head against any German attack.
The Battalion Recce Party of 20 men under the command of Major George Payne jumped at 00.22 hours (H-6 hours 55 Minutes) from two Albemarle aircraft based at Harwell Airfield, one from 295 Squadron and the other from 570 Squadron RAF. At the same time 10 Pathfinders of 22nd Ind Para Company parachuted with them from another Albemarle and they all landed on or near D.K. at Touffreville, 4 miles east of Caen and 8 miles from the coast. Another 10 Pathfinders were dropped by mistake on D.Z N at Ranville, instead of D.Z K, with serious consequences for the main drop of 8th Para Battalion Group. These 40 Parachutist were among the very first of all Allied troops to land in Normandy.
The tasks of these Pathfinders and Recce Party were to set up the Eureka radio homing transmitter beacons for the D.Z., K and to prepare the flare path, in the shape of the letter T for the six horsa gilder's of the Battalion group on the adjoining L.Z. The twelve Glider Pilots were from 14 flight, F Squadron No 2 Wing of The Glider Pilots Regiment and were commanded by Lt Aubrey Pickwoad D.F.C.L.Z. K was a strip of land 1400 yards long and 350 yards wide running south-south east from Le Pre Baron to Touffreville.
These Gliders arrived 25 minutes after The Pathfinders but only two of them landed on L.Z. K. The rest of The Battalion Group Jumped 5 minutes after The Gliders had landed, from 37 Dakota Aircraft of 233, 271 and 575 Squadrons RAF based at Blakehill Farm Airfield. Unfortunately only about 130 Jumpers landed on or near D.Z. K because of Flak causing evasive action, Eurekas in the wrong place, poor visibility or planes not slowing down when dropping parachutist.
In the recce party were two members of the signal platoon, 5384418 Private Arthur Platt, aged 24, and 6354301 Private Thomas Wilson Billington, aged 21. They were helping the pathfinders to set up the flare path on L.Z. K, when they were captured by the Germans, Probably a detachment of 6 Company, 125th Panzer Grenadiers which was billet in Touffreville and whose Regimental Commander was Colonel Hans von Luck.
They were murdered, probably shortly after capture, on a farm track near to the edge of L.Z. K just out side Touffreville, each with a bullet in the back of his head. This because Hitler had ordered that all parachutist would be regarded as spies or saboteurs and must be killed if taken prisoner. Their bodies were left face downwards in the hedgerow at the side of the track and were discovered next morning by a French woman from Touffreville, Mme Yveline Langevin.
On June 10th, when the 51st Highland Division arrived in the area nearby, their bodies were taken by the Germans to a field near the Village of Demouville about 2 miles away and buried there to remove any incriminating evidence from the scene of the murders, if they had been killed in action they would have been buried by The French in Touffreville Church yard alongside the grave of L/Cpl Edward Delaney O'Sullivan of 22nd Ind Para Group.
Private Platt's grave was found when the area was liberated in July, his body was exhumed in September 1945 and reburied in Ranville War Cemetery. Private Billingtons body was never found as it was probably blown to pieces in the very heavy bombing and shelling which took place in this area at the start of operation Goodwood on Juny 18th. He is commemorated, by name instead on the Bayeux Memorial opposite to Bayeux Cemetery.
Story submitted by William John Lewis Platt son of Arthur Platt.
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