Updated on 24 November 2021
Reading time: 3 minutes
The first phase of Operation Overlord consisted of a massive night-time aerial bombardment beyond the landing area. This served in part to distract the Germans and upset communications, and was supported by the actions of the French Resistance.
Meanwhile, landings by three divisions of paratroops and glider-borne infantry on the flanks of the future seaborne assault area were being carried out from shortly after midnight. At daybreak, naval bombardment against the coastal batteries followed, shifting from the beach assault areas just five minutes before touchdown. H-Hour began at 630 for seaborne troops: two armies, five beaches, six divisions by sea on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
The Dieppe Raid, bearing the unfortunate code name of Operation Jubilee, was carried out on 19 August 1942 with appalling casualties. It did at least provide valuable information on how not to carry out such amphibious operations, of which this was the first on any scale. Consisting mainly of Canadian troops, it was principally designed to test the German defences. With over 900 deaths among the Canadians alone, it fuelled German propaganda on the invincibility of their so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’.
Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach
The D-Day Landings on 6 June 1944 were nothing less than the largest and most complex combined airborne and amphibious military operation of all time. Today, this epic history attracts millions of visitors to reflect on what was achieved – and why.
Bayeux, Cherbourg, Saint-Lô and Caen
Most towns and villages would have to wait weeks, even months for their Liberation. For Cherbourg 26 June, for Caen 9 July, for Saint-Lô 18 July and for Paris itself, 25 August.
Once Cherbourg was liberated (26 June), the unremitting British and Canadian struggle for Caen would lead to its tardy liberation (9 July), and the Americans could break out from Saint-Lô (25 July) and head for Avranches (1 August). This enabled the Americans to swing back east while British and Canadian forces pressed down south of Caen. A lethal entrapment closed upon the remnants of the German 7th Army and 5th Panzer Army in the final battle known as the ‘Falaise Pocket’.
Through the interminable summer of 1944, death and destruction would be unleashed on an epic scale. July, which saw the peak of the fighting, was the wettest since 1910, adding to the misery. By then some two million men (twice the peacetime population of the area) were pitted against each other in a charnel house of attritional fighting. Caught up in it, there were over 60,000 civilian casualties, and half a million buildings destroyed. Options for local inhabitants were limited: stay at home and take a chance, get away – if it were possible – or shelter in quarries and makeshift shelters.
The Canadian Remembrance Route sets out to remind present and future generations of Canada’s role in supporting Europe against German aggression in two World Wars. This part of the trail concerns the Second World War, and is in two parts.