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Herbert James Watts
Rank: Private
Herbert James Watts



Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Normandy, France

June 6, 1944

Survived the war?
Ox and Bucks Light Infantry

Ox and Bucks Light Infantry

A silent hero

Dad was born in Bristol and joined the Home Guard at the outbreak of the war. He was then enlisted into the Devonshire Regiment, nicknamed by some as being the "Turnip Crunchers" due to their West Country accents. In preparation for Operation Deadstick dad was somehow transferred into the Ox and Bucks, probably due to his earlier training on a replica bridge in the Exeter area.


June 5th Dad was assigned to Glider # 3, a Horsa LH469 carrying 23 soldiers from 14 platoon B Company and 5 men from the Royal Engineers, which was subsequently was towed over to the French Coast where it was released. The glider crash landed under the cover of Darkness but split into two upon landing. One passenger died from drowning as a result of the landing. We believe dad was then part of the escort group protecting the sappers while they checked out the bridge for explosives after it was captured. The glider group protecting the Bridge suffered a considerable number of casualties as a result of sniper fire around the bridge and eventually had to return to the UK to be resupplied with new recruits.

From the Ardennes to peace

Later dad was sent to fight in the Ardennes through one of the coldest winters on record. We then believe he was involved in the Rhine Crossing after being sent To Belsen to witness what had happened in the Concentration Camp. He somehow eventually ended up on Lunaburg Heath with Gen Montgomery to accept the German surrender by the Allies.

Post war

Post war dad returned to Bristol and became a gardener for Bristol Corporation. He died aged 82.

Story by John Watts, Bert's son

Operation Coup de Main

Capture of the Caen canal and Orne river bridges. In the early hours of June 6, 1944, as part of the Normandy landings during World War II, British airborne forces undertook a critical mission to secure the Caen canal and Orne river bridges. These bridges were crucial as they provided the only eastern exit for British forces from Sword Beach. Despite being heavily defended and rigged for demolition by the Germans, the objective was to capture and hold these strategic points.

The operation, often mislabeled as Operation Deadstick, though officially known as Operation Coup de Main, was pivotal for the success of Operation Tonga, the broader British airborne landings in Normandy. Failure to secure the bridges intact would have isolated the British 6th Airborne Division, making them vulnerable to German counterattacks and potentially jeopardizing the entire Normandy invasion.

The responsibility for this mission fell on 'D' Company, 2nd (Airborne) Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, supported by Royal Engineers. Transported in six Airspeed Horsa gliders from England, the assault group successfully reached its target. Despite facing fierce German resistance, they managed to capture and defend both bridges until reinforcements arrived, preventing their destruction and securing a vital passage for Allied forces.

Veteran's personal medals
1939 - 1945 Star
1939 - 1945 Star
France - Germany Star
France - Germany Star
Veteran's personal file
Ox and Bucks airborne troops
Ox and Bucks airborne troops

Nicknamed: The Ox and Bucks or The Light Bobs

Personal photographs

Click on a picture for enlargement

  • 1999

Remember each and every sacrifice, made for your freedom!

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