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British Battles

British Battles

D-Day, 1944

On the beaches and landing grounds

Beach heads secured

On all five beaches the Allies broke through the defences by the afternoon, but not without a fight. The Americans landing on Omaha beach came closest to failure, and the foothold gained there was much smaller than planned. Nor did the British and Canadians (fighting under British command, because Canada was a British dominion) gain all the ground they had expected by midnight.

After the initial assault, more soldiers, equipment and supplies were unloaded. By the end of the day a huge number of troops - some 156,000 men - had landed.

The Canadians on Juno beach

Landing on the rising tide, 3rd Canadian Division was delayed slightly and landed among, rather than in front of, the beach obstacles. The assault troops faced stiff resistance from undamaged German strong-points, some of which held out for several hours.

On Juno beach, as elsewhere, there were delays in opening beach exits to allow troops to move inland, and congestion built up as more men, vehicles and equipment were landed. The important objectives were to occupy the Caen-Bayeux road and make contact with the British troops on the adjacent Gold and Sword beaches, but by midnight only the link-up with Gold beach had been achieved.


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A map of Juno Beach showing the situation at midnight 6 June


Watch film taken at Juno beach after the D-Day landings


War diary of 8th Canadian Brigade - with transcript

Air operations

Such was the overwhelming strength of Allied air power that little was seen of the German air force during D-Day. Throughout Overlord, Allied planes played a vital role in attacking German troops and restricting their movement.

Caring for the wounded

In the invasion force as a whole, around 7,000 men were killed on 6 June. The troops landed on that day included field ambulance units. Until hospitals could be set up in Normandy, landing craft were used to evacuate casualties to Britain. There were conscientious objectors among the medical personnel of the British 6th Airborne Division.

German reactions to D-Day

The Germans were taken by surprise on D-Day. Because of the bad weather they did not expect the invasion on 6th June, and reacted slowly even when the attack started. The defence of the beaches attacked by the British and Canadians was in the hands of 716th Division, which was suited only for static defence and contained a large number of non-German men. Only one notable counter-attack was made that day, and this prevented the British from reaching Caen.


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Air support for Juno Beach - with transcript


Casualty records - with transcript


Interrogation of German soldier - with transcript

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