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~ OPERATIONS NEPTUNE & OVERLORD ~

THE D-DAY LANDINGS

"COMBINED OPERATIONS - A NORMANDY BEACHHEAD"  

Prints of this evocative painting are available in four sizes from £35.00 to £73.00 + P&P. Limited Edition print illustrated above.  Click here for more information.


Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings of June 1944, was the beginning of the end for Hitler and his army in Europe. The German forces were under increasing pressure from all sides and the great effort by Allied forces proved decisive. Many hard battles, now etched in the collective memory of the nation, were fought along the route to the German heartland. This account is about the amphibious phase of the D-Day landings codenamed Operation Neptune when the three services of the Allied nations worked together in the largest Combined Operation in history.
 

Background

Immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour the Allies created the "Combined Chiefs of Staff" (CCS) comprising the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff. Their function was to assist and advise President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill on the direction and conduct of the war. The CCS confirmed a previous policy of "Germany first" and, from March 1942, their planning group began work on an outline plan for a full-scale invasion of Europe. They initially hoped to invade Europe in 1943 but the realities of insufficient materials and manpower, and the demands of other operations agreed upon, delayed this effort until 1944 - this despite persistent agitation from Stalin to open a second front to relieve pressure in the East.

The CCS planning group, taking into account the experience provided by the ill fated Dieppe raid, quickly ruled out a frontal attack on a fortified port and looked for alternative landing sites. The requirements for a suitable landing site were for it;

  •  to be within range of fighter aircraft based in southern England,

  •  to have at least one major port within easy reach,

  •  to have landing beaches suitable for prolonged support operations, with adequate exits and backed by a good road network,

  •  to have beach defences capable of being suppressed by naval bombardment or bombing.

The planners decided the Normandy coast between Caen and Cherbourg met these requirements and they prepared a basic outline paper which was later approved by the CCS British Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan was appointed, in March 1943, as Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC). His assignment was to prepare detailed plans for an invasion of Europe to be conducted the following year. Morgan was an excellent choice. In November 1942 he was a task force commander in the invasion of North Africa and he had just completed the preliminary planning for the invasion of Sicily which was to take place in July 1943.

The ultimate goal was the destruction of German forces and the defeat of Germany. Morgan had to work backwards from that result to determine what manpower and material forces were required to complete the task. There had never been an amphibious invasion of this size and Morgan and his staff had to plan the detail of the operation – a monumental task. The eventual invasion plan was given the codename "Overlord".

The Assault Plan

American General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed to the post of Supreme Commander in December 1943. With his subsequent selection of other senior commanders the original plan underwent some fundamental modifications. The ground commander, during the initial assault phase and subsequent beachhead build up, was British General Bernard Montgomery. Montgomery expanded the proposed invasion frontage from about 25 miles to 50 miles and increased the allocation of initial assault troops from the 3 to 5 divisions. Additionally a further 3 divisions of paratroopers – 2 American airborne divisions and 1 British airborne division – were allocated. Their mission was to seize vital bridges and crossroad strong-points at each end of the invasion area to protect the eastern and western flanks from counterattack during the initial landings.

The assault force was divided into a western task force (American troops), landing on two beaches in the western section of the invasion front, and an eastern task force (British and Canadian troops) allocated to three beach areas in the eastern section. Commando and Ranger forces were also allocated to the initial assault with responsibility to neutralize specific coastal strong-points thought to be too difficult for regular infantry to tackle successfully.

The main D-Day objectives were for each assault force to secure their respective beachheads and to progress inland. By D+1 they were to link up the beachheads into one continuous front. During D+2 to D+9 they were expected to gain enough depth to form a secure staging area for the substantial follow up forces. Once sufficient strength had been built up a breakout towards Paris and the Rhine was planned. The senior commanders knew, that from the outset, a race against the Germans would be in play. The Allies would have to build up their forces, in the beachhead area, faster than the Germans could bring up a strong counter attack force. To impede the movement of German men, supplies and armour, road and rail communications across the north of France were subjected to intensive bombing raids prior to the landings. 

