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The Day the Devils Dropped In: The 9th Parachute Battalion in Normandy. The Merville Battery to the Chateau St Come. [Kindle Edition]

Neil Barber , James Hill
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Day the Devils Dropped In follows the paths of the men of the elite 9th Parachute Battalion during the first week of the Normandy invasion. It describes in detail (and using the words of the men who actually took part) the Battalion’s drop from Dakota aircraft onto DZ V at Varaville during the early hours of D-Day, its primary task of silencing the Merville Gun Battery which had the capability of causing carnage on SWORD Beach, the fighting at Amfreville/Le Plein later in the morning and the subsequent unpublicized but hugely important battle at the Chateau St Come on the Breville ridge. Here, the Battalion took up a defensive position known as the Bois des Monts, which they defended against ferocious attacks for five days. Defeat on the ridge meant the almost certain loss of the vital Pegasus Bridge.
Failure to achieve either of these tasks could have unravelled the whole OVERLORD operation with catastrophic consequences.

I hope that people who visit the area and especially those who stand in front of the memorials at the Merville Battery and the Chateau St Come, may now have the chance of a clearer idea of the terrible struggle which took place on this small piece of Normandy countryside.

The Merville Battery is a Battle Honour of The Parachute Regiment.

The introduction is written by the Commander of the Brigade to which 9 Para belonged, the legendary Brigadier James Hill DSO** MC, OC 3 Parachute Brigade 1943-45.

This Ebook is profusely illustrated throughout.

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Product Description


This book is an outstanding contribution to military history – but more to the morale of the veterans now past the three score years and ten. -- Ernire Rooke-Matthews MBE - Signals Platoon, HQ Company, 9th Parachute Battalion

From the Author

Six years ago, having become interested in the Merville Battery and St Côme actions, I went in search of information and subsequently read all of the various published books. However, impressive as they were, a feeling of dissatisfaction prevailed. Something was missing. I realized that what I actually wanted to read was a detailed account in the words of the men who were actually there and not a narration of their experiences by an author. This, along with the deliberate omission of hindsight, therefore dictated the goals of the research and the format of this book.
Around fifty 9th Battalion veterans were interviewed, plus many of those formations that fought alongside them in the area. A large amount of written accounts were also studied from other survivors, many of whom are sadly no longer alive.
Using these and a multitude of other sources, I have therefore been able to construct, correct and expand on much of the existing published information.
Additionally, I wanted the reader to be able to see who was actually ‘speaking' within the text, to put faces to the incidents, and so the whole of the text is interspersed with over 200 photographs, thereby recording their faces for posterity.
Finally, I hope that people who visit the area and especially those who stand in front of the memorials at the Merville Battery and the Château St Côme, may now have the chance of a clearer idea of the terrible struggle which took place on this small piece of Normandy countryside.

Neil Barber

September 2002

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 7747 KB
  • Print Length: 470 pages
  • Publisher: Neil Barber; 2014 Edition edition (19 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #249,640 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author


Neil Barber has been interviewing veterans and studying the actions of the 6thAirborne Division in the Battle of Normandy for over 20 years, and this has resulted in the writing of two books. These each took five years of research and are therefore detailed accounts of the events, but mainly related in the words of the men who were actually there.

Every avenue of information has been followed in the effort to get closer to what actually happened, be it the interviewing of survivors, locating testimony by those who have passed away (both audio and written), walking the battlefields, plus analysis of photographic and film evidence. Consequently, the books go further into their subjects than any other previously published information and are unique in their ability to put the reader 'on the ground' with the men themselves.

These books address two of the most vital operations of Operation Tonga, the effort of the British Airborne Forces during the early hours of D-Day; these being the capture of Caen Canal and River Orne Bridges and the silencing of the Merville Gun Battery.

He has also edited two wartime biographies.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Walter "Jonno" Johnson himself 14 Jun. 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I sit here in hospital in Hereford sharing a bay with Walter "Jonno" Johnson himself. To hear this story first hand is a true privilege. Walter is in due to falling over and having some work done on his hip but at 87 is in fine form, humour and good spirits.

Some of the stories he has told me would leave an audience in awe. How times have changed. The anxiety and psychological scars still run deep and this is why we need to remember all these heroes for what they did for us. He showed me a picture of his platoon joking about on 3rd June and noted that they all died in the fighting.

He was shot 3 times himself and hid in a wood for 2 days without food or water before being rescued by someone from 6 commando.

The author visited all these veterans to take testimonials and my copy lies on my doormoat at home waiting for me.

