D Day 75 Years
On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France. Codenamed Operation 'Overlord', the Allied landings on the Normandy beaches marked the start of a long and costly campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation. Early on 6 June, Allied airborne forces parachuted into drop zones across northern France. Ground troops then landed across five assault beaches - Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold along the coast and could begin their advance into France.
The invasion was conducted in two main phases - an airborne assault and amphibious landings. Shortly after midnight on 6 June, over 18,000 Allied paratroopers were dropped into the invasion area to provide tactical support for infantry divisions on the beaches. Allied air forces flew over 14,000 planes in support of the landings and, having secured air supremacy prior to the invasion, many of these flights were unchallenged by the Luftwaffe.
Nearly 7,000 naval vessels, including battleships, destroyers, minesweepers, escorts and assault craft took part in Operation 'Neptune', the naval component of 'Overlord'. Naval forces were responsible for escorting and landing over 132,000 ground troops on the beaches. They also carried out bombardments on German coastal defences before and during the landings and provided artillery support for the invading troops.
'Overlord' did not bring an end to the war in Europe, but it did begin the process through which victory was eventually achieved.
The memory lives on! 6th June 2019 marks the start of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy and with it, a momentous occasion to celebrate peace, liberty and reconciliation.
My Father on D Day (by Mr Marsh, Senior Technician, Kendrick School)
My father, Bernard Marsh, joined the RAF soon after his 18th birthday in November 1941. By June 1944, he was a trained medic serving with 50 Mobile Field Hospital, RAF.
D-Day was planned to be on 5th June, so sometime late on the 4th his sub unit, an Advanced Surgical Unit embarked onto Landing Ship, Tank (LST) no. 180 to sail across the English Channel. Because of the poor weather, the convoy returned to the Solent, waited until the next day and sailed back over the Channel again.
His unit, along with an RAF Rescue and Salvage unit, was tasked with setting up an Emergency Landing Strip in Normandy so that and badly damaged aeroplanes could land, their crews could be rescued and given medical care and any salvageable parts removed from the aeroplane. The two units combined was just 13 men (6 from each unit along with a Liaison Officer)
They were due to land on Juno Beach in the 2nd wave of landings, reaching the shore at about mid-day. So, while the LST was some way off shore, all the men and vehicles were transferred on to a Rhino raft (a powered pontoon) to take them to the beach.
On reaching the beach, they found that it was still full of men from the 1st wave that had arrived 6 hours earlier. The sea wall that had been due to have been destroyed by a combination of naval and aerial bombardment was still intact, and everybody had to wait for it to be breached by the engineers that had arrived in the second wave.
The Liaison Officer had been convinced during the sea crossing that he was going to die that day and nobody in the team could convince him otherwise. It turned out that he was correct; he was the only member of the team to die, stepping on a landmine as he got off the Rhino!
The unit had no role to play whilst on the beach (as it was supposed to be empty by when they got there) so they just had to shelter from the enemy fire the best they could.
Once clear of the beach, my father’s unit moved inland toward their planned airstrip site. Having driven up a hill, the men in the leading vehicle of their convoy (3 lorries, 1 ambulance, 12 men, 11 rifles and 1 pistol) saw some enemy tanks coming up the other side of the hill. My father said that he had never seen a 3-ton truck reverse so fast in all of his life! Luckily, the enemy tanks, having seen the lorry and not knowing what was following it, did the same. The unit then spent the rest of the day and the night in a farmyard whilst an artillery unit was deployed to bombard the enemy tanks until they moved away.