Military artist, David A Thorp,
generously donated his
painting "Combined Operations - a Normandy Beachhead" to the
Combined Operations Memorial Fund in 2012. Prints taken from it, as described
below, are still available in aid of the new Memorial
Maintenance and Development Fund, since the original
Memorial Fund reached its target of £21,128 in February 2017. The long term future of the painting
itself is undecided but, hopefully, it will go on public display,
if a suitable venue can be found.
Skip to an
explanation of the scene described in the
painting at the
bottom of this page.
[Photo; Limited Edition Print. Click to enlarge.]
73, three quarter size, full colour, numbered and signed limited
edition prints were produced, one for each year between the formation
of Combined Operations in June 1940 and the dedication of the memorial
in the summer of 2013. In accordance with the rules of the Fine Arts
Society, no further prints of this size will ever be produced. Full
size, half size and quarter size prints, by area, are also available
between £60 and £110 including UK postage. Contact us for details.
We're very happy to post prints to destinations outside the UK
but, in all cases, please check availability before ordering (e-mail). For overseas
orders, we'll confirm postage before you
To pay by credit card, debit card or
Account, please click on the button opposite and
follow the instructions. You don't need a Paypal account to use this method
To pay by personal cheque, bank cheque or postal order,
please make your cheque or postal order payable to the Combined
Operations Memorial Fund, add your address to the reverse and
send to Geoff Slee, COMF (Prints), 35 Auchingane, Edinburgh, EH10 7HU, UK.
Purchases from overseas (non-UK) using this method of payment are welcome in
British pounds. Please contact your local bank or postal services for
[Photo; Veteran Harry Ashurst with his Limited Edition print. He
was witness to two of the Landing Craft depicted, both lying disabled on
Whatever method you choose, you
will receive your print in a postal tube together with a receipt and, in the
case of limited edition prints, a certificate of authenticity. For accounting and security reasons,
please don't send cash.
for supporting the Combined Operations Memorial Fund.
The scene is set on the eastern
flank of Sword beach early on D-Day morning between Riva Bella (Ouistreham) and
Lion sur Mer. It does not portray a single event but all the actions described,
did take place in the area, over the space of a few hours. With the
skill of the artist, they are drawn together in a seamless montage.
It is impossible, in a single painting, to show the vast extent of
Operation Neptune, the amphibious part of Operation Overlord, since the 5
landing beaches stretched for around 50 miles (80k) to the west of Lion sur Mer.
While British and Canadian forces attacked Gold, Juno and Sword beaches,
American forces faced major challenges of their own on Omaha and Utah, the
former because of the strength of German defences and cliffs at either end of
the landing area and the latter because of the terrain inland of the beaches, that
favoured the defenders. The landscape was a maze of narrow lanes bordered by
thick hedgerows and embankments. Although the painting, of necessity,
concentrates on a small area of one beach, the painting honours the memory of all
land, sea and air forces from the UK, USA, Canada and all who served the Allied
cause on that historical day.
Six days after
the events described in the painting, Churchill and his military
advisers visited Sword, Juno and Gold. On returning to Downing Street,
Churchill sent a signal to Mountbatten, by then in Burma. Churchill
heartily acknowledged the vital role Mountbatten and Combined
Operations had played in the operation and warmly expressed the
"Today we visited the British and American Armies on the soil
of France. We sailed through vast fleets of ships with landing-craft of many
types pouring more men, vehicles and stores ashore. We saw clearly the manoeuvre
in progress of rapid development. We have shared our secrets in common and
helped each other all we could. We wish to tell you at this moment in your
arduous campaign that we realise how much of this remarkable technique and
therefore the success of the venture has its origin in developments effected by
you and your staff of Combined Operations."
The painting measures 750 mm by 550 mm.
It depicts a landing on the eastern
flank of Sword beach between 7.30 am and
8.30 am (5.30 am to 6.30 am local time), an hour or so after the first assault
troops ducked and dived, as they fought their
way up the Normandy beaches on D-Day morning.
The German defences are still holding out. The beach and
its approaches are extremely hazardous, as the lines of machine gun bullets
striking the water, the huge explosion farther out to sea, the stretcher bearers
going about their life-saving work and the blood stained water lapping the shore,
all testify. It was no place to tarry, unless your name was Bill Millin, who,
against HQ orders, piped Lord Lovat and his No 4 Commandos off their landing
craft and then proceeded to march up and down the beach to the tune of "The Road
to the Isles." The Germans could easily have shot Millin dead but they had no
wish to kill someone, who had clearly lost his mind!
There were five landing beaches, Sword being the most easterly,
with Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah stretching out to the west for a distance of
around 50 miles (80k). On D-Day alone, around 6000 vessels crossed the Channel
and around 150,000 men, with their supplies and equipment, were transported to
Normandy. Around 800 RAF and USAF bombers dropped their payloads on selected
targets inland of the beach areas and 24,000 paratroops were dropped behind
enemy lines. All the while, Allied fighters patrolled the skies in support of
the invading force.
Whether or not you wish to purchase a
print, the best way to understand the action is to visit our
interactive copy of the
print with its 28 points of interest linked to explanatory notes.
Because of the interactive nature of this page, it is best viewed on a
PC or laptop.
In October 2011, like many hundreds before him,
military artist, David Thorp
e-mailed the Combined Ops website for information and this ordinary event turned
out to have extraordinary consequences. E-mails were exchanged and somehow a
routine transaction for a simple, small sketch of troops landing on a
beach, metamorphosed into a 750mm by 550mm full colour painting gifted to the
memorial fund! It rapidly acquired a life of its own and, with the assistance of
Tony Chapman, erstwhile archivist and historian for the LST and Landing Craft
Association, the painting took shape over the following five months.
From the outset, the educational value of the painting was
paramount. Combined amphibious operations are complex in nature and difficult to
understand, but this well presented painting provides an easy to follow visual
explanation with supplementary notes, particularly for the benefit of
younger generations. Sadly, it cannot include all the actions that occurred earlier, later or in other places. Most notable amongst these were the
glider pilots and their assault troops and parachutists who landed behind enemy
lines hours before the main landings.
David Thorp devoted countless hours to this
project. His meticulous approach to detail, guided by the expertise
and knowledge of Tony Chapman, archivist and historian of the LST and
Landing Craft Association. The Memorial Fund has greatly benefitted
from the generosity in time and expertise of these gentlemen.
Background to the website and memorial project and a
look to the future; plus other small print stuff and website accounts etc.
here for information.
a personal tribute to veterans who served in, or alongside, the Combined
Operations Command in WW2 by adding their details and optional photo to
our Roll of
They Also Served pages on this website.
Read the Combined Operations prayer.
our Facebook page about
the Combined Operations Command in appreciation of our WW2 veterans.You are welcome to add information, photos
and comment or reply to messages posted by others.
and Places to Visit
Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined
Operations or war related event by adding it to our webpage free of
Visit our webpage for information on events and places to visit. If you
know of an event or place of interest, that is not listed, please let us
know. To notify an event or
place of interest,
To visit the webpage
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).
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.