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D-Day - 6th June 1944

The Naval Forces

This page covers the allocation of naval forces to the D-Day beaches.

An unusual picture of 5 British cruiser classes in formation on the way to Normandy D-1, Belfast, Diadem, Ajax, Emerald, Sirius, Orion
An unusual picture of 5 British cruiser classes in formation on the way to Normandy D-1, Belfast, Diadem, Ajax, Emerald, Sirius, Orion
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Assault Planning

Diagram of the plan for the beach assault
Diagram of the plan for the beach assault

The plan above depicts the position of the ships responsible for landing a brigade at 20min before 'H' hour (the moment of the first landing). At about 7 miles from shore the HQ ship and the large LSIs anchored and lowered the small LCAs (Landing Craft Assault), intended to transport the infantry. Meanwhile, the numerous other variety of landing craft got under way, the slowest starting first to ensure synchronisation.

At H minus 2hr the first LCTs moved towards the beach and at 7,000 to 8,000yd from the coast launched the amphibious ('DD') tanks, which had to be on the beach five minutes before the infantry. At the same time the fire support landing craft and other short-range bombardment vessels moved into position and began to smother the German defences, most dramatically with the rockets of the LCT(R)s. Behind the DD tanks came a wave of landing craft carrying the AVREs (Armoured Vehicles, Royal Engineers) and other specialised armour, fitted with mine-clearing devices, bulldozer blades, bridging devices etc. Shortly behind came the infantry in LCAs, and then it was the turn of the self / propelled guns (Priests and Sextons) and / Royal Marine manned tanks, all fitted to fire whilst still aboard.

On the flanks were the destroyers, ready to fire on targets of opportunity. Out to sea the cruisers and battleships engaged the coast defence batteries at long range. Out of the field of view the two following brigades of the division were approaching in nine separate groups of LCIs and LCTs. Behind them, for the next tide, came the ships dedicated to the period of consolidation, the LSTs, LSIs and so on.

The majority of the warships off the Normandy beaches at dawn on 6th June 1944 were of British origin, just as the larger number of landing craft were of American construction. The predominance of the Royal Navy is easy to explain. Even if surpassed in numbers and firepower by the US Navy, it was none the less still the second biggest navy in the world, and much the largest in Europe. Moreover the air-sea struggle in the Pacific had absorbed a large proportion of the American navy.

The two great Anglo-Saxon navies were supported in the landings by those ships of the lesser Allied navies which had survived the disasters of 1940. Both the French and Dutch navies still had enough ships to make some difference, even if the flower of the French fleet had been scuttled at Toulon in 1942, whilst much of the Dutch navy had been wiped out by the Japanese defending Indonesia earlier the same year.

the location of the naval bombardment forces on D-Day
the location of the naval bombardment forces on D-Day
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Type Western Task Force Eastern Task Force Home Command Reserve Total
Battleships 3 (US) 3 - 1 7
Monitors 1 1 - - 2
Cruisers 10 (3 US 2 French) 13 (1 Polish) - - 23
Gunboats 1 (Dutch) 2 (1 Dutch) - - - 3
Fleet Destroyers 30 (US) 30 (2 20 (4 US Norwegian) & 2 Polish) - - 80
Hunt Class Destroyers 5 14 (2 Polish, 1 Norwegian, 1 French) 6 - 25
Sloops 4 10 - - 14
Fleet Mine- Sweepers 56 (6 US) 42 - - 98
Other Sweepers 62 (16 US) 87 - 40 189
Frigates etc 12 (6 US& 2 French) 19 (2 French) 32 - 63
Corvettes 4 (2 French) 17 (2 Greek) 50 (3 Norwegian & 1 French) - 71
Patrol craft 18 (US) - - - 18
A/S trawlers 9 21 - 30 60
Minelayers - 2 2 - 4
Coastal craft(all types) 113 (81 US) 90 (30 US) 292 (8 French, 13 Dutch 3 Norwegian) - 495
Seaplane carrier - 1 - - 1
Midget submarines - 2 - - 2
A/S Groups - - 58 - 58
- - - - - 1213

Allocation of Task Forces for the Assault phase

NB: all British or Commonwealth except where noted.

Beach Battleships Monitors Cruisers Destroyers
Sword 2 1 5 (1 Polish) 13 (1 Polish 2 Norwegian)
Juno - - 2 11 (2 Canadian, 1 French, 1 Norwegian)
Gold - - 5 (1 Dutch) 13 (1 Polish)
Omaha 2 (US) - 3 (2 French) 12 (9 US)
Utah 1 (US) 1 6 (2 US I Dutch) 8 (US)
Reserve 2 - 3 (1 US) 17 (US)

Allocation of major naval units to the beach heads

NB: British unless otherwise stated.

The British Task Forces

Arethusa, Danae and Mauritius - on the way to Normandy, 3 June 1944
Arethusa, Danae and Mauritius - on the way to Normandy, 3 June 1944
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Sword Beach

the extreme eastern end of the invasion fleet. Key objective the coastal batteries around the Seine estuary. Flagship HMS Scylla, with 9 major units and 13 destroyers.

Warspite off Normandy
Warspite off Normandy
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Melvin Hoskins : 2018-7-5;14:00
Great Action photo.
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Class Target
Warspite 15 inch battleship, Queen Elizabeth class Villerville batteries
Ramilles 15 inch battleship, R class Berneville batteries
Roberts 15inch monitor Houlgate batteries
Mauritius Fiji class cruiser Houlgate batteries
Arethusa Arethusa class cruiser Mont batteries
Frobisher Cavendish class cruiser Riva-Bella batteries
Dragon D class cruiser Graye batteries
Danae D class cruiser Riva-Bella-Ouistreham batteries
Scylla Dido class cruiser Flag
Largs Converted French passenger ship HQ ship

Juno Beach

supporting the Canadians on Juno Beach, 11 destroyers. Mission suppression of beach defences. Force G dealt with shore batteries in the area.

Gold Beach

Beach defences, 7 cruisers and 13 destroyers

Class Target
Diadem Bellona Class cruiser Moulineaux battery
Belfast Edinburgh class cruiser Ver-sur-Mer battery
Flores Dutch gunboat Graye battery
Orion Leander class cruiser Graye battery
Emerald E class cruiser Defences around Arromanches
Argonaut Dido class cruiser Longues battery
Ajax Leander class cruiser Longues battery

US Task Forces

USS Texas
USS Texas
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Omaha Beach

from Port-en-Bessin to Isigny. Four major units plus 12 destroyers.

Class Target
USS Augusta Northampton class cruiser Flag
USS Arkansas 12inch Wyoming class battleship Fire support
USS Texas 14in New York class battleship Pointe du Hoc
Glasgow Southampton class cruiser Fire support

Utah Beach

USS Tuscaloosa
USS Tuscaloosa
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support of Utah Beach which had 8 batteries with 8 major units and 8 destroyers to cover the assault.

Class Target
Hawkins Cavendish class cruiser St Martin-de-Varreville battery
Soemba Dutch gunboat Fire support
Enterprise E class cruiser
USS Nevada 14in Nevada class battleship Azeville battery
USS Quincy Baltimore class cruiser Saint-Marcouf battery
Erebus 15inch monitor Pernelle and Gatteville batteries
Black Prince Bellona Class cruiser Morsalines battery
USS Tuscaloosa New Orleans class cruiser Quineville battery

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