6th June 2011 marks the Anniversary of one of the most decisive battles of World War II, When the Normandy Landings took place. Also known as Operation Neptune, they were the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, during World War II. They commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (D-Day), beginning at 6:30 AM British Double Summer Time (GMT+2).
The assault was conducted in two phases: an airborne assault landing of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6:30 AM. There were also decoy operations mounted under the codenames Operation Glimmer and Operation Taxable to distract the German forces from the real landing areas.
The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing on 6 June 1944. 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. The invasion required the transport of soldiers and material from the United Kingdom by troop-laden aircraft and ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-support. The landings took place along a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast which was divided into five sectors, and these were codenamed: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches.
On Sward Beach The 1st Special Service Brigade comprising No. 3, No. 4, No. 6 and No. 45 Commandos landed at Ouistreham. No.4 Commando were augmented by 1 and 8 Troop (both French) of No. 10 (Inter Allied) Commando I Corps, 3rd Infantry Division and the 27th Armoured Brigade from Ouistreham to Lion-sur-Mer and the No. 41 Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) landed on the far West of Sword Beach.
The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade and No.48 Commando all landed On Juno Beach, as did No. 46 Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) in order to scale the cliffs on the left side of the Orne River estuary and destroy a Gun battery. (Battery fire proved negligible so No.46 were kept off-shore as a floating reserve until the following day.
The XXX Corps of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, the 8th Armoured Brigade and the No. 47 Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) all landed on the West flank of Gold beach, together with the 79th Armoured Division, who operated specialist arms to clear the mines which had been distributed around the Anglo-Canadian beaches.
Overall, the 2nd Army contingent consisted of 83,115 troops (61,715 of them British). In addition to the British and Canadian combat units, eight Australian officers were attached to the British forces as observers. The nominally British air and naval support units included a large number of crew from Allied nations, including several RAF squadrons manned almost exclusively by foreign air-crew.
The U.S First Army comprising of V Corps, the 1st Infantry Division, the 29th Infantry Division and the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions landed on Omaha Beach.
The VII Corps, 4th Infantry Division and the 359th RCT of the 90th Infantry Division landed on Utah Beach, Whilst The 101st Airborne Division landed by parachute around Vierville to support the Utah Beach landings.and The 82nd Airborne Division also arrived by parachute around Sainte-Mère-Église, with the task of protecting the right flank. In total the U.S First Army comprised of Approximately 73,000 men.