D-Day: Conditions helped Allies: Invasion went largely to plan but one battle threatened the entire operation. Christopher Bellamy looks at what went right and wrong
Thursday 02 June 1994
More importantly they were protected by the Calvados reef, which enabled the most of the amphibious DD (Duplex Drive) tanks to get ashore. Had Montgomery had his way and landed a day earlier in worse weather, the result could have been a disaster.
The first British troops landed on Sword at 7.25am and on Gold at 7.30am, while the Canadians attacked Juno at 7.45am. On all beaches, minesweeping flail tanks or 'crabs' and DD tanks led the way.
The plan was for landing craft to come close to the beach, each putting four swimming tanks ashore, followed five minutes later by the flail tanks to clear mines. Then came infantry in two waves followed by the beach command group and bulldozers to breach the sea wall.
Specialised armour followed next, then self-propelled artillery and finally stores and ammunition. It was a complicated plan and the successive groups became mixed up, piles of stranded equipment littering the shoreline.
Utah beach, on the east of the Cotentin peninsula, was the westernmost of the invasion beaches. The first US troops from the 4th Infantry Division landed at 6.30am. The current swept the Americans 2,000 yards south of their objective but the actual landing site proved better because it had carried them into the most lightly defended sector of the Normandy coast. Vehicles streamed in behind the assault troops who had found an undefended exit from the beach.
The Americans landed 23,000 men on Utah with only 197 casualties, an almost miraculous deliverance. Their real difficulties began once they started to push inland encountering swampy terrain and endless ditches.
Back in the British sector, 21,400 troops landed on Juno beach on D-Day, but only six of 40 landing craft with artillery on board arrived - the rest capsized. The infantry arrived ahead of the supporting DD tanks but the Canadians pressed on, avoiding pockets of German resistance and, as the plan demanded, pushed on inland.
Another 25,000 troops came ashore on Gold. By noon, tanks and self-propelled artillery had arrived and it was in full use as a reception area, except around Le Hamel, where British infantry battled until late afternoon. They could probably have taken Bayeux that night but were held back in case of a German counter-attack.
By 9am the British had overcome beach defences on Sword and had taken Hermanville-sur-Mer, a kilometre inland. By nightfall, the whole of the British Third Division was ashore with full tank support.
In the next few days, the division struggled to advance on Caen. The Germans halted them, and began to concentrate armour and reinforcements - the beginning of the 'hinge' around which the US forces would eventually swing.
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 Father of 12 accused of raping, beating, starving and abusing his own children in US 'cult'
- 4 Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...
£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...
£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...
£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...