Richard Todd at the scene of his toughest real-life battle

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by the_boy_syrup, May 31, 2009.

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  1. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    Mod's please move if this is the wrong forum (didn't know whether to put in Mil history)

    Nice to be reminded that the British and Commonwealth actually took part in the landings

    D-DAY SPECIAL: We take movie legend Richard Todd back to the scene of his toughest real-life battle

    MOVIE legend Richard Todd starred in two of the most famous films inspired by World War Two, The Longest Day and The Dam Busters. But it's his TRUE-LIFE war experience that makes him most proud.

    RICHARD, who you can see on speaking on video below, was the very FIRST D-Day Para to jump from a plane over northern France in the early hours of June 6, 1944. Now aged 89, the News of the World has taken him back to Normandy days ahead of Saturday's 65th anniversary of those momentous landings.

    We believe Richard's brave story should fill ALL Brits with pride..

    CAPTAIN Richard Todd was about to jump from a Stirling bomber when German tracer fire lit up the night sky over Normandy.

    The budding actor - destined to become a household name playing fearless war heroes - was all set to perform the greatest role of his life . . . for REAL.

    As the first paratrooper to leap into Nazi-occupied France on D-Day his mission was - along with his battalion - to secure and hold the key stronghold of Pegasus Bridge, near Caen.

    There was no script, and no chance for a second take if things went wrong.

    But incredibly, instead of fear or panic under the strain of this great challenge Richard simply marvelled at the spectacular light show of enemy gunfire below.

    And at 00.40 hours on June 6, 1944, he launched himself towards the ground.

    This week, as he stood again on French soil and relived the drama, Todd told us: "Although I had 40 jumps under my belt, I had no experience of dropping under fire. But I remember looking out and seeing the tracer bullets zipping past us. I thought what a pretty sight it was with all the coloured lights.

    "I didn't think about the risk to my life, I just jumped."

    Six seconds later, after dropping from only 400ft to minimise the risk of being shot in the air, he crashed down in a cornfield under intense attack from more German gunfire.

    Richard said: "As soon as we were on the ground our dropping zone was covered with enemy fire. You didn't hang around. Luckily I dropped right by a track that led straight to our rendezvous."

    A quick glance skywards before diving for the cover of trees told him how fortunate he'd been to survive this long.

    Todd recalled: "Being first out of the first plane wasn't my idea I assure you. But immediately I could see I was lucky. My plane had benefited from the element of surprise. We'd come under a lot of enemy fire but nothing compared to the flak the other planes behind were getting.

    "Looking up I saw whole planes full of paratroopers being brought down. We lost a lot of men that way.

    "One, Tony Bowler, was one of my closest friends. Tony's plane was one of those that came down, complete with all its 20 paratroopers."

    The vivid memories came flooding back as Todd led us to the very field and showed us how he then made his way to the Pegasus Bridge, scene of the bloodiest fighting.

    Screen veteran Todd has revisited the area many times-even starring in classic movie The Longest Day, based on the historic action. But, just days from his 90th birthday, he feared he would be too old to make the landmark 65th anniversary

    The the News of the World stepped in with a specially chartered plane and he seized the chance with relish.

    In 1944 the crucial mission for Todd's 7th battalion of the Parachute Regiment was to hold the bridges over the River Orne and the Caen Canal three miles inland, stopping the German forces from getting reinforcements to the beaches. That allowed the Allies in the seaborne landing to advance inland. A glider force-led by Major John Howard, of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry-had seized the bridges in minutes, just half an hour ahead of the main airborne invasion.

    Todd's landing site was just half a mile from the bridge and after taking cover in the woods he linked up with his commanding officer, Lieutenant- Colonel Geoffrey Pine-Coffin, and his team. They trekked across farmland to the target.

    On his way the actor got his first sight of the brutality of war-the corpse of a German officer blasted in half near his staff car, his driver also killed. "It was the first time I'd seen a shattered dead body like that," admitted Todd. "I remember thinking, 'Poor sod.' It meant no more than that.

    "Then, just as we got to Pegasus Bridge, there was a huge explosion about 200 yards away. We thought it was the beginning of the German counter-attack. In fact a German tank had been hit by a bazooka and exploded.

    "We thought our chaps must have been under heavy fire so we scrambled over the bridge to join them as fast as we could. When we met up with John Howard, I greeted him with a quick, 'Well done old boy!' My CO then told him to go into reserve and we took over. We then bore the brunt of the German counter-attack. It took 10 or 15 mins before they struck back and by that time we were in position.

    But we were down to a fraction of our strength because chaps had been dropped all over the place or shot down. It was one of my jobs as assistant adjutant to get a list of casualties.

    We had dropped 610 men but by 10am we had just 200 odd left. I think 65 men were killed during fighting at the bridges alone."

    Todd's battalion took most of the losses in those bloody first hours of D-Day. He recalled: "Initially there were hardly any German casualties. They were completely caught with their pants down and simply surrendered."

    Armed with only a Browning pistol and a small machine gun Todd had his first taste of combat.

    "The first time I used my weapons was on the way from the bridge to a place I'd set up as our HQ," he said. "We had a little bit of a fight with some Germans. They didn't seem to like us very much. It was a bit of a shooting match.

    "But I never did see if I'd downed anybody. It was quickfire running about stuff mainly. The only time I did think I'd downed somebody was the following day when I was in a position near Ranville close to the glider landing zone.

    "The Germans were using the gliders as cover and there was quite a lot of shooting. I fired quite a few times and thought I might have downed a few but I can't say for sure.

    "You couldn't always see the source of fire. You just had to shoot in the general direction it was coming home from and hope you hit somebody or at least shut them up."