On D-Day itself the conduct of the amphibious landings benefited from the costly lessons from previous raids and landings. Important amongst these were extensive bomber, fighter and naval bombardment support and improved radio communications at all levels. A number of unique solutions to the problems of landing under fire, on heavily defended open beaches, were developed. These were most likely used on the British and Canadian beaches where specialized armoured units led the attack. An eccentric, former Major General Percy Hobart, who had been personally selected by Churchill to modernize Britain’s tank program, developed so called "Funnies." These included the "flail tank" whose rotating drum and chains cleared paths through mine fields and other adaptations designed to clear tank obstacles and pill boxes. 

In the absence of the early capture of a functioning harbour it was essential to provide for the safe landing of thousands of tons of supplies and equipment each day during the period of build up. One planner suggested that the invasion force should "take a harbour over with them." A similar idea had been promulgated by Churchill during WW1. Twenty thousand workers laboured for eight months to construct an ingenious solution to the challenge. The result of their labours became known as "Mulberry Harbours" which were eventually installed at both American and British beaches.

The landings were planned to start at or near dawn. In addition Rommel's extensive beach obstacles further narrowed options to a period of low tide or on a rising tide. It was during these periods that the beach obstacles would be exposed and could be more easily "removed" by assault engineers. There was also a need for sufficient moonlight on the night before the landings to assist the airborne forces in achieving their objectives. These various factors gave the planners the rather limited choice of either June 5th, 6th or 7th as the earliest possible invasion dates. If the notoriously fickle Channel weather proved uncooperative the next window of opportunity would be June 19th.

The German Defences

"It is my unshakeable decision to make this front impregnable against every enemy" - so said Hitler in a speech he delivered in December 1941. He boasted, to the world, that Germany controlled the entire west coast of Europe from the Arctic Ocean to the Bay of Biscay. He ordered the building of some 15,000 strong-points which were to be manned by 300,000 troops. Construction officially started in early 1942. For 2 years a quarter of a million, mainly slave labourers, worked night and day. They used more than a million tons of steel and poured over 20 million cubic yards of concrete. The heaviest concentration of defence works was along the narrowest part of the English Channel between the Netherlands and Le Havre in Normandy.

As it became obvious that the Allies were building up to an invasion, in November 1943 Hitler appointed Field Marshall Rommel initially to the position of Inspector of Coastal Defences and later to the command of Army Group B which occupied the channel coastal defences. He moved to France in December 1943 and immediately started to apply his significant energy and experience to further improving the defences. He planned to create an impassable zone, initially100 meters deep, along the whole channel coast and to eventually extend its depth to a kilometre by the laying of 200 million mines. He dramatically accelerated the rate at which beach obstacles were constructed and, by May 11th, over half a million had been raised along the channel foreshore and on likely glider and parachute landing zones behind the beaches. Additionally some areas immediately behind the beaches were inundated with water to further inhibit any movement off the beaches and to contain the attacker’s beachheads.

As a further preparation for a possible amphibious invasion in the west Hitler issued a decree – Fuhrer Order 51 in November 1943. Rommel was well aware that the Allies supremacy in the air would inhibit daytime movements once battle was joined – he had been subjected to this experience in North Africa. He therefore planned to stop and contain the invaders at the water’s edge. Then he planned to have sufficient Panzer (Armoured) divisions, closely available, to counter attack and overrun the beachheads before they became established. From May onwards the Germans braced themselves for an attack they were sure would come. They were puzzled when the relatively mild weather of May passed with no sign of the enemy and took the opportunity to complete more obstacles on the beaches. Rommel was now confidant that his improved "Atlantic Wall" would hold the enemy on the beaches. He was convinced that the Allies would attack on a high tide – at dawn. These two conditions coincided for a few days around the middle of June.

What Rommel didn't know was that on May 17th General Eisenhower set the invasion date for June 5th. However, in the event, bad weather caused a postponement of 24 hours. This was an unwelcome delay for the combat ready force and even more so for those onboard ships recalled while at sea. However an improvement in the weather saw the departure of the armada of over 5,000 ships. These included many kinds of  landing craft, troop transports, minesweepers, radar & communications vessels (Fighter Direction Tenders), escort and bombardment naval vessels.

