43rd Infantry Division by Howard F Brown

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By Howard F Brown

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Discussions on the web have suggested that the tank was an ex-French Char B1 captured in 1940 and overhauled to equip 21st Panzer Division. However, while French armour was used by the division, it was principally the chassis that was converted to an SP role. Moreover the B1 had a crew of four. Pte Eric Woods, who was number two on the PIAT, recalled: ‘On the road on the opposite side of the bridge was a junction and from this emerged three French tanks which had been commandeered by the Germans.

Aboard the same glider, Capt John Vaughan, who had trained as a paratrooper, had none of Smith’s confidence in the cramped confines of the unpowered aircraft. ’ However, as the glider hit the landing zone ‘I knew we were in trouble,’ recalled Smith, ‘because there was several seconds between that first bounce and then the most amazing, appalling crash and breaking sounds. I went shooting straight past these two pilots and went through the perspex. ’ At the controls of the Horsa, SSgt Geoffrey Barkway had been faced by the prospect of landing on the tiny LZ on which there were already two gliders – incredibly he placed Chalk 93 between them, but as the scar across the ground and the shattered fuselage testified, it was a very heavy landing.

The glider narrowly missed the unmarked pond but broke up on landing. (Museum of Army Flying) 150ft from the bridge and with the abrupt halt, the two pilots were catapulted from their seats, smashing through the cockpit windscreen. Behind them, the platoon sat stunned for a few seconds. Howard’s seatbelt had broken and he had hit his head on the roof, forcing his helmet down over his eyes. When he recovered consciousness, he had the terrifying experience of being sightless and wondered if he was dead or blinded.

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