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Posted on Mar 30, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Re-enactment fiction: Dropzone

By Shane Lowdon


My last look at Blighty before we set off…

After exiting the C-47 at 600 feet, 15 seconds of drop till a soft landing in a freshly ploughed field brought home the fact I was in enemy territory. Stripping off the harness, assembling the Sten and retrieving my equipment from the drop-bag I realised this was not the right DZ. Looking around for the rest of my stick I could only see one other, making his way towards me.

Private Pope’s smiling face shone through the blackened mess, whilst reassuring me that the party was off to a bad start. We quickly made our way to the corner of a wood, trying to orientate ourselves to the terrain. As I studied the map Ian brought to my attention 2 figures, following the tree-line and quite obviously German, due to the helmet silhouette and weapons.

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Allowing them to come within 25 yards we suddenly opened fire, short controlled bursts from our 2 Stens cut them down, but sudden movement from the tree-line and road made us aware that we were out-numbered at least 4 to 2. Making our way deeper into the woods, we lay a snap ambush either side of a track junction. Sure enough, after advancing past their fallen collegues they were patrolling the path we had taken.

Once again, 2 Jerries crossed my field of fire, near to Private Pope’s position. Not able to alert him I aimed above his head and let three bursts go. The Germans went down fast, but knowing their friends were nearby we couldn’t confirm the kill. We had to move. This hit and run scenario would continue for the remainder of the day, move and hide, fire and run. We hit where we could, but the superior numbers of the enemy kept us constantly alert.

Tired, lost and strained by the preceding hours of sporadic fighting, we were hungry, hot and stretched to the limit. Eyes were constantly searching, every tree, bush, hedge or ditch was scanned. We caught a break after they passed by, either side of our hide. I counted 8, Ian later confirmed this. Regular Wehrmacht Infantry, well led and looking for trouble.

As evening fell, the German Line almost netted us, and a brief but furious firefight ensued. Seperated from Private Pope I saw a German NCO, MP40 raised and as he swung in my direction I cut him down with a long rattle from my Sten. A rifle shot grazed the tree nearby, and I was in danger of being out-flanked. Hearing Ian’s Sten in the distance I dashed along the path, speed rather than stealth being the order of the day! We met up after Ian managed to shoot his way out of the German trap.

Into the night we heard the sounds of breaking foliage, as the undergrowth was systematically worked through. Luckily Ian found an old brick shelter, buried by years of hedge-growth, and we managed to eat and grab some sleep.

Morning broke, stand to at 05.00 and there was no sign of the Germans. After breakfast of tea, biscuits and jam, with some cheese and bread we broke hide and moved into the woods, alert and eager to try to locate our Platoon or any of our Airborne/Airlanding Brigade. Once again it wasn’t long before we found the enemy. Working their way along the path routes towards us we used our Stens on single shot, hoping to confuse the enemy into thinking we had rifles, and therefore there were more of us. Slowing them down meant the pincers of their trap failed to close in time, as we sprinted down a hard road to safety.

As the day wore on, we were pushed further out of the woods, towards a farm and outbuildings. A burst of MG fire made covering the open ground to a bridge, essential to our escape, hazardous and the 10 second run lasted another lifetime. No sentries on the bridge helped speed our escape, and as we approached the barn and out-buildings, we spotted Red berets and vehicles! Tired, sapped of strength as we were, we made ourselves known to the forward positions by changing into our Red Berets and a shout of "Whoa Mohammed" announced our return to friendly lines.


Safe at last

After action report revealed our opponents to be of the 27th Infantry Regiment, 12th Infantry Division. 8 enemy confirmed killed, with approximately 10-15 wounded. No local inhabitants were hurt, although a local German woman did voice her concerns at the marks our boots made on her lawn!

2488593 Pvt Lowdon.S 1st Airborne Signal Section.

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landing01.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR

We are the Just Ordinary Men, 1st British Airborne Re-enactment group based in South East England. We have been in existence for 5 years and our aim is to portray men of the Parachute and/or Reconnaissance units around the Market Garden period Sept 1944. We can also show up as 6th British Airborne, 12th (Yorkshire) Battalion Parachute Regiment for Overlord, June 1944.

I am Acting Lance Corporal Shane Lowdon, ex 216 Signal Squadron (Airborne). Many of our members are ex military, but this isn’t a requirement for membership.

I portray a soldier with pre-war experience with the Green Howards in Palestine, during the beginning of the war I took part in the BEF in Arras and Gravelines before the Dunkirk evacuation. Months of inactivity and a chance reading of a notice requiring volunteers for a new Airborne unit, meant intense physical and parachute training. Then followed service in North Africa, Italy and Sicily, finally returning to England to rest and refit. Now, in the weeks following D-Day, there is unrest in our camp, the need to get into action before the war ends.

We take part in most major re-enactment shows, and public/private battles which we use to sharpen our battleskills. We hold training days once a month, and a parade meeting as well. Standards are high, and a reasonable level of fitness, discipline and a high regard for veterans of all sides is a must.

Just Ordinary Men Website

2 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Just wanting to know if you guys jump in the unit. Possibly interested, Mark, Ex Parachute Regiment 1991-2001

  2. FYI I also jumped that aircraft your standing in as it belongs to Tony Holden, or did. I jumped Normandy and Holland sevral times.

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