D Day: A Chance OC Encounter

D Day: A Chance OC Encounter

OC Simon Brierly (V73) kindly shared this captivating story about two OCs who met on D Day in extraordinary circumstances.

Denys Brierly V33 (circled), Verites 1932

My father, Flt.Lt. Denys Brierly (V33) was a member of No. 295 Squadron RAF, an airborne forces and transport squadron of the Royal Air Force during World War II. 295 Squadron RAF was the first unit to be equipped with the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle transport and glider tug aircraft.

The night before D Day my father was detailed to carry 10 Paratroopers to a drop zone (DZ) inland and east of the beaches. He took off at 23:15 from RAF Harwell. Due to low cloud his bomb aimer couldn’t pinpoint their position over the coast and as a result couldn’t locate the DZ. My father flew back to the coast a few times but they couldn’t re-establish their position.

Flak (ground anti-aircraft fire) started to become heavier and a shell burst nearby propelling the Para stick leader head first through the parachute exit in the floor of the aircraft. His leg caught in the hatch door and he found himself hanging head first through the exit by his leg, his 60lb haversack dangling beneath him.

They flew around several times, attracting more and more flak but unfortunately they couldn’t pull the Para back into the aircraft.

My father eventually made the decision to fly back to Harwell with the stick leader drifting in and out of consciousness and still precariously hanging head first out of the aircraft.

When they arrived back at Harwell, my father was concerned that the landing might jerk his unlucky passenger out of the aircraft and kill him. They circled a few times more and thankfully the stick leader was eventually pulled back in.

After landing my father was surprised to find that the Para who had undergone this terrible and almost fateful ordeal was actually fellow OC Major Bill Collingwood (S33)!

To his great credit and despite having a badly injured leg, Major Collingwood insisted on going straight back to France and returned the very next day by glider.

Bill Collingwood S33 (circled), Saunderites 1932