It has been 79 years since The Normandy Landings, known as D-Day, the defining military operation which contributed to Germany’s defeat in WW2. The coordinated attack involved the surprise appearance of Allied naval and aircraft forces on the shores of then Nazi-occupied France. It was an invasion of unprecedented scale, involving the mobilisation of 156,000 men across five beaches in Normandy.
After fears that poor weather would scupper the operation, naval forces were given the go-ahead on 6th June 1944. Early in the morning, an imposing armada of 3,000 ships and landing craft left the south of England, its passengers poised in anticipation. As British soldiers began wading into the shallow waters of the codenamed ‘Gold’ and ‘Sword’ beaches of Normandy, what awaited them was a gruelling struggle inland and a day of sensory cacophony.
The heavily guarded north coast of France, part of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall defence, was not the obvious point for an Allied offensive. Meticulous planning, deception and an element of surprise all contributed to the success of the operation, the first stage of a three-month campaign that would liberate France and set the stage for Germany’s surrender in May 1945.
The Royal Warwickshire Regiment’s Bernard Montgomery commanded all Allied land forces and would be elevated to Field Marshall at the end of the campaign. Though Churchill and Eisenhower found him difficult to work with, he was handed this role due to his ability to drive morale in the men – an essential commodity.
On D-Day alone, the Allies suffered 10,000 casualties, half of which were deaths. This anniversary commemorates the 22,000 British troops who died in the Battle of Normandy.