The phrase Band of Brothers may evoke memories of a medieval battle speech, but for most it will bring to mind the mini series directed by Stephen Spielberg about the second world war experiences of an American parachute division involved in the battle to recapture continental Europe from the Nazis.
However, it was not just the Americans who were involved in daring operations where men were parachuted behind enemy lines. Visitors to London's National Army Museum on May 9th can hear a talk based on first-hand accounts about Britain's own Band of Brothers mission.
Colonel Stuart Tootal will tell the true story of how the 9th Airborne Division – or 9 Para – was sent on a daring and in many cases deadly mission in the early hours of D-Day on June 6th 1944, with the aim of capturing the fortified battery at Merville. This assault, begun while it was still dark, was a vital one in helping the British troops set to land at nearby Sword Beach to establish a beachhead.
The task was accomplished entirely against the odds, for the parachutists and the aircraft carrying them faced heavy anti-aircraft fire and many landed in marshes that had been flooded by the Germans near the battery, leading to the loss of much equipment and hundreds of men. Despite this, Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway's men succeeded in taking the bastion.
Colonel Tootal's talk focuses on the true, unvarnished nature of war and is based on first-hand accounts of veterans on both sides in the battle, providing a deep insight into a key battle on one of the most important days of recent world history.
The talk begins at 19:00 and tickets cost £10 for adults and £7.50 for concessions.
Visitors staying in London hotels can reach the museum without much difficulty, as it is a ten to 15-minute walk from Sloane Street Tube station, which is served by the Circle and District Lines.