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Julien

The First Bridge To Far - Casemate UKo

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The First Bridge Too Far

ISBN : 9781612006895

Casemate UK 

 

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Paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines to secure a vital bridge in advance of ground forces which will advance to relive them?, the enemy underestimated, aircraft lost on route to the target,....but no this is not operation Market Garden but Operation Fustian. An operation by the British 1st Parachute Battalion to capture the Primosole Bridge in Sicily. On 13/14 July 1943 they were to land troops by glider and parachute on either side of the only bridge over the Simeto. The operation started to go wrong as soon as it was launched with gliders crashing on take off. Aircraft then got lost on route and were engaged by allied convoys who were expecting an air raid, those that made it over the coast were then engaged by Axis AA fire. Over 40 aircraft were lost with another 9 or so being forced to turn back.

 

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Despite this troops did make the landing at the bridge. The bridge was defended by Italian Coastal Division troops which were considered second class troops. However the Germans had moved their 1st Parachute Battalion into the area, this was a machine gun battalion and they were distinctly first class troops. Thus we would have the elite forces of each side pitted directly against each other. While the was happening the British XIII corps would advance to the bridge. They encountered strong opposition from snipers and dug in troops and had difficulties moving in the local towns some of which were reduced to rubble. They did manage to get with 1 mile of the bridge by nightfall; however despite order to advance with all speed they halted for the night.  The troop on the bridge under constant attack were then forced to withdraw. Despite attempts by the Germans to destroy the bridge it was eventually recaptured. However this did not lead to a rapid advance as Montgomery had foreseen. In the aftermath of the battle it was estimated that only 40% of Paratroopers landed near their drop zones, and it became apparent that aircrew need to be trained to handle Parachute operations and that pathfinders needed more time to prepare drop zones. The RAF would also increase its transport strength as for the operation USAAF aircraft were relied on. 

 

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Conclusion

This book from Casemate looks at the complete battle and is written by a former member of the 1st Parachute Battalion. With the elite Paras fighting against their direct opposites, it was brutal with little quarter being given by either side. The British would find themselves cut of behind enemy lines with dwindling supplies, only their bravery and stubbornness would win out. Unfortunately for these men who survived this would only be tested a year later at Arnhem. I will leave it up to the reader to decide if the British High Command learnt anything for the fight for Primosole bridge? The events here would be overshadowed by that of Operation Market Garden and its good that 75 years later these events are being brought to the fore, if only to remember and honour the brave men who fought and died for the first bridge too far.

 

Very Highly Recommended.

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