Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1944, Private Emile Servais Corteil and his Para Dog Glen the Alsatian, A Company, 9th (Essex) Parachute Regiment, were killed as they took part in the D-Day landings in Normandy.
Glen had been trained to jump ahead of Private Corteil, he wore a special harness with small parachute and a red light attached, and after landing he had to lie on his parachute and wait for his handler - Private Corteil being the only person from whom he would take orders. His job then was to stand stock still to warn of anyone approaching or being nearby.
One of the 9th Battalion’s objectives was to take the German battery at Merville-Franceville, the site of guns to be used against the allied troops on the landing beaches. Strong winds, poor visibility due to the design of the aircraft, and deliberate flooding by the Germans of the area, were to prove catastrophic. The 9th Battalion suffered the loss of 192 men, most of them drowning in the flood waters; many others came down far from the landing site, which left approximately 150 to storm the battery before the landings began.
Private Corteil and Glen landed a few miles from the target area, along with Brigadier James Hill of 3rd Parachute Brigade, and over three dozen of his men. The Brigadier marched them towards the target area, but on the way they were hit by an R.A.F. aerial bombardment intended for the Germans waiting for the beach landings. All but the Brigadier and a couple of his men were killed, including Glen and Private Corteil; the Brigadier and the survivors pushed on to their destination.
Glen and Private Corteil were found several days later by a search party of 9th Battalion survivors with their chaplain. Lying together in a bomb crater, Private Corteil was still holding Glen’s leash. Those who knew them spoke of the strong trust and affection between them, and of their inseparable bond. Glen and Private Corteil are buried together in the Ranville War Cemetery in Normandy. On their headstone are the words, “Had you known our boy you would have loved him too, “Glen” his paratroop dog was killed with him”.
Emile, from Watford, was 19 years old.