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British Battles

British Battles
 
   

D-Day, 1944

Crossing the channel

Overlord under way

Although D-Day was planned for 4/5 June 1944, bad weather caused a final delay of 24 hours. On 5 June, some 7,000 ships and other craft carrying assault troops left the invasion ports to arrive off the Normandy coast early next morning. Their target was the Bay of the Seine, from Cherbourg in the west to Le Havre in the east.

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The naval force crossed the Channel largely undetected and relatively unscathed. German radar was put out of action by Allied bombing, jamming and decoys. Allied minesweepers cleared safe channels through the German minefields, and little opposition was met from the German naval forces (which were much weaker than those of the Allies).

In the meantime, Allied airborne troops had taken off from England and were the first to land in France, hours before dawn. The Americans landed inland from Utah beach to help secure the Cotentin Peninsula, while the British arrived east of them, at the mouths of the Caen Canal and the River Orne. Dummy parachutists were also dropped to confuse the Germans.

As the naval force approached the beaches, the coastal defences were bombarded by Allied ships and aircraft. This was important for the success of the landing, although not all the German guns were knocked out. Some landing craft were lost - either swamped by the waves or hit by German fire - and others stuck on beach obstacles (welded girders planted in the sand to impede progress).

 

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Map showing the naval bombardment

 

The log of HMS Belfast - with transcript

 

Landing craft stuck on an obstacle

On the beaches and landing groundsGo to next topic