File No.:

Title: Location of the Bruneval Raid

Investigation made at:

Municipalities of La Poterie-Cap-d'Antifer and Saint-Jouin-Bruneval, in the Seine-Maritime departement, Normandy region, France.

(49°40′16.06″N 0°09′42.60″E)
Period Covered: 27–28FEB1942

Date: FEB-APR 2017

Case Classification: Location of Historic Events
Status of Case: Case Closed

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Now & Then at the objective of Operation "Biting":
the Nazi 'Würzburg radar station located between the LONE HOUSE and the sea cliff near Bruneval in France.  In the "Now-"photo, taken at ground level, only the terrace of the villa can be seen. The woods in the left background in both photo's were codenamed RECTANGULAR.

REASON FOR INVESTIGATION
Operation "Biting" was a daring Combined Operation raid on a Nazi radar station at Bruneval in northern France.
In February 1942, men of the British 1st Airborne Division went into action for the first time. Their target was the 'Wurzburg' radar installation at Bruneval.
Their objective was to seize vital radar components and to bring them back to the United Kingdom for inspection by trained scientists.
The raid was a success and this agency visited the location of the raid 75 years later during various commemorative functions.

SYNOPSIS:
Operation BITING, also known as the Bruneval Raid, was the code name given to a British Combined Operations raid on a Nazi coastal radar installation at Bruneval in Northern France, which took place on the night of 27–28FEB1942 during World War II.
Some of these installations were identified from Royal Air Force (RAF) aerial reconnaissance photographs during 1941, but their exact purpose and the nature of the equipment that they possessed was not known. Some British scientists believed that these stations were linked to the losses being experienced by RAF bombers conducting bombing raids against targets in Nazi Occupied Europe. The scientists requested that one of these installations to be raided and the technology it possessed be studied and brought back to Britain for further examination.
Due to the extensive coastal defenses put up by the Nazis to protect the installation from a seaborne raid, it was believed that a Commando raid from the sea would suffer heavy losses and give sufficient time for the garrison at the installation to destroy the radar set. It was therefore decided that an airborne assault followed by seaborne exfiltration would be the most practicable way to surprise the garrison of the installation, seize the technology intact, and minimize casualties to the raiding party.
On the night of 27FEB1942, after a period of intense training and several delays due to bad weather, a company of airborne troops under the command of MAJ John Frost parachuted a few miles from the installation. The main force then assaulted the villa in which close proximity the radar equipment was installed, killing several members of the Nazi garrison and capturing the installation after a brief gun fight. An RAF technician with the raiding party dismantled the Würzburg radar set and removed several crucial pieces, and then the force withdrew to the evacuation beach. The team assigned to clear the beach at first had failed to do so, but the Nazi force guarding it was soon eliminated with the help of the main force. The raiding troops were picked up by Royal Navy craft, then transferred to several Motor Gun Boats which returned them to Britain. The raid was an overall success. The airborne troops suffered only a few casualties, and the pieces of the radar they brought back, along with a captured Nazi radar technician, allowed British scientists to understand enemy development in radar and to create countermeasures to neutralize them.
After the end of the Battle of France the British and Germans had been competing in radar technology for nearly a decade at this point, with the Nazi technology often at the same level as the British or surpassing them due to heavy investment in radio measuring technology. To effectively neutralize the Würzburg system, Jones and his team had to study one of the systems, or at least the more vital pieces of technology of which the system was composed. Fortunately for them, one such site had recently been located by an RAF reconnaissance Spitfire from the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit during a flight over part of the French coast near Le Havre. The site was located on a cliff top immediately north of the village of Bruneval, which was itself 12 miles North of Le Havre, and was the most accessible Nazi radar site that had been located so far by the Allies; several other installations were located further inland. A request for a raid on the Bruneval site to capture a Nazi radar station was passed on to Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the commander of Combined Operations and he saw an airborne assault as the only viable method.
 
Training
“C” company spent time on Salisbury Plain and then travelled to Scotland where it took training practicing night infiltrations on landing craft to prepare for exfiltration by sea after raiding the Würzburg installation. Preparation of the mission was aided by the creation of a scale-model of the radar installation.

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Pre-war photo of the villa, owned by a Parisian dentist

Scale-model of the radar installation

Royal Air Force  reconnaissance photos of the objective

It was considered that the combination of a full moon for visibility, and a rising tide to allow the landing craft to maneuver in shallow water, was vital for the success of the raid, which narrowed the possible dates to a four-day period between 24–27FEB1942.
 

