This is Jame Hill’s Account of his D-Day Experiences
James Hill was a British army officer. He was born on March 14, 1911. He went to Sandhurst in 1929. Afterwards he decided to get into the family business, but he was selected to serve when World War II broke out in 1939.
Hill commanded the 3rd Parachute Brigade, which was in the 6th Airborne Division. The brigade was designed in 1943 with the intent to take part in the Normandy invasion. Three countries joined the parachute brigade. Hill had a lot of respect for them. He said, “These chaps were the salt of the earth, prepared to give their lives without arguing the toss.” None of them had joined the army to parachute, but they were told to parachute. Hill recalls responding by saying, “We’ll try.”
There were four objectives in the parachute training for the brigade. The objectives were speed, control, simplicity and fire effect. In general, they tried not to carry much equipment to achieve a greater speed. The idea was to gain an advantage on the enemy.
Next was control. Having speed was not the most important thing. “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,” Hill said. Fire efficiency was important because paratroopers did not carry much ammunition, and this meant every shot was essential. “Every shot had to count,” Hill said.
Training for D-Day
Hill recalled the training, noting it was rigorous—many of the original volunteers left because of the intensity of the training. Much of the training took place at night because they knew a lot of the fighting would happen at night. Every month the brigade spent one week training at night and slept during the day. Hill said it was extremely rough because the commander of the brigade still had to perform administrative work during the day.
One time, Hill recalled taking the brigade on a two-hour march. Each of them had to carry 60 pounds of equipment. They went through the town of Bulford. Even the clerks and telephone operates had to participate in the march. “I was cheering them on, as you do, so that they would get to the end within two hours,” Hill said.
He recalls receiving backlash for the march. A notice from the local Women’s institute wanted to see him. As Hill put it, “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!”
On June 5, 1944 the brigade went into action in Operation Tonga, which was part of Operation Overlord, or the Normandy Invasion. In December 1944, the brigade was moved to Belgium to fight. They stayed on the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. They remained there carrying out patrols until March 1945.