Pvte John Steele of F Company 505th PIR 82nd Airborne Division jumped into Normandy on the night of 5th-6th June 1944. Poor weather conditions led to a scattered drop and 36 men of Steele’s company came down into the Church square of St Mere Eglise where they were captured or killed. Some buildings in the village were on fire and the fires illuminated the night sky, making easy targets of the descending paratroopers. Steele’s parachute caught on the Church Tower where he hung for two hours feigning death. He was eventually taken prisoner for a further two hours before he escaped and rejoined his unit. Steele was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his exploits in Normandy. His experience was famously recreated by the actor Red Buttons in the film ‘The Longest Day’.

 

D Day St Mere Eglise Private John Steele

An effigy of John Steele still hangs from the Church Tower in St Mere Eglise, as a commemoration of the paratroopers who landed there in the early hours of D Day.

D Day Paratroopers F Company 505th PIR 82nd Airborne Division St Mere Eglise Normandy

The quieter side at the rear of the Church at St mere Eglise. It was on this side that John Steele was hung up. The effigy is placed on the other more open side as it is more visible to passers-by and tourists.

John Steele returns to St Mere Eglise in 1964. He died in 1969 at the age of 57years

John Steele returns to St Mere Eglise in 1964. He died in 1969 at the age of 57years

D Day Paratroopers F Company 505th PIR 82nd Airborne Division St Mere Eglise Church and Square Normandy

The Church and square of St Mere Eglise where John Steele and his fellow paratroopers of F Company 505th PIR 82nd Airborne Division landed. 12 were killed.

D Day Paratroopers F Company 505th PIR 82nd Airborne Division St Mere Eglise cafe courtyard Normandy

The courtyard of a modern day cafe which is opposite the church of St Mere Eglise. Another paratrooper, Clifford Maughan, landed in this garden.