The raid
On 27FEB1942 the weather proved to be ideal, with clear skies and good visibility and a full moon which would provide illumination for the evacuation of the raiding force. The naval force under Commander Cook departed from Britain during the afternoon, and the Whitley transport aircraft carrying “C” Company took off from RAF Thruxton in the evening.
The aircraft crossed the Channel without incident, but as they reached the French coast they came under heavy anti-aircraft fire; however, none of them were hit, and they successfully delivered “C” Company to the designated drop zone near the Nazi radar station. The drop was almost a total success, with the majority of the raiding force landing on the edge of the drop zone; however, half of the NELSON detachment landed two miles short of the DZ. Once the other detachments had gathered their equipment and orientated themselves, they moved off to undertake their arranged tasks.
Teams JELLICO, HARDY and DRAKE encountered no enemy opposition as they moved towards the villa near the radar installation, and after surrounding the villa Frost gave the order to open fire with grenades and automatic fire. One Nazi guard was killed as he returned fire from an upstairs window, and two more were taken prisoner by the airborne troops; upon interrogation, the prisoners revealed that the majority of the garrison were stationed further inland. There still remained a substantial enemy force in the buildings in the small enclosure near the villa, and this now opened fire on the raiding force after being alerted by the initial firefight, killing one of the airborne troops. The volume of fire rapidly increased, when enemy vehicles could be seen moving towards the villa from the nearby woods; this in particular worried Frost, as the radio sets the force had been issued failed to work, giving him no means of communication with his other detachments, including NELSON who were tasked with clearing the evacuation beach. Fortunately for the British, Flight SGT Cox and several sappers arrived at this time and proceeded to dismantle the radar equipment, placing the pieces on specially designed trolleys.
Having secured the radar equipment and under heavy enemy fire, MAJ Frost gave the order for the three detachments to withdraw to the evacuation beach; it became apparent, however, that the beach had not been secured by the under-strength NELSON detachment when a German machine gun opened fire on the airborne troops, severely wounding the CSM. Frost ordered RODNEY and the available men of NELSON to clear the defenses, whilst he led the other three detachments back to the villa, which had been re-occupied by enemy troops.
The villa was soon cleared of Nazi troops once more, and when Frost returned to the beach, he found that the machine-gun nest had been destroyed by the mis-dropped troops of team NELSON; avoiding a number of enemy positions, they had reached the beach and attacked the machine-gun post from the flank. By this time it was 0215 but there was no sign of the naval force that was to evacuate the airborne troops. Frost ordered NELSON to guard the inland approaches to the beach and then fired off an emergency signal flare; soon after that the naval force was seen approaching. The original plan for the operation had called for two landing craft at a time to land on the beach, but this had never been satisfactorily achieved during training; instead, all six landing craft landed at the same time, with the covering troops in the landing craft opening fire on Nazis gathering at the top of the cliff. The radar equipment, Nazi prisoners and the entire raiding force were embarked and transferred to motor gunboats for transport back to Britain.

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Areal Photograph facing South inland indication key locations of the raid

75th Anniversary Commemoration in 2017
In FEB2017 the 70th anniversary of the operation was commemorated in the municipality of La Poterie-Cap d’Antifer. This agency picked up signals that this community does not get along well with the adjacent community of Bruneval and that an agreement has been settled to commemorate the 1942 raid on their respective territories alternately.
For this occasion a mass jump of all 120 soldiers of "C" "Bruneval" Coy, 2nd Para BN was scheduled on the same DZ as in 1942. High winds however caused the RAF to decide to cancel the drop at least 48 hours in advance. This gave the paratroopers the chance to travel across the English Channel to the battle area way in advance to explore the area of operations of the men in their unit of 75 years earlier. And for this agency to tag along……

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Visit to the Battlefield of Operation "Biting"
We arrived in the area of the raid on Saturday 25FEB2017 driving from our hotel in nearby Dieppe, France where we had toured the battlefields of the 1942 Operation "Jubilee"; the codename of the failed Canadian invasion of France which will be featured on this website in the future. An exhibition in the Cap d'Antifer lighthouse with uniforms, artifacts and individual stories of people who played a role in the operation was scheduled to be opened ceremoniously at 1000 that morning. When we entered the lighthouse in advance at 0945, Mayor Cyriaque LETHUILLIER was just delivering his opening speech (photo 1). Sometime later, two travel coaches with the men of "C" Bruneval Company of 2nd BN, The Para Regiment arrived in the town of La Poterie arrived (Photo2) who presented themselves to the local population. In their company was the unit's former commander Lieutenant General James I. Bashal CSE, at present commanding the British Home Command. Bashall was commissioned in to the Parachute Regiment in 1984. By 2002 he had become Commanding Officer of the 2nd BN, The Parachute Regiment serving in Afghanistan. (Photos 3 & 4).
The troops then marched to the LZ of their unit 75 years ago (photo 5).
After a lunch with cider in the buildings in the RECTANGLE woods they went on to the site of the raid itself where local French historians explained the terrain features in their own language, translated by a Canadian member of the company (photos 6 to 9).
We took the opportunity to walk the grounds of the battlefield and enter the cellar beneath the remains of the villa's terrace which had been demolished by the Nazis after the raid (photos 10 to 16).
The entire company then followed he path to the raid's extraction point on the beach from the German concrete bunker on the cliff top codenamed REDOUBT,  passing the bunker codenamed BEACH FORT (photos 17 to 21).
This concluded the retracing of the footsteps of MAJ Frost's "C" Company by its currently serving members.

CONCLUSION:
Operation "Biting" was a successful raid on a Nazi radar station by British paratroopers in 1942. It brought back crucial information about the enemy's level of sophistication in radar technique, honed the skills of the newly formed British Airborne Forces and perhaps marked the beginning of the end of World War Two as the British Empire delivered a formidable punch back this time.
On 23MAR2013 we visited a meeting of the
Society of Friends of the Airborne Museum "Hartenstein" in Oosterbeek, the Netherlands. The meeting was held in a nearby theater. On display were several items from the Battle of Arnhem, book were sold and information on upcoming battlefield tours was provided.
During the sales pitch for a tour to Dieppe and Bruneval in June 2013, it was explained that the actual objective of the Bruneval raid couldn't be visited at present. The area where the LONE HOUSE (villa) and HENRY (radar set) where, is on private property, aggressive bulls are pastured in the fields of the objective and only a bit of an original floor is what can be seen when trespassing to it.
Owing to several favourable circumstances this agency was privileged to actually have boots on the ground of Operation "Biting" 75 years after it was executed.

EXHIBITS:


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Display of an upcoming battlefield tour to the Dieppe and Bruneval area in June 2013 by
the Society of Friends of the Airborne Museum "Hartenstein" in Oosterbeek, the Netherlands.
During the sales pitch for this event it was explained that the actual objective of the Bruneval raid
couldn't be visited at present.  Battle Study#27 proved otherwise.

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