Early in the morning of 6th June 1944, a vast and bizarre armada ploughed steadily against stiff head-winds through the rough waters of the English Channel, heading for the Normandy coast. Amongst the 5,000 vessels were many of the best British and American warships, of stupendous collective firepower, also ancient battleships and tankers on their last voyage, destined to be sunk to provide breakwaters. Thousands of the craft had been built to make one journey only and that a short one; to ferry the invading allied forces together with their immense diversity of equipment on the last difficult, dangerous stretch from the transports to the shore of enemy-occupied France.
It was D-Day. Conceived almost on the shores of Dunkirk, four years in the planning, two in the organising and one day in the execution, the landing in Normandy was easily the largest and most extraordinary combined military operation ever attempted. it was also a crucial one. By 1944 it was becoming clear that while Germany would lose the war in Europe, who would win it was another matter. Had D-Day failed and at times it came close to doing so, the western allies would have found it impossible to launch another operation for at least a year, perhaps mere and today’s map of Europe might have been very different.
One of the millions taking part in the landings, Admiral Ramsay, was famous for his dislike of even the mildest exaggeration; as Overlord got under way he told his officers “Gentlemen, I am sorry about all the superlatives, today they happen to be true.”
This is that story.
Information was most recently updated Sat Oct 1 05:06:22 2022