By David Rolf
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Additional resources for Bloody Road To Tunis: Destruction of the Axis Forces in North Africa, November 1942-May 1943
He was crawling on his hands and knees to find out what the bloody hell was going on. He peered over the window ledge; I wasn’t messing around, having just had this bloody German, and I just put my Sten gun up and fired. The bullet went over his head, hit the stone roof of his bedroom and then ricocheted down on to the wooden post, into the boards of the bed between them. ’ Initially, Georges Gondrée had assumed that the crashing aircraft across the canal from his little café were Allied bombers that had been hit by flak and that some sort of firefight had followed as the crew attempted to escape.
The ‘splash’ of holes and the angle of penetration suggest that this was from an exploding mortar round. qxd:Layout 1 4/3/10 14:57 Page 42 Bénouville D-Day 19 However, just as he saw that the Ox and Bucks had secured Bénouville Bridge, Tappenden tugged Howard’s smock and told him that Ranville Bridge had also been captured intact. The airborne engineers under Capt Jock Neilson had searched the bridges for demolition charges. The German engineers had planned to raise the bridge before they fired the charges, some using the counterweight as a lever to twist and distort the steel girders and make removal and clearance even more difficult.
With Sweeney’s platoon behind them, it was up to Fox to capture the bridge and, on the informal command of ‘To hell with it, let’s get cracking’, they stormed forward. The machine gunner on the far bank opened inaccurate fire and the redoubtable Sgt Thornton put a 2in mortar bomb on the position. ‘We all went across yelling “Fox! Fox! ”,’ recalled the platoon commander. Sgt ‘Wagger’ Thornton had already set up the 2in mortar and fired two high-explosive bombs that exploded either side of the bridge at the eastern end.