|Title||50 (NORTHUMBRIAN) DIVISION, An extract from the divisional history|
|Description||50 Div: Diary of G.S.O.l, 1943 - 1944|
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From 0700 hours to 0725 hours three Fleet destroyers maintained the attack.
And from H minus 35 minutes it was the target for the incoming self- propelled guns of 86 Field Regiment and rocket-firing assault craft.
Heralded, then, by this huge battering ran from the air and the sea, the naval force carrying 50 Div stole in towards the coast of Normandy as light was breaking.
Each man who sailed in the assault convoys will probably carry with him until he dies a vivid memory of the first hours of the operation OVERLORD. And each man's impression will probably be different from any other. But some memories will surely be common to all.
The night journey across the cold, wintry Channel, and the sea sickness that made life miserable for some ; and the curative effect of shellfire at the end of the journey.
The great concourse of shipping of all kinds that was revealed by the dawn. The first glimpse of the Normandy coast, low, sandy, backed by dunes, looking ordinary, instead of dramatic and interesting, as befitting the coastline which had been studied for so long from maps and air photographs, and was now the target for the mighty seaborne force that seemed to fill the Channel.
The infantry, the humble foot soldiers, now about to fulfil their classic role as the spearhead of the operation, clambered into their assault craft from the bigger ships which had borne them over the Channel, and strained their eyes towards the hostile shore. Warships were firing steadily at targets still invisible to the infantry, and overhead the fighter squadrons spread their shield.
Many kinds of small craft were moving towards the shore. The infantry, in their comparatively tiny assault craft, bobbed and butted their way through the heavy seas. Bigger, rocket-firing craft flung salvoes of rockets at the defences. Landing craft carrying tanks moved steadily in, with the tank guns firing as they came. Self- propelled guns also fired from their craft.
There Was a disappointment when it was realised that the famous but then secret D D tanks, which had been designed to leave their craft some distance off shore and swim their way to the beach, could not be launched owing to the rough weather. A decision was made to take the craft to the beach and allow the tanks to land in the ordinary way, which they did, providing valuable support. The wisdom of this decision was demonstrated when it became known that American forces on the right had tried to launch their D D tanks, but that nearly all had been capsized.
Another disappointment was provided by the Centaur tanks, mounted in pairs in landing craft in such a way that they could fire during the run-in to the beach. Once through they were to provide close support for the battle of the beaches. 16 such craft should have reached Normandy, but on the 50 Div front in fact only two arrived, the rest being delayed or having to turn back half-way across the Channel owing to the weather.
But the assault went in on time. As always, there were places where the infantry penetrated the enemy defences without undue difficulty and without really heavy fighting; there were others where the assaulting troops soon found themselves looked in battle with deter- mined defenders in well-constructed positions.
(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)