- 2 -

During the first two days of June the final preparations were made. Vehicles had been loaded into ships and craft from the various hards around SOUTHAMPTON Water, the Thames Estuary and the East coast. This, the first physical step towards the far side of the CHANNEL, was carried out without difficulty although it was noticeable that the skill with which the loading at individual hards took place varied considerably.


These last weeks of preparation had been carried out in perfect summer weather. All eyes were now on the sky anxiously seeking signs of a continuance of these "invasion" conditions. The date chosen was 5 Jun, but by the previous day it was apparent that the change in wind was too unfavourable for hopes to be realised. Naval authorities said that choppy sea, with the wind veering from South-West to South, would hold the landing craft off the beaches.

On 4 Jun, therefore, a signal was originated by Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force postponing the operation for 24 hours. An uncomfortable day elapsed during which some pessimists of historical knowledge recalled that the last invasion armada to sail the ENGLISH CHANNEL had, 356 years previously, come to grief through the advent of a South-Westerly gale!

This modern armada, however, was not to be long delayed. The decision was taken for the assault to be made at 0725 hrs on 6 Jun. The weather was sufficiently good to promise the fulfilment of all the pre- arranged tasks, but was still far from ideal. This fact probably contributed to the surprise which was achieved.

Assembled round the coasts of Britain was a force of more than 4,000 vessels protected by 900 warships. They had to negotiate a series of minefields divided by ten channels 30 miles long. A sketch map of the naval operations showing routes of assault forces is at Appendix "F".

Opposing them were approximately 30 "E" boats moving down from HOLLAND, 50 U-boats in the BISCAY ports, 12 destroyers or torpedo boats and the possibility of enemy air attacks and rocket bombs.

On the naval aspect of the operations in a subsequent report Admiral Sir Bertram H. Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief, Expeditionary Force, writes:-

"Because, in the event, the movements of over 5,000 ships and craft proceeded smoothly and to plan, and because, despite bad weather, the Allied armies and air forces were landed and reinforced, if not quite as quickly as the optimistic planning figure, at least more quickly than the enemy reinforced his forces by land, it may now appear that the size and complexity of the naval problem was somewhat exaggerated. This was not the case ...."

So, in the early hours of 6 Jun the first craft carrying troops of Second Army slipped out of the SOLENT under a grey, cloudy sky and turned into the wind-tossed CHANNEL, on the other side of which LAY the long-awaited Second Front.

(Archive transcripts © Copyright Normandy War Guide)

Found an error?

Found an error with this archive item? report it here!

Archive: Extracts from Second Army History, 1944 Apr

Page: Page 29