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defences of Northern France had a special effect on the defences of the OVERLORD area, which at that time were in a condition which (according to the French villagers) aroused his ire. But not all Rommel's anger, nor the flurry of activity which followed his departure in that historic spring, could prevent the penetration of these defences.

That was 716 Div's share of the defence.

Behind it was 91 Inf Div, in the general area of Carentan, and 352 Inf Div, west and south-west of Bayeux. The armoured divisions capable of fairly rapid intervention were 21 pz Div, in the area Caen-Falaise, 12 SS P2 Div, in the area of Bernay-Verneuil, 130 Pz Lehr Div, spread out in the area Le Mans-Laval- Chartres, 17 SS Pz Gren Div, South of the Loire, and 2 Pz Div at Amiens.

In addition to these man-made arrangements for defence, there were various natural barriers in our path. It was revealed not long before D-day that there were patches of clay and peat on the beach over which armoured vehicles could not pass - they would just sink in - and this meant a lot of last-minute experiment to find an antidote. Special shuttering on tracks was found to be the best answer. Special AVRE were fitted with this as well as all LCTs carrying tracked vehicles. This work was completed only a few hours before craft were loaded for the assault.

At both ends of our beach were strongly fortified villages, Le Hamel and Arromanches on the right, La Riviere on the left, with high and strong sea-walls. In between, the beach was sandy with very low sand dunes and a low, broken-down sea-wall, behind which ran a reasonably hard road the whole way. Immediately behind this road there was a wide bog except for a few hundred yards at either end before the villages. All the good exits were at the villages, but there were one or two quite reasonable ones between the villages and the bog. On the right, cliffs extended the whole way to the right boundary. There were many trees and gardens in and around the villages. Behind the villages and the bog, the ground rose quickly, and the Meuvaines ridge was a dominating feature. This country was fairly open, with small woods here and there, but farther inland it became very close indeed, and by the time Bayeux was passed it was real ‘bocage' country. The roads were better than had been expected and there were plenty of them. The rivers in the area were mostly low and no real obstacle.

So much for the enemy's plans and resources. Let us now consider our own.

The object of operation OVERLORD was, in official terms -

"To secure a lodgement on the Continent of Europe from which further operations could be developed."

That sounds simple; behind the formal phrases lay the steadily unfolding plan, which must now be outlined in sufficient detail to show 50 Div's place in it.


(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

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

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