We will remember them,
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 1 Aug. 2007
I recently visited the Merville Battery - very well preserved, and a worthwhile place to visit if in the area. The book, though, really brought it to life, with the recollections and photographs of those who were there - hugely interesting and moving to see the site (which includes video recollections by some of the participants) with the opportunity to overlay that with these personal recollections. A fantastic read in its own right, but indispensable if planning to visit the battery.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Day the Devils Dropped In 1 Feb. 2009
By Jo
Great book, brings to life the true account of the herioc deeds of the Parachute Regt on D-Day and the following week in the area of Breville and Merville near Sword beach. A must for D Day fans, well written and thought provoking.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Day the Devils Dropped in 4 Oct. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent book having visited the locations depicted within on several occasions which brings the book to life. Very accurate and covers what these guys achieved in detail from planning to actual fighting on the ground. Readers will be engrossed in the personal accounts given. D-Day is a big subject and some books that try to cover the whole story in one volume and so skip over detail of specific actions. Great read for anyone interested in what happened during those initial critical days.The Day the Devils Dropped in: The 9th Parachute Battalion in Normandy D-Day to D+6: Merville Battery to the Chateau St Come
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These men were truly Warriors. 11 Dec. 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A brilliantly worded narrative that uncovers and reveals the true determination of the 9th Parachute Battalion troops, a truly remarkable almost super-human achievement; Most maybe familiar with the importance of the assault on Merville Battery in relation to the D-Day landings, (which incidentally is very well depicted within the BBC DVD `D-Day 6.6.44'D-Day [DVD]) but this is only the tip of the iceberg, trust me there is a phenomenal story that until reading this book has for me remained hidden! For instance the night trek of getting to the Battery is unbelievable! Then the assault itself! and then onto the second objective; The taking and holding of Le Plein & the Chateau St Come for 6 days - it is a battle equally as ferocious as that fought at the Arnhem Bridge. A Witness to the ferocity is the final chapter which I will mention below.

The book is laced with personal accounts and images of the combatants so that you can put a face to the narratives and those being mentioned! I've enjoyed reading the book and after reading the Last Chapter entitled `Relief' I have been compelled to start the book again! We must remember them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read about true heroes 11 Oct. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant account of the actions of British 9th Parachute Regiment in their actions to destroy a strategic gun emplacement that overlooked part of the D-Day landing zone. Its a non stop comentary of the events, with actual accounts from those that were there, which brings this story to life, sometimes with saddening reality as you see the faces of so many young men who didnt return. At times you can quite easily almost imagine you are there as plan A becomes plan Z in moments yet the objective was always " the job must be done". If you like history and want to read about the British part of the begining of th liberation of Europe then I cant rate this book highly enough. The debt that all of use who freely choose to do what we want, when and how is indebted to many of those, and thousands like these men who fought to allow us the chance to have the freedom we now take for granted.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Day the Devils Dropped In 29 Nov. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you have a relative that you know has been there on the D Day landing, or before., then this book is a must have. Very informative, explaining how the men themselves felt at the time, and what some experienced and remembered, there are a lot however of the men who preferred to not be remembered in the book, who have also not returned there because of the horrors that they encountered, we can not imagine how these people felt, only to know that they were very very brave in what they did. It was an honour to go and visit the area and pay our respects personally. Which I think you will do once you have read it, "We must not forget".
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5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely splendid account 3 May 2014
Neil Barber, I salute you!
This is a most engrossing, exciting and detailed account of 9th Parachute Battalion in the first few days of Operation Overlord which at times reads more like a novel, packed as it is with personal testimony and recollections. The author has done a brilliant job in tracking down surviving veterans to tell a quite awe inspiring story of courage, fortitude and endurance. These men really did something special and Neil Barber quite rightly holds them in the highest esteem. There are plenty of photos, maps, diagrams and details making for a splendid read for anyone interested in the Normandy campaign.
What I love about a work like this is that you get to read what the ordinary bloke felt and did and endured, something always missing from grand overviews and strategic accounts, and particularly relevant if you wish to visit Normandy to see what these men did. I went in 2012 and saw the Merville Battery and am going again this month, and having read this will make a huge difference to how I'll see the landscape this time.
The account of Chateau St Come is riveting, you'll have nothing but the highest admiration and respect for what 9 Para and other units alongside them achieved in repelling wave after wave of counter attack from the Germans. You'll also, hopefully, feel as mightily humbled as I did.
So hats off to you, Neil Barber - you've done a generation proud with this book. What remarkable men they were.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars They were very young, and had accepted that they were probably going...
A book that reports on the D Day landings in the words of the Para's who were there. It really brings home how brave these people were and the Debt we owe them. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr Nicholas Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars The Day the Devils Dropped In:
Anyone who has any interest in the D day landings should read this book. It is difficult to imagine the sacrifice these men made against all odds to enable the main force to land... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Wayne Beddows
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
very good. Thank you.
Published 12 months ago by Spitdribble
4.0 out of 5 stars dont know yet
my husband loves the look of the book says it looks interesting and exciting but he hasnt read it yet
Published 17 months ago by Mrs Linda M Spinks
5.0 out of 5 stars Good history presented in a very readable way.
Stephen Ambrose wrote in a way that makes you want to read on and on. His books are detailed and as far as i am able to tell accurate.
Published 23 months ago by Mr Peter G Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars God book
Once again this was my dads regiment during the war and he enjoyed te book. Brings back memories good. Rhankyou
Published 24 months ago by Margaret Clegg
4.0 out of 5 stars brought it for some info on my grandad
still reading this so cannot comment fully but a very interesting book for local people if your interested in the para's
Published on 11 April 2013 by social-butterfly
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Chosen after reading a mates copy and in preparation for a battle field tour - excellent, use of personal stories and maps etc
Published on 10 Jan. 2013 by Graeme
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth it!
A very good buy! What an amazing book. Better than most history books which end up just giving you facts and figures and almost bogging your brain down with the information - this... Read more
Published on 28 Jun. 2012 by Tinks122y
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