WN01 Merville Battery Map1612
The German battery at Merville protected the entrance to the small port of
Ouistreham and would have been able to fire on the many ships supporting the
attack on Sword beach.
To neutralise the battery a hundred Lancaster Bombers dropped 400 tons of bombs
during the night of 5/6th June. Unfortunately not one of the four bunkers was
The 9th Parachute Battalion had been given the task of taking the battery some
months before D-day. Lieutenant Colonel Terrance Otway was given the task of
leading his men with the objective of taking and putting the battery out of
action before the main invasion force landed.
They built a mock up of the battery near Newbury in England and trained for
several months before D-day. They would parachute into Normandy split into two
groups, the first landing just after midnight to scout the area to access the
damage caused by the bombers.
The main body of the Regiment dropped thirty minutes later from Albemarles
aircraft, a plane that had a bad reputation for breaking up in the air. As at St
Mere Eglise, many planes dropped the paratroopers off target and only 150 men
arrived at the rendezvous area in time to take part in the attack, this was only
25% of the force that should have been available.
Most of the larger artillery pieces never arrived and Otway decided to attack
with what forces he had. This amounted to one Vickers Gun and side arms and
twenty Bangalore Torpedoes.
The three gliders bringing in the main party fared no better, the first broke
its tow rope on take off. The second landed several miles to the east. The third
flew over the battery and landed a hundred yards to the south. This glider did
attract fire from the battery and caused a diversion. Otway and his men
attacked, without the support of any Engineers or mine clearing equipment.
Nearly half the attacking force were killed or injured during the attack. The
German garrison was decimated leaving only twenty two prisoners. By now it was
05:30 and the battery was secure, just thirty minutes before the British
Battleship H.M.S. Arethusa was scheduled to pound the site with her six inch
Whilst the attack was a success the guns found in the casemates were not what
intelligence had reported. They were in fact first world war horse drawn Czech
guns of 100mm not capable of interfering with the invasion of Sword beach. Today
a French cannon is installed in the battery, it is a 75mm type 321, and
resembles the 100mm Czech cannon. The Batterie is interesting in as much as
there are three types of Casemates housing the four guns, 2 x type H612 and one
each of H669 & H611
Wn01 R669 - R612 x 2 - R611 - Vf7b x 2 - R501 - R502 - 100mm F.H.14/19 Manned