Seventy-five years ago, on Tuesday 6 June 1944, Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in what was the biggest naval, land and air military operation in history. D-Day marked the beginning of the long campaign, code named ‘Operation Overlord, to liberate north-west Europe from Nazi occupation.
Tens of thousands of troops, mainly from the UK, US and Canada, attacked German forces on five beaches on the northern coast of France: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. In the early hours of the morning, troops were parachuted in to enemy territory before infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the beaches, supported by nearly 7,000 naval vessels.
Plans for Operation Overlord began many months before the invasion. Over two million troops from more than 12 countries had arrived in Britain by 1944 in preparation. This included a battalion of American soldiers who were posted at Island Farm Camp in Bridgend. The huts had been built to house workers from the nearby munitions factory but had been empty until the Americans arrived in October 1943. It is said that General Dwight D. Eisenhower himself visited the camp in April 1944 to address the troops before their departure for France. Island Farm later became a prisoner of war camp for German officers. Read more about the Camp on People’s Collection Wales.
Leslie Illingworth (1902-1979), the Welsh political cartoonist, joined the Daily Mail in 1939 and the majority of his early work held at the National Library relates to the events of the Second World War. His depiction of the Normandy landings, dated 9 June 1944, is particularly striking and evokes the style of the Bayeux Tapestry. It shows Allied soldiers attacking the Germans on the beaches. Churchill, Montgomery and Eisenhower are looking down from above and Hitler, along with his other generals, is looking on with concern.
By the end of D-Day, the Allies had established a small foothold in France, which led to the liberation of Paris and eventually defeat over Nazi Germany. Over 150,000 Allied troops and 10,000 military vehicles were delivered to the Normandy coast during the day. Approximately 4,400 of those men were killed and a further 10,000 wounded.
“At dawn’s first light on 6th June our longest day began.” (NLW Facs 1028)
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