D-Day – June 6th 1944

The Airborne Forces

That night over 820 aircraft carrying paratroopers, or towing gliders, left their air bases in southern England and headed for predetermined landing zones in Normandy. They were preceded by over 1,000 bombers to soften up German coastal defences prior to the early morning sea-borne landings. Some bombers also dropped by parachute hundreds of life-size dummies all over Normandy as part of a deception and confusion plan.

Shortly after midnight, the American 101st and 82nd airborne divisions parachuted into their prescribed landing zones at the base of the Cotentin peninsula to the west end of the invasion area. Cloud and flak disrupted the air armada’s formation on the final run-in and scattered the paratroopers. They suffered many casualties by drowning as some were dropped into the deliberately inundated areas. Nevertheless these elite troops secured their main objectives and held on grimly – their link up with the main sea-borne landings was only hours away.

The British 6th airborne division of paratroopers, and a special task force landing in gliders, simultaneously landed in the east side of the invasion area and moved quickly to secure their objectives. The glider task force quickly captured key bridges on the Orne River and Caen Canal. After a fierce fight a substantially under strength paratrooper force subdued the Merville battery which was in position to target the Allied invasion ships soon to appear off the beaches. The vanguard airborne troops landings were considered a heartening success.

The Sea-borne Forces

[Photograph - LCT flotillas in Southampton prior to departure for Normandy.] The 5,000 ships and craft of the invasion fleet arrived off the beaches before dawn. Despite a slight improvement in the weather gusty winds churned up five to six foot waves in the English Channel and most of the 170,000 assault troops suffered from seasickness.

Stan Grayland (photo below right) recalls... for four days our Landing Craft Flack, ( LCF 30), numbered because such small ships were not permitted names, sat tied to a buoy off Whale Island, the Royal Navy Gunnery School at Portsmouth, on the South Coast of England. LCF 30 was sealed, meaning no one could leave the craft, and was readied for what everyone knew was inevitable... the invasion of France, considered to be the beginning of the end of World War 2... D-DAY.

It was Monday June 5th 1944 and our craft, together with some 4000 other forms of shipping with thousands of fully trained men. lifted themselves, took up their stations and, with a last wave to onlookers on the shore, headed slowly out into the English Channel to assemble on the southern side of the Isle of Wight. In the early evening, with high winds and rough seas, the journey to France was about to begin.

Large passenger vessels crammed with troops, minesweepers, escort ships scurrying about, large warships and landing craft took up their p1aces ready to move off, and the men entrusted with the initial assault looked, thought and wondered, where would they be tomorrow. Barrage balloons floated above at the end of steel ropes to deter low flying aircraft from attacking the invasion force. They were blown from side to side in the strong winds and the men watched the choppy seas and knew it would be a very uncomfortable trip ending with disembarkation onto heavily defended enemy held beaches. Sadly the journey for some would end all too soon.

"Action Stations" for the men of LCF.30 required the manning of small Pom-Pom and Oerlikon anti aircraft guns throughout the night, not knowing what the morning would bring. For most of those 18 and 19 year olds, this was to be their first big adventure. Hundreds of planes flew overhead, some to drop bombs on the beach defences, some to slow down the deployment of enemy reinforcements and some troop carrying planes towing gliders packed full with troops with the task of landing silently to capture strategic positions before the main assault force had landed.

At sea the invading armada kept steadily on, no lights were visible. "Maintain your station" was the order, a very difficult thing to achieve with flat bottomed craft with no hull. Collisions at sea at this crucial time would be disastrous and could not be allowed to happen. During the night, the coast of France came into view. As far as the eye could see along the 80 kilometre of landing beaches, they were lit by fires caused by bombing and shelling. At this early stage there was no indication that the enemy knew we were coming.

Sometime around 6.30am, and still some 8 kilometres from the beach, the ships carrying the assault troops hove too, the assault landing craft, LCAs. were lowered, mostly with men already in their allotted places, and then when all were in place. escorts like LCF30, turned to the beach and the dangerous journey began.....

Two things remain vividly in my memory. The first were the Rocket ships that went in with us. They carried 1020 5 inch rockets and on each firing of say 30 rockets, at least 1 would misfire and after wobbling its way out of the launcher would land amongst the assault craft. My guess is there were more casualties on landing craft at sea caused by them than any enemy fire from the beach. And my second memory is of the sky being full of planes in the early evening, Stirling bombers towing gliders - the planes dropping supplies and the gliders landing men some 1 or 2 miles inland. Then when darkness came we took station in TROUT LINE where we were able to watch the tracer bullets being exchanged between sides.

