Denis Edwards was born near Sevenoaks, Kent in 1924. Seventeen years
old (less four months) he joined the 10th Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire
Light Infantry Young Soldiers Battalion. He was transferred to the
Gliderborne 2nd Battalion, part of the 6th Airborne Division.
After service in Normandy, the Ardennes and Germany, he was sent
to India ahead of the Division, which never arrived, being diverted
to Palestine. He re-joined the Division after hitch-hiking back to
the Middle East.
He ended his service in the Parachute Regiment and on demobilisation
he pursued a career in Estate Agency, around the Worthing area. Now
retired is actively involved with the Shoreham-by the Sea D Day Aviation
Museum and acts as correspondent to the survivors of the late Major
Howard's Pegasus Bridge Coup de Main Force.
Towards the end of May 1944 we were loaded into large
covered lorries. The rear canvas sheet was unrolled and firmly tied
from the outside. (This was not an unusual event. If there were German
spies in England they would certainly be interested in the activities
of Allied Special Forces such as the Airborne or Commando so we were
quite used to being concealed from public gaze as we were transported
around England in a succession of field exercises and manoeuvres).
After an hour or two the lorry stopped and we found ourselves in a
tented camp, heavily guarded and surrounded by high wire fences. We
soon realised that this camp was special when, the next day, we were
roused from our 7-man Section tents, fallen in and marched the short
distance into an internal protected area in the centre of the camp
where we entered a large tent in which were stands displaying enlarged
aerial photographs and, in the centre, a table upon which stood a
very detailed landscaped ground model with two waterways crossed by
Our force commander, Major John Howard, told us that we had be selected
as a special force of 180 men who were to spearhead the invasion of
France. The two bridges spanned the Caen Canal and nearby Orne River
a few miles inland from the Normandy coast. Our job was to travel
in six 30-man wooden gliders which were to be concealed in the midst
of a bomber force and released as we approached the French coast;
then to dive down through the coastal flak, glide inland and capture
these two vital bridges before they could be destroyed by the Germans.
(Local intelligence had established that they had been prepared for
destruction in the event of an invasion).
The raid was to occur around midnight of 5th/6th June
1944 and we would be the first Allied fighting unit to go into action
on D-Day! We spent much of the next two or three days in that tent
being briefed on the part that each of our six Infantry Platoons would
play. The first three gliders would crash-land in darkness as close
to the canal bridge as possible. The other three would land beside
the river bridge. The glider in which I was to travel was scheduled
to be the first to touch down by the canal bridge but, since, upon
release, some gliders may be shot down or land away from the target
area, during the few days before the raid we all had to acquaint ourselves
with each of the six Platoon tasks – and even individual tasks
to be carried out by some men; depending upon the order of landing.
Denis Edwards at the Chateau St Côme in late
July, with Major John Howard and "D" Company's snipers.
Left to right: "Wackers" Waite, "Pete" Musty,
"Nobby" Clarke, John Howard, "Rocky" Bright, "Paddy"
O'Donnell, and Denis Edwards. Corporal Wally Parr is not amongst the
group, having been wounded earlier in the fighting. Copyright: John
The day before we were due to take off we were told that Intelligence
sources had discovered that both the fanatical 12th Hitler Youth SS
and the battle-hardened 21st Panzer Division (who had served under
Field Marshal Rommel in North Africa) had moved into the area around
Caen just a few miles to the south of our target bridges! Since we
had no meaningful anti-tank guns and these two elite German Divisions
had around 400 tanks between them I think that most of us firmly believed
that we were being sent on a hopeless suicide mission!
On the night of take-off, as I strapped myself into my hard wooden
seat I felt like a convicted man who was shortly to be marched to
the scaffold and meet the hangman’s rope. My teeth were chattering
and I gripped my rifle firmly between my knees to stop them from knocking.
To try and bolster what was, probably for many of us, our failing
courage, we all began to sing at the top of our voices.
Then a strange thing happen to me. As the glider was pulled along
the runway behind its towing Halifax bomber I, still a month short
of my 20th birthday, was literally shaking with fright, yet at the
very moment that the glider’s wheels parted company with the
ground, quite inexplicably my fear vanished. This is something that
I have never been able to explain but I believe that at that moment
the thought came to me that each of us has a time to be born, a time
to live, and a time to die.
This thought was to hold me in good stead during the three months
spent in two-man trenches some 6ft long, shoulder width and chest
deep as day-by-day friends and comrades were killed or wounded –
if the wound was not too severe they were seen as the lucky ones -
I just accepted that their time had come and that tomorrow it might
well be my turn to die so it didn’t matter whether, under daily
bombardment, one sheltered in the deepest trench, if the next bullet,
shell or mortar bomb had your name on it there was no way that you
could dodge your pre-ordained fate.