    But one thing I'll never forget is the stench of death. It was easily the worst thing. Thousands of animals, mostly cows, lay dead and rotting, killed by bullets and bomb blasts. And as the Germans were driven out of villages, the Allies never had time to clear the dead so they lay there stinking.

    "It was overpowering and, thankfully, something you never got used to."

    Todd also paid an emotional visit to Café Gondrée, the historic first house liberated in France by the Allies that became an improvised military hospital for the casualties.

    Café owner Madame Gondrée's grateful husband Georges famously dug up cases of champagne hidden from the occupying Germans to serve to the British liberators.

    And as Todd once again sipped bubbly with Georges' daughter Arlette- just four at the time of the liberation- he reminisced: "This very dining table was used as a makeshift operating table and many chaps had their lives saved in this room."

    With pride Todd added: "On the whole I think D-Day was the most significant day in the history of the world. Today we move around with freedom we simply wouldn't have if it wasn't for D-Day. Never has the world gone into action in such a way. Thank goodness we survived and managed to win the battle.

    "I thought my days of coming back here were over. But this has been an incredible opportunity to return. I'm enormously grateful

    SPANNING THE YEARS: D-Day Hero Richard Todd back at Pegasus Bridge

    DASHING: Todd looked the part as a wartime Para
    2 DAYS TO GO: Todd & Tony train for D-Day
  2. Fact is always better than Fiction Why has he never been Knighted, a far better man than the poofs and Wonkers that are getting honours for kissing Labour arsse
  3. Hear! Hear! A vastly more worthy recipient of such recognition than many of those who have been in receipt of it,and a rivetting account of the action from someone who was there. :salut:
  4. Quite. Visiting the sites of the Normandy landings including Pegasus bridge (the 1944 bridge is preserved adjacent to the current one) is about as humbling an experience as one can get. The foreground of history.

    One thing wrong with Richard Todd's portrayal of Guy Gibson - Richard Todd was way too old. Wing Commander Gibson was 24 when he died. Twenty four. Ye gods.
  5. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

  6. Seconded! :salut:

    A return to the old ways: a Knighthood earned on the field of battle... :worship:
  7. I don't want to split hairs but having just read Gibson's book "Enemy Coast Ahead", he was 26 when he was killed over the Netherlands.

    Cracking book mind and in a way suprising as he seemed to be on the lash most of the time; as well he may, given his 170+ operational sorties by the time of Op CHASTISE.
  8. In the early 60’s I had the honour of meeting Richard Todd.
    I was staying in a private dwelling / a well to do family home in Surry, although for me it was more like the upstairs and downstairs scenario.
    I was asked should I wish to go to the main lounge as someone wishes to meet me.
    Having already been to Abingdon and did a full course, although only 4 jumps at the tender age of 15, I felt rather proud in my achievement.
    The family obviously mentioned the fact that there was a young lad staying in their ‘old house’ / home, who was also in the Parachute Regiment.

    I walked into the lounge and there was sat Richard Todd who stood up and greeted me. He had an air of charisma about him.
    A gentleman and a man apart.

    He explained he had been in the parachute Regiment and only in brief did he mention Arnhem. I was young and naïve but he told me to be proud and remember the history and achievements of the Regiment and D day.
    He also gave me some words of wisdom, which I still remember and carry to this day.

    A few weeks later I went back to the place as I did on a few occasions for the w/e.
    But when arriving my sleeping quarters had been changed to the main part of the house, and made to feel as part of this well to do family.
    It was obvious and withought doubt, because of this great gentleman.
    Now I know after all these years, why I picked for the Army modern Pentathlon team.
    Only 2 in the team. Lt Otway, the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Terence Brandram Hastings Otway DSO.

    Thank you Sir Richard Todd.
    I often wondered if he ever remembered that occasion.
  9. thirded, fourthed, fifthed...could this be one of those ARRSE campaigns like the Gurkhas?

    I'm real pleased he's still alive AND he looks in good shape.
  10. An air of what? Is that the same as badger's piss? :D

    I also can't understand why your man never received a knighthood. If anybody truly deserved one, it's got to be him.

  11. Ok Bugsy,
    I have now corrected the small spelling mistake; I hope you were not offended, as I was trying to see who was or was not paying attention? :D
  12. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    We all noted the spooling mostike but we also noticed your a Para
    I assumed you were sweating whilst typing anyway and what with it being a nice day didn't want to cause you a heat exhaustion injury :D
  13. Saucer of cream, Table 9! :D :lol:
  14. It is indeed a nice day, but having spent most of my life in much warmer climes, its not warm enough to sweat here.
    Unless of course I sit at this computer with a Bergen on with steel helmet.
    That’s a point, perhaps I should try that one day. :D
  15. I mentioned in another Thread a few weeks ago about Sandhurst being bombed during WWII and Richard Todd was a survivor, finding himself outside the building some distance away covered in blood, he'd been walking in the corridor where the bomb crashed through ahead of him before detonating on the floor below.

    He describes the above as well as the initial weeks in Normandy in his book "Caught in the Act" not sure if it can still be purchased anywhere, I bought my copy on Amazon Used, it's a fairly old copy but a really good read, goes into his early years and acting career but still a very good read, highly recommended...

    I agree with the above, why on earth hasn't he been knighted! he isn't just some snobbish actor looking for glory, the fact he was the 1st Paratrooper out of all the Allies to physically jump out over France on D-Day speaks volumes for the man... he's been through a lot of suffering also in his lifetime, losing two of his four sons to suicide.

    Face Book Group "Knight Richard Todd" anyone?!