German coastal batteries started firing on the fleet at 5.30 a.m. and the Allied naval bombardment countered at 6 a.m. The battleships and cruisers were about 6 miles off the beaches and the destroyers held off at about 4 miles. As the orange flames from their gun muzzles lit up the dawn the thunderous noise of their bombardment rolled up and down the coast. The bombardment detonated some large minefields and knocked out a few defensive positions but the clouds of smoke and sand soon made the shore almost invisible. Many German strong points escaped serious damage.

The western task force of American troops started their run in to the two invasion beaches designated Utah and Omaha. The U.S. 4th division was scheduled to land on the westernmost beach (Utah) at the foot of the Cotentin peninsula. When about 300 yards off the beach they fired smoke signals in the air and the bombardment lifted to defences further inland. At 6.31 a.m. the first amphibious soldiers to land in France on D-Day walked off their landing craft into waist deep water and waded 100 yards to dry land. There was surprisingly little response from the German defenders. Many Germans had been killed, and their guns destroyed, by the preliminary bombardment. The survivors were too dazed and numbed to provide an effective response. The beach area was cleared inside 3 hours and some 23,000 men and 28 tanks landed. Casualties were less than 200.

On the next beach to the east (Omaha) it was an entirely different matter. The U.S. 1st division ran into heavy artillery and machine gun fire as soon as the landing craft ramps were lowered. A lateral current along the shore had badly scattered the men and their units and in the confusion the exceptionally strong German fire took a large toll of the initial assault units. Many wounded men were drowned in the rising tide and the initial assault stalled at the waterline.

To compound the problems on Omaha, only around 58 of the 112 planned tank support managed to reach the beach. A number of the Sherman DD (swimming) tanks were released too far out and floundered in the heavy seas. This left the troops with only their personal weapons to oppose the many beach strong-points firing at them. Destroyers from the bombarding fleet raced in as close to the beach as they dared and provided some covering fire. The issue was in doubt for the first 3 hours and only through improvisation and courageous personal leadership were the troops at last able to get off the beach and onto the heights beyond. Nevertheless, by nightfall, some 34,000 men were ashore at a cost of 2,000 casualties. At this point the beachhead was only 2 miles deep.

Two US Ranger battalions scaled the 100-foot high cliffs at Point du Hoc, three miles west of Omaha Beach, to silence the six 155mm German howitzers said to be in that battery. The guns had previously been moved one mile inland and, by nightfall, the Rangers had suffered 60% casualties in overpowering the defending German troops and beating off counterattacks. Despite these losses they later found the guns and put them out of action.

The 3 beaches to the east of the invasion area, codenamed respectively Gold, Juno and Sword, were the responsibility of the Eastern task force – the British Second Army. Because of the later tide, and the fact they planned to land on a rising tide, their landings didn’t start until almost 7.30 a.m. On Gold beach, nearest to Omaha, the 50th Division and the 8th Armoured Brigade were scheduled to land with the tanks in the vanguard. Some initial assault units were pinned down by accurate German fire but others overran the defenders within half an hour. Subsequent waves gradually flanked the defenders and pushed inland. By nightfall they had advanced about 2.5 miles inland on a front of 3 miles. However they failed to link up with the American Omaha beachhead there being a gap of seven miles between them

The Canadian 3rd Division landed on Juno beach and met stiff initial resistance. Due to choppy seas they were ½ an hour behind schedule. This left little time for the assault engineers to clear beach obstacles before the incoming tide covered them. The mined obstacles and German shells knocked out some 90 of the 306 landing craft but the Canadians attacked furiously and refused to be stopped. Parts of the assault group confronted strong defensive positions which delayed them until the afternoon. Other parts quickly overcame less vigorous German resistance and moved rapidly inland. By the end of the day they had almost reached their final D-Day objectives and were astride the vital Caen/Bayeux highway. They manage to link up with British troops from Gold beach and by the end of the day, their beachhead was 12 miles wide and 6 miles deep. But they were still 3 miles short of linking up with the British forces on their left – the Sword force.