I found this a great comfort in times of considerable stress during
the three-month long Normandy campaign, the two months in the snow-filled
Ardennes during the so-called ‘Battle of the Bulge’ and
the six weeks in Germany as we were involved in a 270-mile fighting
advance across northern Germany to meet up with the Russians on the
(Anyone wishing to learn how I got on after we landed may care to
see if their Library has a copy of my book ‘The Devil’s
Own Luck’ - From Pegasus Bridge to the Baltic sea as an Airborne
Sniper 1944/45 published under the Leo Cooper imprint of Pen and Sword
Books Ltd.) Private
Copyright: Denis Edwards
Roll of Honour
ALLEN, Doug 27.11.06 23 Pln. 'D' Coy
AMBROSE, Bob 5-11-02 22 Pln ‘D’ Coy. Cpl. Wounded
ANTON ‘paddy’ 3-7-2000 14 Pln ‘B’ Coy
. Pte - Sniper
BARWICK, Pete 7-6-44 22 Pln Sgt ‘D’ Coy
BULLER, Frank Nov 1998 23 Pln ‘D’ Coy. Pte
BURNS, John 26-11-99 17 Pln ‘B’ Coy.’ Cpl.
Awarded MM on Rhine
CAINE, Cobber ? 25 Plan ‘D’ Coy Cpl.
CHAMBERLAIN, Les 25-11-01 25 Pln ‘D’ Coy. Pte. Pln
CHATFIELD, Albert Nov 03 24 Pln ‘D’ Coy. Pte - Col.
CLIVE, Felix 7-10-99 22 Pln ‘D’ Coy. Pte
EVANS, Stan, CdeG 18-09-04 14 Pln ‘B’ Cpl.
GODBOLD Claude? ? 24 Pln ‘D’ Coy Cpl
GOODSIR, Harry 12-1-2000 22 Pln ‘D’ Coy - Cpl
HARMAN, Robert June 2003 24 Pln ‘D’ Coy. Pte
HOWARD, Major John 5-5-99 Coup de Main force Commander. Awarded
HOWARD, Roy 22-3-99 Glider Pilot,. S/Sgt - No. 6 glider. Awarded
JENNINGS, Jim 28-08-05 23 Pln. Cpl. Aged 94.
LARKIN, Claude July 2003 Airborne Royal Engineers
LARKIN, Cyril Dec 2003 Airborne Royal Engineers
LATHBURY, John Oct 97 22 Pln ‘D’ Coy. Pte. PoW.
MUSTY, Pete 21-8-98 24 Pln ‘D’ Coy . Pte - Sniper
NEILSON, Capt 2003? Commanded Airborne Royal Engineers
NOBLE, Ted 31-10-98 14 Pln ‘B’ Coy. Pte
OLLIS, Stan ? 25 Pln ‘D’ Coy Sgt
PARR, Wally 03-12-05 25 Pln ‘D’ Coy. Sniper Cpl.
Wounded mid july ‘44
ROBERTS, Arthur 13-11-04 L/Cpl. 24 Pln ‘D’ Coy
SHORTER, Tony 2001? In NZ Glider Pilot – S/Sgt. No. 4
Glider that landed astray
SWEENEY, Col ‘Tod’ June 2000 23 Pln ‘D’
Coy. Lt. Platoon Commander. Awarded MC
TAPPENDEN, Tel March 99 HQ Coy. Wireless operator. L/Cpl.
THORNTON, Wagger 1997 17 Pln ‘B’ Coy. Sgt. Awarded
MM for knocking out tank
VAUGHAN, Dr John 2-2-2000 Commanded Medic team.. Major. RAMC
WHITFORD, Alf 22-1-98 22 Pln ‘D’ Coy. Pte
WOODS, Eric 8-3-00 17 Pln ‘B’ Coy. Pte.
The Devil’s Own Luck. From Pegasus Bridge to the Baltic
sea. An account of my three months in Normandy; two months in
the Ardennes and six weeks in Germany as an Airborne Sniper
– 1944/45. Published under the Leo Cooper imprint of Pen
& Sword Books, Ltd. Hardback copies all sold. Now available
as an illustrated paperback @ £9.99. .
In June Colonel David Wood, MBE was awarded the French
Legion d’Honneur in recognition of his many years of involvement
with both the Coup de Main and Normandy Veterans Association.
Colonel Tillett confirms that it has been agreed that
the 60th anniversary of D-Day was the last OFFICIAL pilgrimage to
Normandy and that he will cease to act as coordinator from 30th June
2005. He will arrange for wreaths and crosses for June 2005. The Royal
Green Jackets will not be officially involved in future events but
later they will be issuing information on the ‘Last Out –
First In’ tour of France – Dunkirk/Normandy for June 2005.
Colonel Wood will not be in Normandy next June but Major Scott might
be available, if required. From now onwards veterans will need to
make their own arrangements. However, if someone produces a programme
of events, as in the past, I will be happy to circulate details and
I understand that early next spring George and Penny Bates will pay
a visit to discuss with the local Mayors their thoughts on future
All Best Wishes for Christmas and the New Year
‘Ham & Jam’
Produced by Denis Edwards
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