Early in 1942 it was felt that information was urgently needed about the latest developments in German radar technology. It was decided that the only practical solution was to seize and examine an enemy radar installation. A raid by the newly formed parachute forces could achieve this.
Chief of Combined Operations, Admiral Lord Mountbatten, proposed a raid against the radar station at Bruneval, near Le Havre, France.
The recently formed ‘C’ Company 2nd Parachute Battalion under the command of Major J D Frost, was selected to be dropped at night by the RAF. Its objective was to capture and hold the Bruneval station, while Flight Sergeant CW Cox, an RAF technician, dismantled the radar set. The technician with his liberated radar parts were to be brought safely to a nearby beach for a dawn evacuation by the Royal Navy.
Although the sea rescue was delayed by a German naval patrol operating nearby, the raid went according to plan and was a complete success, capturing not only the radar equipment but two German radar technicians.
The Bruneval Raid later became The Parachute Regiment’s first Battle Honour. It gave the nation a small but exciting taste of success at a time when the war was going badly. Importantly, it reaffirmed Churchill’s belief in the future of Airborne Forces, while muffling its critics.