B-24 Bomber - A Plane Many Paratroopers Would Jump From

Military Parachuting History

D-Day Invasion - Part One!

Soldier Gearing up for Flight

This is James Hill's Account of his D-Day Experiences

I was born in 1911 and went to Sandhurst in 1929. After a spell as an army officer I went into the family business, but I was called up for duty when war broke out in 1939. 

In the run-up to D-Day I was commanding the 3rd Parachute Brigade in the 6th Airborne Division. The brigade had been formed in the beginning of 1943 with the sole purpose of taking part in the Normandy landings. The brigade was made up of three county battalions. These battalions were invited to join the parachute brigade, and being good chaps they volunteered to a man. These chaps were the salt of the earth, prepared to give their lives without arguing the toss. They hadn't joined the army to parachute, but we said, "Please parachute," and they said, "We'll try."

Training for D-Day

During the physical training we focused on four objectives: speed, control, simplicity and fire effect. As parachutists we didn't carry much equipment, and we had to make use of this advantage to achieve great speed. If you could give orders twice as fast as anyone else you could gain ten minutes on the enemy.

Coupled with speed was control - it was no good having expensive paratroops if they weren't under control. Simplicity was vital - the simpler things were, the fewer mistakes were made. Fire effect was essential because we didn't carry much ammunition, so every shot had to count.

In order to achieve these four objectives we had to become amazingly fit. The initial training was extremely hard, and many of the volunteers left - they simply couldn't stand the pace of the training.

We knew we would have to fight at night so we spent a great deal of time doing night-time training. For one week every month my brigade used to operate at night, sleeping during the daytime. Of course that was marvellous for all the chaps, but the poor brigade commander still had to spend the day doing administrative work!

I was always keen for my brigade headquarters to do just as well as the chaps of the battalions, so on one occasion I took them for a two-hour march carrying 60 pounds of equipment. This of course included the clerks and the telephone operators! As we were staggering into the town of Bulford I was cheering them on, as you do, so that they would get to the end within the two hours.

On the following Monday I received a notice saying that a deputation from the local Women's Institute wanted to see the brigade commander. They had come to complain about the way I had shouted at the chaps to finish - they thought it had been cruel and brutal. That rather amused me!

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Author: James Hill

James Hill was a Commander for the 3rd Parachute Brigade in the 6th Airborne Division in 1943.