Friday, August 24, 2007

Sword Beach was the codename of one of the five main landing beaches in Operation Neptune, the initial assault phase of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.
Stretching 8 km from Ouistreham to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer it was the furthest east of the landing points and around 15 km from Caen. The landing site was divided into four zones - Oboe, Peter, Queen and Roger (west-east). The German defences consisted of beach obstacles, anti-tank ditches, mines, machineguns and mortars at the beaches and across the River Orne at Merville there were heavy guns. The defending troops belonged to the German 716th Static Infantry Division and could call on the support of the nearby 21st Panzer division. The landing forces were the British I Corps, comprising British 3rd Infantry Division and the 27th Armoured Brigade.
The landing was concentrated in the Queen sector, on the beach of Hermanville-sur-Mer. The key objective was to quickly reach and capture the key town of Caen and the nearby Carpiquet aerodrome to the west. Landings began at 0725 when the 3rd Division landed in Peter and Queen. Attached Commando units were tasked with seizing the bridges on the Orne River and the Caen Canal, linking up with paratroops of the 6th Airborne Division who were holding the bridges and had earlier destroyed the batteries at Merville. Resistance on the beach was weak, within 45 minutes the fighting had been pushed inland and on the east flank the Commando units had reached the Orne and the paratroopers by midday. The British had been unable to link up with the Canadian forces to the west until much later in the day. The only significant German counter-attacks of the entire landing came from 1600 into this area. In two attacks the 21st Panzer Division pushed all the way from near Caen to the beach between Lion-sur-Mer and Luc-sur-Mer and were only fully neutralized by late evening. 54 German tanks were destroyed or disabled out of 98.
The day ended with 28,845 British troops ashore and only 630 casualties. However Caen had not been reached and in the face of stiffening resistance the assault had stalled 6 km short of the town. British forces had been bogged down on the beaches by the sheer volume of men and equipment being unloaded.
The beaches of D-Day are still known by their invasion codenames today.

Sword BeachSword Beach Sources
Reynolds, Michael (2003). Eagles and Bulldogs in Normandy 1944. Casemate, Havertown, PA, USA, 230 pp. ISBN 1-86227-201-8. 

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