Bill Newell a young Canadian Commando recalls;

 It was an event beyond imagination. The magnitude of activity was such that one could not take it all in, but yet could easily understand its purpose. The difficulty was in comprehending that I was part of it all.

After a year of extremely arduous navy commando training in the hills of Scotland, our small Canadian unit was expected to be conditioned and ready for most circumstances anticipated in such an operation. In relieving a British commando unit, we were not the first to hit the beach, but that did not dissipate the feeling of apprehension, nor did it affect the sense of confidence earned by our training.

There were ships of all types and sizes, from battleships with 15 inch guns firing inland over the beach, destroyers and minesweepers sweeping in closer, smaller supply trawlers, and many different landing craft going in full and coming out empty. There were heavy-duty tugs manoeuvring huge sections of floating steel docks into position, as well as damaged and crippled ships into line to form a sunken breakwater, to reduce the wave action on the beach.

Wreckage of landing craft and armoured vehicles were impediments to be avoided until conditions permitted their salvage. The water was cluttered with the debris of combat from enemy bombing, strafing and shelling. Precision night shelling of Juno by a 200mm railway gun at Le Havre continued for some time.

LST’s (Landing Ship Tank) beached, unloaded in a hurry, and withdrew with the tides, if they hadn’t been hit with shell-fire or bombs. If they had to wait for the next tide, they were loaded with casualties on stretchers, including those of the enemy. The safest time for this was in the dark of night with no lights, but the risk of accidents with so much activity in the darkness was high. I spent much of my time guiding in tank and assault landing craft, unloading Sherman and Churchill tanks, retrieving bodies floating in on high tides, and generally doing what had to be done to help keep the operation moving.  

Mobile casualty stations were quickly improvised, along with emergency airfields, which soon became assembly lines, with DC3 and C147 aircraft landing, being loaded with twelve occupied stretchers, and taking off for England. Having the opportunity to see the entire operation of the five invasion beaches from my stretcher in one of these evacuation aircraft was not of my choosing, but the sight was truly breath taking.

On approaching the airfield in the Midlands of England, one could see hundreds of ambulances with red crosses on their roofs on the roads leading to the airfield. On being offloaded, each casualty was examined as to the need for emergency surgery, nationality and hospital assignment. A large hanger, with its floor literally covered with stretchers was being used for washing and feeding the patients by young nursing aids.

The next morning I awoke in a large ward at #11 Cdn. Military Hosp., and spent the next few days focusing on an unspeakable element of the true cost of this war. This was only one of several wards of this size, and medical teams were constantly working during the days and nights. The sounds in the ward were pathetic, with many of patients still in shock. The two patients in the beds next to mine were also eighteen, with one having his leg off above the knee, and the other with both hands missing.

After being transferred to a convalescent hospital for a few days, I was posted back to my operational base on the Isle of Wight, and from there to Portsmouth and back across the channel on an MTB to Normandy. During the two days it took me to find my unit, I operated tanks for an armoured unit behind Gold Beach. Things were now much less hectic in the beach areas, and it was time for further changes. Sixty years is a long time, but still not long enough to diminish my memories of the greatest invasion in history.

The British 3rd Division on Sword beach also met intense opposition. They were behind schedule due to offshore reefs and tricky tidal currents. This gave the German defenders valuable time to recover from the earlier bombardment. Although the British broke through the crust of defenders in an hour the resultant congestion on the beaches behind them caused further delay. By early afternoon they had managed to expand their beachhead and link up with the 6th Airborne Division holding their left flank. In late afternoon they repulsed the only serious German counterattack against the beachheads destroying 76 out of a total 145 tanks from the 21st Panzer Division. However, they were stopped short of their vital D-Day objective of taking the port city of Caen.

By the end of the day, the Allied commanders were satisfied that "Overlord" was a success. While their beachheads were still not continuous, or as deep as planned, they had successfully broken through the coastal crust of German resistance. They had anticipated at least 10,000 dead but only about 2,500 men had lost their lives. Total casualties, including wounded, missing and prisoners were about 12,000 – 6,500 American; 3,500 British; and 1,000 Canadian.

