What about a rather quick look into D-Day history?
You will probably figure out that I’ve something in mind , but let’s take it easy.
SO, SOME HISTORY AROUND THE D-DAY:
The Lieutenant-General Frederick Morgan commanded the allied planners of the invasion in spring of 1943 when Normandy was selected as the spot for the invasion of Western Europe. However, a landing on the beaches of Normandy had an important set back
, for the allied left flank was indeed very vulnerable to counterattacks:
1. The Germans expected the allied invasion to take place at the Straits or Dover. Therefore, the strongest German units in France, especially armored divisions, were to be found between Le Havre and the mouth of the river Seine, under the command of the Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel.
2. If Rommel succeeded in taking his troops and tanks across the rivers Seine, Dives and Orne, he would then be able to fold up all troops on the invasion beaches one by one, from the Sword Beach (the British eastern one) to the Utah Beach (the American western one)…
Why? Simply because it would cost the allies several days to establish a decent land force, sufficiently strong with tanks and artillery, to defeat a heavy German counterattack.
To protect this vulnerable left flank, the key was to use the famous British 6th Airborne Division
Morgan and his staff decided to drop it between the river Dives and the waterways of the Orne…
The 6th Airborne Division was commanded by Major-General Richard Gale. (Despite its name, the 6th was only the second of the two Airborne Divisions raised by the British Army during the war.
Almost immediately upon its creation, the task of the division during D-Day was set. This Division had indeed a crucial role to play. Incidentally, after General Dwight Eisenhower took over the responsibility of allied supreme commander in January 1944 from Morgan, even if an important number of aspects of the invasion plan were adjusted, the part of the 6th Airborne Division remained as it was!
The other British one, the 1st Airborne Division, has taken part mostly in diversionary amphibious landing (Operation Slapstick) as part of the Allied invasion of Italy (September 1943). Then most of this 1st Airborne Division returned to England (December 1943) and began training and preparing for the Allied invasion of Normandy… but it was not involved in the Normandy landings (June 1944), being held in reserve. -> This one has thus NOT to appear in our Normandy campaign, that’s right!
It has been many times planned to involve the 1st Airborne Division, but each time the troops already on the ground have progressed too fast to make such an intervention meaningful… The 1st Airborne Division, called the “Division Stillborn” , was finally involved in Operation Market Garden to free the Netherlands. At that time, the 6th Airborne Division was back to England to recover from tough actions and to take the role of reserve… but this has not much more to do with the Normandy and our great campaign!
So, the Sword Beach, seen from the allied point of view, was the utmost left of the five invasion beaches and represented – now we’ve understood it!
– a (very) vulnerable flank…
The actions of the 6th Airborne Division took place near the city of Caen and were carried out by the 3rd Parachute Brigade
, 5th Parachute Brigade
and the 6th Airlanding Brigade
– for it was composed of paratroopers AND glider-borne airborne troops!
It was the Operation Tonga, which began on 5th June 1944
Missions of the 6th Airborne Division:
1. Destroy the five bridges across the rivers Dives and Divette (to prevent the Germans using these bridges during a probable counterattack
2. Take intact then defend the two bridges across the Orne and the Canal of Caen, named by the British forces the Horsa Bridge
and the Pegasus Bridge
respectively (to prepare the connection between this bridgehead of airborne troops and the troops from Sword Beach
3. Destroy the german Merville Battery
before the landings on Sword Beach to avoid their direct fire at the invasion troops on Sword Beach (and thus to avoid heavy casualties
-> The 3rd Parachute Brigade
, under the command of Brigadier James Hill, oversaw missions 1 & 3! It was composed of the 9th Parachute Battalion, the 8th Midlands Parachute Battalion and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.
Targets: Four bridges over the Dives (including at Troarn, Bures, Robbehomme), one bridge across the Divette at Varaville & the capture of the battery of Merville.
This battery consisted of 4 gun emplacement casemates, a command bunker, a crew bunker and various ammunition bunkers. According to allied intel the gun emplacements were equipped with 150mm guns which could cover Sword Beach. The close-up defenses of the battery consisted of 20mm anti-aircraft guns, machine gun pits, two barbed wire barriers and a mine field.
Two drop zones (DZ), one in the north for:
- the 9th Parachute Battalion who was tasked to destroy the Merville Gun Battery
- the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion who would destroy bridges over the River Dives
The other DZ in the south, for the 8th Midlands Parachute Battalion, who was charged to destroy bridges over the Dives in the south.
Thereafter, all the men of the 3rd Parachute Brigade take defensive positions to fend off German counter attacks in the direction of the bridgehead.
-> The 5th Parachute Brigade
, under the command of Brigadier Nigel Poett, oversaw mission 2! It was composed of the 7th Parachute Battalion, the 12th Yorkshire Parachute Battalion and the 13th Parachute Battalion.
A single drop zone to the north of Ranville.
Its targets were the intact capturing of the Horsa Bridge and the Pegasus Bridge after which a bridgehead had to be established to defend both.
-> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:6th_ ... e_1944.png
-> The 6th Airlanding Brigade
would land in the evening of the 6th of June 1944 during Operation Mallard in order to reinforce
both parachute brigades.
This one was composed of infantry units, engineer units, artillery units, medical staffs, etc. (More information can be found here: https://www.dday-overlord.com/en/battle ... e-division
Then on the D-Day itself, the 6th June 44, these guys at the rear of the German lines do provide reinforcements of men, equipment, vehicles and ammunition to support the actions of their landing troops…