This is Jack Mellons of the BBC, reporting in conjunction with CBC in Toronto and speaking to you from somewhere in northern France where I am accompanying the Canadian Paras in their most important mission.
We dropped into France in the early hours of this morning, crossing the coastline where a seeming curtain of Flak was being thrown up from Jerry positions all along the coastal belt. Our mission was crucial, destroy a bridge across an important river, blow up a raid station and capture a German position on the edge of one of the landing zones to be used later in the day by glider-borne forces.
Unfortunately our landing was dispersed and rather than the full Battalion we had been allocated to undertake our task I found myself with a group of just thirty men under the command of a tall Canadian Major. Unperturbed the Major led his small party swiftly and accurately to the small bridge at the eastern end of the village. No Engineers had reached us yet, so the men took up position in the house and the church that dominated the main village street and waited for the reinforcements that surely must come.
At the far end of the village we could hear the shouts coming from the chateau where the Germans were based. From time to time tracer fire arced into the sky and the occasional shot came our way, showing just how jittery our foe was.
Within half an hour we had been joined by another twenty or so men, and the Major sent them forward under a Lieutenant from Saskatoon who, darting through the dimly lit streets, made his way towards the radio station. I was with them as they entered a small wood-turner's workshop and where the first men in our group lost their lives. A Jerry Spandau opened up from the rise just to our west, an outbuilding by the large gatehouse that served the chateau, cutting down two men and starting a firefight that was to last some minutes.
As it was the firing was sufficient to alert a small number of Paras who had been dropped just to the north of the village and they were able to move to the small wood yard near the Lieutenant's position from where they stormed the radio hut, taking the German operators by complete surprise and destroying their equipment. With that part of our mission thus achieved we fell back to the churchyard, on the way shooting down a party of Germans who had attempted to move around our flank.
Now I moved back through the village, The Major informed me that fresh reinforcements had come in and would be making an attack on the German positions from the south. Apparently an advance up the main street had gone disastrously wrong when it was discovered that the Germans were dug in all along the eastern edge of the chateau grounds, information that it cost many good Canadian lives to discover.
A Captain from Winnipeg and a large RSM from Edmonton led the attack, moving cat-like through country lanes and apple orchards towards their goal. The Chateau estate was bordered by a large hedge that, with its high earth banks, provided some cover for the attacking party. The firefight with the chateau was intense with the Paras' incredible array of firepower giving them an edge. I the half-light of dawn German troops could be seen moving back to support their headquarters, while a pair of Spandaus kept the British at bay on the eastern edge of their position. A Corporal from Montreal attempted to clear the German trenches, driving off the German defenders with a rain of grenades, but the Spandaus denied him the safety of the trench so he was obliged to remain content with occupying an orchard opposite.
It seemed now as though the Germans were on the edge of withdrawing, but the sound of an old gramophone could be heard in the chateau, blasting forth a medley of Hitler's speeches. The Huns' resistance stiffened somewhat, but that was short-lived as I saw a Para sniper despatch with one shot the be-medalled Colonel who had been turning the gramophone handle, and the cacophony of hatred came to an end.
Now, from my position on the raised ground, I could see the Major moving round to the northern edge of the chateau grounds. I was unable to witness his final charge into the heart of the enemy defences, but what was unmistakable were the white sheets that now emerged from the gatehouse, swiftly followed by the chateau. The village had fallen, a great victory for the tenacious Paras.
This is Jack Mellons signing off from Normandy...crackle...
A great game at Varaville, with the Germans conducting a textbook flexible and mobile defence, making the very most of their defences. The Canadians started with very few troops, but huge numbers of blinds coming on from all directions to represent the German uncertainty. The Germans (due to scenario stipulations) took several turns to get their force organised and knocked the paras back in several places. The fight for the mayor's office was particularly bloody, as was the battle around the wood-yard where both sides lost whole sections.
The British Engineers arrived in the end and blew the bridge which released the Major and his men to take the chateau from two directions at once. Up until then the Germans had been repositioning their force to face off each new Canadian probe, albeit with ever increasing casualties. It was a hard fought action in whcih both sides gained merit. Thanks to Gerard, Kev and Biff for their good sportsmanship in the face of my usual free-kriegsspiel type umpiring.
German Player's Report
First of all a big thank you to you for organising a spectacular event yesterday. Your hard work is really appreciated. Also thanks for umpiring on my table. As usual no qualms. Scenery on all table was up to its usual high standards.
Thanks in no small part to Gerard my opponent who took all his bad luck in the morning with dignity, and then got his second wind in the afternoon and with Biff (cheers mate, nice to see you again) finally managed to break down my tenacious defence.
Managed to get all seven big men killed along with by my reckoning 80% of my force whilst inflicting perhaps 70% casualties on the Brits. It was THAT bloody. The German HQ building must have held over 50 dead bodies by the end of the day.
Nice to see so many old friends and opponents after missing Malaya Day, put names to faces and make some new friends too. Sorely missed the rapport and banter of Mike 'unlucky' Brian, Andy 'Mother' Tucker and Dom Skelton.
Kev "Fat Wally" Lowth