Omaha Beach - Supplying the Troops

Considering that the invasion of Normandy involved the greatest amphibious invasion force in history it's not surprising that most accounts of D-Day itself are about Naval Ships and the ubiquitous landing craft. US Army Lt. Carroll Turner was with the Third Platoon, Company A, 348 Engineers and his perspective on the invading force was seaward from Omaha Beach. His job was to offload supplies from Landing Craft Tank (LCTs), across the sand and into dump trucks for distribution to the troops.

In November of 1943 his Company moved to Swansea, England. He had many happy memories and friendships including one of  a British family who happened to know the special significance of Thanksgiving to a soldier from the United States. He was invited to dinner in the course of which he produced some corn kernels his mother had sent from home. Despite severe shortages, frying fat was found and heated up and the kernels thrown in. The family were amazed when popcorn filled the pan as if from nowhere... something they'd never seen before. [Photo; Lt C Turner].

In the spring of 1944 the Company moved from Swansea to the New Forest on the south coast of England. The trees provided cover from the unwelcome attentions of enemy aircraft but it was very damp and cold! Out of 201 troops and 7 Officers only 32 reported for duty one day, the remainder being confined to barracks with colds and pneumonia.

By the end of May Lt Turner's Company were informed of their role in the forthcoming invasion although not the timing or location. Their job was to receive supplies from landing craft and to transport them across the beach to trucks. The impression was given that German resistance would be softened up by bombing and shelling and that it would be an easy walk ashore.

The men were issued with special invasion currency for France and Belgium before they went ashore. They boarded LSTs, which were "loaded to the gunnels" with trucks and heavy equipment. The LSTs were capable of 10 mph but with 'Rhino Ferries' in tow this was reduced to 3 mph. The Rhino Ferries were constructed of  4' x 4' x 6' welded steel plates with a diesel engine to the rear. Each had an operator and carried around 28 vehicles.

In the early morning of June 6th the Battleship USS Texas fired her 14-inch guns towards the German positions. The knowledge that each shell cost $10,000, a huge sum of money in 1944, brought home to Lt Turner the great significance of the events that were about to unfold and of which he was a part.

As dawn broke the troops descended rope ladders down the side of their LSTs into LCVPs (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) which would take them on to the beaches. The rough sea and swell made the transfer difficult with their 40 lb packs on their backs. Lt Turner's platoon was to land at Omaha Easy Red beach. The LCVPs and DUKWS (an amphibian vehicle) patrolled up and down the landing area but could not find a suitable place to land. The water was full of bodies and debris and, despite early reassurance to the contrary, enemy machine gun fire was heavy. Before the beach was declared available for off loading, dead bodies were removed up the hill to where the cemetery is now located. 620 bodies were moved that day which had a profound and lasting effect on the men concerned.

The Infantry and Troops landed on D-Day + 1. In one area they opened the door of a bunker to reveal the frightened faces of men and boys. They were from Eastern Europe and Russia, conscripted into the German Army. They had no desire to fight. They just wanted to be taken prisoner to get a meal and a place to sleep. They had little allegiance to the German Army.

With 2 bulldozers and 2 cranes in place and dump trucks ready to receive supplies the platoon was soon set up and ready for action. LSTs unloaded supplies into cargo nets which were picked up by the cranes and lifted into dump trucks. Early loads included barbed wire, TNT and mines. That night German 88 mm shells landed close by but failed to hit their target. Another early load comprised 4 tons of beef which warranted an extra guard on duty. [Photo; Omaha Beach in June 1944].

Since Lt. Turner was a Junior Officer, he was on night duty from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Difficult though it was he tried to get some sleep during the day.

The work of unloading about 650 to 800 tons of materials for each of the 6 Battalions was hard; the idea was to keep the cranes and dump trucks going 24/7. Between June 7th and August 31st they unloaded over 300 LSTs, some LCTs and ‘dumb barges". In mid June the weather turned stormy and for several days no LSTs could cross the Channel. The supply chain was severely disrupted and by the time the storm broke ammunition and food was in short supply.

The objective was to unload, and where appropriate load, the landing craft on the same tide but this was not always possible causing some vessels to be beached high and dry until the next tide. Usually 3 to 6 LSTs would be unloaded at a time.

