Race for the Orne Bridges
Poised, on the left flank of the British invasion beaches
- 21st Panzer Division; an old adversary from the desert
war. Can they be kept out of action? They are known to be
east of the River Orne. What if we could destroy all the
bridges, early in the day, surely that would help?
Relying on air attack is uncertain. These bridges must
be blown and the experts are available - enter the Royal
Engineers. But how to get them there? This is, after all,
enemy territory so they will need to move fast, and require
protection. The problem was handed to an armoured car regiment,
the Inns of Court. This is what happened.
Tank Museum photo No 3734/B/5
C Squadron, the Inns of Court was specially organised on
a 'half-troop' basis. That is 12 groups, each with one Daimler
Dingo scout car and one Daimler armoured car. Nine of these
groups would each escort a Royal Engineer half-track carrying
the explosive charges.
The idea was to land this force on Juno beach from two
landing craft, race inland and spread out, each with a bridge
as their target. But we all know about the best-laid plans
Tank Museum photo No. 0348/A/1
As the two landing craft approached the beach one of them
struck two mines and sank. Damage was not serious but it
would be six hours before those vehicles could be unloaded.
Meanwhile the others landed and, having cleared the beach,
with the loss of one Dingo on a mine, their troubles began.
Another car was knocked out by a British tank but, the further
they went the more opposition they met and it soon became
clear that they would not reach the bridges that day.
Tank Museum photo No. 4201/A/5
Day two proved even worse; reorganising for a second attempt
one troop halted at a location known as Jerusalem Crossroads
where, despite showing agreed visual signs, they were attacked
by USAF Thunderbolts and the explosive filled half-track
blown apart, taking most of the nearby buildings and other
vehicles with it.
Jerusalem crossroads from Needs Must
the history of
the Inns of Court Regiment in WWII.
The survivors tried again on the third day but it was too
late. German forces were counter-attacking and it was all
the armoured cars could do to keep out of the way of major
In the end none of the bridges were destroyed and, despite
a regimental legend that one half-troop got nearly all the
way to Paris, what was left of the Squadron joined in basic
reconnaissance duties until the rest of the regiment arrived,
later in the month.