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of Sudbury, and 231 Brigade south of that area. The remainder of the division was in that same general area. Within a matter of days the whole division was at home on disembarkation leave, and the wheels were being kept turning by a skeleton staff provided by the home authorities for that purpose, and whose reception and quartering of the returning troops had been admirable.

With the New Year came radical changes. Major-General Kirkman, who had command the Division from the closing stages of the North African campaign, was appointed commander of XIII Corps, and left hurriedly for the Italian front. On 19 January, after his departure, Major-General Graham arrived at Divisional Headquarters to take over commend. Brigadier E.C. Cooke-Collis, Who had commanded 69 Bio from the days of the retreat from Gazala, was transferred to command a bde of 49 Div - which was at that time earmarked as an assault div for the invasion of the Continent.

The prospect then was that 50 Div would take part in the assault on the Continent, but that it would not once more be in the first rank, but would form part of the follow-up force. It was not long, however, before the Division was warned that plans had been changed; that one of the assaulting corps would be the 30th (the old desert corps which had followed the Division home from the Mediterranean),and that in that corps, 50 Div would be the spearhead. This was a compliment to the fighting qualities of the division in the last two years, but it occasioned no general rejoicing. Experience enabled officers and men to appreciate all it meant, and it was, in general, with a sober and dogged determination that men faced up to what lay ahead.

The tempo of life changed at once. The decision meant a complete and speedy alteration in trainimg and the commencement at once of planning on a Divisional level, to be followed by brigade planning in the few months remaining. With regard to the specialized training necessary for an assaulting division, two factors had to be considered, First, the Division had already made a seaborne assault - the invasion of Sicily in July, 1943. But since that campaign the Division had undergone very considerable changes, and only about half the officers and men who had taken part, now remained. Second, the Division was in a most unsuitable part of the country for combined operations training, with this exception - that 79 Armd Div was close at hand at Saxmundham, and they had been studying mechanical means of overcoming the very strong natural and artificial obstacles which the Division would be up against. Each brigade had about 14 days training in co- operation with the assault vehicles and crews of 70 Armd Div, and then each assault brigade - 69 and 231 - went for combined operations training at the Combined Training Centre at Inverary. After that, brigades moved to the Weymouth - New Forest area, ready for collective training with the Navy and the RAF.

That part of the Naval force which was to carry 50 Div across the Channel, protect them, and land them on the beaches of Normandy, was known as Force ’G'.

Force ’G' did not start forming till March, and they had just as much difficulty in getting ready as we had owing to the non-availability of craft and the lateness in starting the training of the crews. The collective training took place on the South Coast during April and May - and consisted of four full scale brigade exercises. These exercises, together with other exercises

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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Archive: 50 (NORTHUMBRIAN) DIVISION, An extract from the divisional history

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