Several weeks after D-Day the Army men had gathered enough dunnage (rough lumber used to stabilize shipments) to build a Mess Hall. The Troops appreciated eating at a table instead of individual K-Rations. Lt. Turner had also acquired enough wood from containers to allow carpenters to build an 'office' with space for his paperwork and a couple of beds. Some of his troops used stone walls, which in France mark field boundaries, as the sides of makeshift shelters simply by throwing a tarpaulin over them. The area at the base of the walls provided enough space and cover for them to rest and sleep regardless of the weather.

Over the succeeding weeks and months the beach was well established and supplies flowed more smoothly through them and the Mulberry Harbours. As the Allies advanced useable harbours were also becoming available so the job of Lt Turner and his men on the beaches was largely done. He and his Platoon were then assigned to march toward Germany... but that's another story well outside the remit of this website

[The account was received from Judy, widow of  Bill Spencer of LST 325 Blue Crew. Lt. Turner passed away on July 26, 2007. Bill Spencer and Carroll Turner may still be swapping stories on the deck of an LST up above].

Memorials & Plaques

Subject - Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. Location - in the New Forest close by the town of Southsea. Other Info - the site was occupied prior to the D-Day landings.

Subject - Naval Commandos. COMBINED OPERATIONS. British and allied naval commando units sailed from the Hamble River on the night of 5th June 1944 for the D-Day landings on the Normandy Beaches.  Location -  Memorial to the D-Day Landings, Warsash Pier, Warsash, Hampshire Other Info. - This memorial was unveiled by Countess Mountbatten 5th June 1984 during  the 40th Anniversary Commemoration.

Subject - the 'Bold' Memorial to the Canadians who landed on Juno beach on D-Day. Location - the town square of  Courseulles-sur-Mer, Normandy, France. Other Info - this Sherman tank of the 1st Hussars nicknamed 'Bold' sunk on D-Day and was pulled from the water in 1971 (with the assistance of 4 Service Bt). It was restored and over the years bronze plaques have been added commemorating the Canadian units, regiments and corps which took part in the landing

 

Further Reading

There are over 200 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page which can be purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE) whose search banner checks the shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. Type in or copy and paste the title of your choice or use the 'keyword' box for book suggestions. There's no obligation to buy, no registration and no passwords. Click 'Books' for more information.

For an insight into the meticulous approach to the training of staff officers in matters relating to WW2 Combined Operations please visit the website of the Combined Arms Research Library (Digital Library) [Slow Link]. The courses were held at the Combined Training Centre Largs on the west coast of Scotland from July 1943 to March 1944. A total of 1158 officers completed the intensive course including 153 from the Royal Navy and Marines, 379 from the British Army, 122 from the Canadian Army, 351 from the RAF and 153 Allied. We're grateful to Martin Briscoe of Fort William, Scotland for drawing our attention to this invaluable source of information.

Website pages on this site. Visit Landing Craft for a nautical view of the landings from the personal reminiscences of those manning the craft. Also Coastal Command for an account of their anti-submarine patrols on D-Day.

Pegasus Bridge Museum website

http://www.strijdbewijs.nl/normandie1/home.htm A Dutch website with English version.

For information on general or tailored guided visits to the Normandy beaches and their hinterland by an experienced guide and artist please click here.

" D-Day Commando" From Normandy to the river Maas by Ken Ford. It also describes the part of 48 RMC in the liberation of Walcheren. Published in the UK in 2003 by Sutton P.Ltd ISBN 0-7509-3023-3.

Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II by Stephen E. Ambrose - 1994. ISBN  0-671-67334-3

Six Armies in Normandy by John Keegan. 1982. ISBN 0 7126 5579 4.

The Second Front - World War II by Douglas Botting and the Editors of World Time Books. 1978. ISBN 0 8094 2498 3.

Short Sea Long War by John des S Winser. Published by World Ship Society, Gravesend, Kent. ISBN 0 9056 1786 ? - the story of 119 Cross Channel ships commandeered by the R.N. to fly the White Ensign.

