SAS paratrooper who spent six weeks evading capture after being dropped behind enemy lines.
Norman Poole, who has died aged 95, was parachuted behind enemy lines in the early hours of D-Day and was one of the first of the Allied invasion force to land on French soil.
Shortly after four o’clock on the morning of June 6 1944, Poole, together with Lieutenant Frederick Fowles and four troopers, all members of 1st SAS Regiment, landed by parachute near Le Mesnil Vigot, south of the Cherbourg Peninsula. The object of their mission, part of Operation Titanic, was to draw off enemy forces which would otherwise engage the American 82nd Airborne Division, which was being dropped further north. The operation included dropping 200 dummy parachutists containing rifle fire simulators and explosive charges.
In addition to his heavy equipment, Poole was carrying a pigeon and its container. He was bundled upside down into the opening in the aircraft but his head hit the far side which knocked him out and he landed in a meadow to find that he had become separated from his comrades.
His group was reunited close to the village of Remilly-Sur-Lozon but when a German parachute regiment moved into the village, they were in hourly danger of being captured and a local Resistance leader was executed for helping them. Poole’s party had been assured that within about nine days they would be overrun by American troops.
After three weeks on the run, however, sabotaging enemy signal and electrical installations, a German company moved into the area with orders to round them up. They were hiding in marshes and woods when they were joined by some wounded American paratroopers.
When Poole learned that two American escaped PoWs were in hiding, unable to walk because of their wounds and short of food, he crossed five miles of country, dodging the German patrols and brought them back. In an attempt to link up with the advancing Allied forces, they remained concealed by day and moved at night. In No-Man’s Land, they came under fire from “Moaning Minnies,” enemy rocket launchers, and when they sought safety by moving close to the German HQs they were at risk from constant Allied shelling.
Their efforts to elude their pursuers were further hampered by having to carry a wounded man and, as the net began to close, their contacts in the French resistance could only bring small amounts of food.
On July 17th the party worked its way north and would have gained the American lines had the Germans not overrun them in a sudden counter attack. They were found in a ditch by an enemy patrol who threw grenades at them, wounding every member of the party except Poole and one other.
After driving off the patrol, Poole helped to carry his wounded 200 yards across No Man’s Land to a house which provided some shelter. He had to make several journeys across open ground swept with fire before preparing makeshift defences and then go out again to fetch water for the injured.
The house was finally surrounded and attacked by a German platoon and Poole and his comrades were taken prisoner. They were interrogated and threatened with torture and execution but Poole was a fluent German speaker and succeeded in convincing his captors that they were not members of the special forces.
While being taken to a German PoW camp, the train was attacked by Typhoons. Poole had moved a few moments earlier. Everyone in the compartment that he had just left was killed.
The citation for the award to Poole of an MC paid tribute to his courage and leadership in operating behind enemy lines for six weeks and, despite overwhelming odds, coming so close to bringing his party back to the Allied lines.
Norman Harry Poole was born in Winchester on April 9 1920 and was educated at Peter Symonds College. He was commissioned into the Hampshire Regiment in 1940 and, after instructing at the Parachute Regiment Battle School, he transferred to 1st SAS Regiment in 1943.
After he had spent 10 months at Oflag 79, Braunschweig, Germany, the camp was liberated by the Americans. In the latter part of 1945, he was posted to MI9 and served in Athens with the Allied Screening Commission. He was demobilised the following year and worked for the National Provincial Bank in Winchester, later becoming National Westminster Bank’s premises manager for the South West of England and South Wales.
He retired in 1970 and settled in Portishead, Somerset, where he raised funds for charities and enjoyed a game of bowls.
Norman Poole married, in 1951, Elisabeth Barnes. She predeceased him, as did their elder daughter. Their younger daughter survives him.
Norman Poole, born April 9 1920 , died June 26 2015