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Sword Beach

gliders passing over Ramilles and Warspite on the way to Sword Beach
gliders passing over Ramilles and Warspite on the way to Sword Beach
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Sword Beach was considered the most exposed of all the beaches, thanks to the closeness of the cities of Le Havre and Caen. It was also the most difficult of the seaward approaches. On the western side were the rocks near Bernieres which were uncovered at high tide. On the eastern loomed the great sandbanks of Merville, to the east of the mouth of the Orne. Precise navigation was therefore vital, hence the presence of a midget submarine 7,000 yards offshore.

Ramilles firing her main armament against the batteries around the mouth of the Seine on 6th June
Ramilles firing her main armament against the batteries around the mouth of the Seine on 6th June
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The proximity of the coastal batteries at the mouth of the Seine had little real effect on the approaches to Sword. Only one vessel, an LCI, caught fire after being hit. Other damage to landing craft from artillery was minimal.

the crew of a British LCI dropping a gangway to allow commandos to land on Sword. On the beach are DD Shermans and specialised armour
the crew of a British LCI dropping a gangway to allow commandos to land on Sword. On the beach are DD Shermans and specialised armour
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Because of rocks uncovering at low tide, H-hour was fixed quite a bit later than for the two American zones. This gained another lhr 45mins of flood tide. The double advantage of the delay was to permit easy passage over the reefs, and to offer the naval guns extra bombardment time. On the other hand the tide seemed to gain faster than forecast and the first row of German obstacles was already covered by water when the landing craft reached it. It was therefore out of the question to try to avoid these invisible obstacles and many craft were damaged. This did not have particularly severe consequences as the German response was weak, as Admiral Talbot himself wrote: 'The air was full of our bombers and fighters, and of the noise and smoke of our bombardments. The enemy was obviously stunned by the sheer weight of support we were meting out.'

troops going ashore at Sword beach through minefields and tank traps
troops going ashore at Sword beach through minefields and tank traps
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Luftwaffe attacks on the beachead were minimal, a total of 10 aircraft were totally outnumbered by the 4,000 allied machines.

By 0943 the entire assault brigade had landed but exploitation was slower than expected and the two follow-up brigades were delayed until the afternoon. By the time the exits from the beach were cleared it was too late to march as planned on Caen.

In any event advance was not possible because of the presence of the armoured 21st Panzerdivision already in action against British parachutists. The division attacked the bridgehead at around 1600, but were halted by the tank destroyers of the 3rd Division. However all British progress was stopped.

By the evening 3rd Division was about 4 miles inland.

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