Le Jour J au Commando N° 4 by René Goujon (French Kieffer Commando), published by Editions Nel 1, rue Palatine, 75006 Paris tel 00 33 1 43 54 77 42. Enquiries in English to the author's daughter at goujon.barbara@wanadoo.fr

Correspondence

SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL 6th AIRBORNE VETERANS

06-06-06

Dear Sirs and Families,

Our family, the BROOKE Family, wish to extend our sincere gratitude and remembrance for those of you , your friends and to the extended families for your magnificent and brave actions of 62 years ago today, June 6th 1944, which cleared the way for the end of Nazi tyranny in Europe and the world.

Both my father and his twin brother were serving with the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm on the the English Coast on June 5th and 6th 1944 awaiting transfer to Canada for flight training to become pilots. My father, John Brooke, (FX605708) died in January 21st 2004 at the age of 77.5 years, of melanoma. He was enlisted at the age of 16 in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. Although by May 1945 his training ended as the war was coming to a close he never saw active service. During our visit to Normandy, a trip he wanted to do for nearly 25 years, he expressed to me his life long sincere respect and thanks to all those of his age who did see active service at the age of 17. I know that he felt some guilt as his training to become a pilot was all that possibly stood between him and the active duty. To this end he actively remembered and honoured you his peers and their families for their great commitment to world future. Before his health deteriorated in 2003 I was able to take him with my mother to Pegasus Bridge on the summer of 2003. Upon visiting Pegasus Bridge and the 6th Airborne Museum he noted to me his strong admiration for the skills of Glider Pilots of the 6th Airborne. He had started glider flying in the ATC in 1941 in Birmingham area. His emotions, along with ours were very touched.... it is a very moving place... as it should be!

Additionally, it was with great pride that I was able to take my children to Pegasus Bridge to let them experience the importance of the events of this day. They remember and are respectful.

To you all on this most important day. Thanks and we remember.

Kind Regards

Richard S. Brooke, N.A., P.Eng., Mannerheimintie, Helsinki, Finland.

Acknowledgments

Thanks are due to George H Pitt, Alberta, Canada for the main Operation Overlord article and to Bill Newall & Stan Grayland for additional information.

News & Information

Please 'like' the Combined Operations Command memorial  Facebook page in appreciation of our WW2 veterans. See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major events are featured on their anniversary dates. 

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook. This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

Legion d’Honneur Applications. In conjunction with events to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy landings, the Government of France has advised the Ministry of Defence that it wishes to award the Legion d’Honneur to all surviving veterans; not only of the landings, but also the wider Battle for Normandy; the Invasion of Provence (Operation Dragoon); the Liberation of Paris and the Liberation of France.

Any veterans, not only troops that landed, but also Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel who operated in support of the landings may apply. Click here for application form and further information from the MOD.

 

Find Books of Interest.  Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

 

Newsletter. The latest occasional newsletter can now be read here.

Free WW1 Teaching Resource. Newspaper cuttings in the form of a 13 page booklet (26 sides) with published accounts of aspects of the war during 1914 to 1919. Available to schools, universities, libraries and accredited education establishments.  Pdf version or
www.historic-newspapers.co.uk/ for printed version.

Follow in the footsteps of the Commandos. Exclusive guided tour of the places in Tunisia with advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Steve Hamilton of Western Desert Battlefield Tours.

 

 

Thames River Cruiser FARMAR. Do you know what this craft did in WW2? If so you may have information to help a restoration project. More information on our Notice Board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gazelle Helicopter Squadron Display Team. The Gazelle Squadron is a unique team of ex-British Military Gazelle helicopters in their original military colours and with their original military registrations. The core team includes four Gazelles, one from each service; The Royal Navy, The Royal Marines, The Army Air Corps and The Royal Air Force. A fifth Gazelle in Royal Marines colours will provide intimate support for the team. Their crest includes the Combined Operations badge. The last, and possibly, only time the badge was seen on an aircraft was in the early mid 40s. A photo of the Hurricane concerned is included in the 516 Squadron webpage.
 

 

 

Legasee Film Archive. As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee is looking for veterans from any conflict who would like to have their stories filmed for posterity. Films are now available on line.

New to Combined Ops? Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

 

 

Remember a Veteran. Add names to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages and read the Combined Operations prayer.

 

 

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