MHM places D-Day within the context of Operation Overlord, picking out some of the most brutal clashes and key events, from the huge-scale preparations to the Liberation of Paris. To see this timeline as it appears in the magazine, click here.
APRIL 22 1944:
Allied forces begin Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal for the D-Day invasion
JUNE 06: 6.30am :
American forces land at Omaha Beach
JUNE 06: 7.25am :
British and Free French forces land at Sword Beach in Operation Overlord
Stretching 8km from Ouistreham to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, Sword Beach was the farthest east of the landing points during the operation, and around 15km from Caen. The initial landings were achieved with low casualties, but the British forces ran into heavily defended areas behind the beachhead. These were the only Allied landings that faced attack by German Panzer divisions on 6 June 1944.
JUNE 06: 7.35am :
British forces land at Gold Beach
JUNE 06: 7.55am :
Canadian and British forces land at Juno Beach
JUNE 06: 8.30am :
Brécourt Manor assault
JUNE 07 :
The British forces initiate Operation Perch to capture German-occupied Caen
The intention of Operation Perch was to encircle and seize the German-occupied city of Caen, a major Allied objective in the early stages of the invasion of north-west Europe. Fierce German resistance and miscommunication among the British top-brass inhibited the operation, before its objectives were finally achieved.
JUNE 10 :
RAF successfully knocks out Panzer Group West’s La Caine headquarters
Three days after the Normandy landings, the new location of Panzer Group West’s headquarters was revealed to British intelligence, who had deciphered German signals traffic. On 10 june 1944, aircraft of the Second Tactical Air Force bombed the village. The raid was carried out by 40 rocket-armed Typhoons in three waves from low altitude, and by 61 Mitchells, which dropped 500lb bombs from 12,000ft.
JUNE 11 :
Battle of Le Mesnilpatry
JUNE 13 :
Battle of Bloody Gulch
JUNE 13 :
Battle of Villers-Bocage
During Operation Perch, a Brigade group of the 7th Armoured Division attempted to exploit a gap in the German defences to the west of the city. The British bypassed the frontline, and reached the small town of Villers-Bocage, but the Germans had anticipated the thrust and hastily repositioned their reserves to cover their open flank. As the Brigade group advanced beyond the town, it was ambushed by German heavy tanks, which forced the British to abandon Villers-Bocage for a more defensible position. The Brigade group was withdrawn during the night of 14-15 June.
JUNE 23 :
British forces launch Operation Martlet
JUNE 28 :
Main attack of Operation Epsom
Operation Epsom was plagued by bad weather on 26 June, both at the battlefield itself, where rain had made the ground boggy and there was a heavy mist, and over the United Kingdom during the early hours of the morning, resulting in aircraft being grounded and the planned bombing missions being called off. However, No.83 Group RAF, already based in Normandy, were able to provide air support throughout the operation.
The 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division resumed Operation Martlet at 0650, although without significant artillery support as this was diverted to the main operation. The Germans were able to slow the British advance, and then launched an armoured counter. This in turn was halted after a strong start, when British armour moved up, and the two sides engaged in a tank battle in the confined terrain. However, informed during the afternoon that a major British offensive was under way further east, SS-Standartenführer Kurt Meyer of 12th SS Panzer called off the counter-attack, and ordered his tank companies to return to their initial positions south of Rauray. During the rest of the day, the 49th Division was able to make progress, halting just north of Rauray.
JULY 10-12 :
JULY 18 :
Liberation of Caen
By the end of d-day, the allies had achieved their main goal of carving out a beachhead along the Normandy coast. They were then to move inland, with the Canadians and the British pushing south towards Caen. Caen was not to be an easy prize. From 7-12 June, the 3rd Canadian Division would encounter well-led and effective German troops, including an SS Panzer Division. Caen saw intense combat between Allied and Axis forces. British and Canadian forces finally captured the city on 9 July 1944. After the war, rebuilding took 14 years.
JULY 18-20 :
JULY 19-25 :
Battle of Verrières Ridge
JULY 25-27 :
AUGUST 07 :
Germans launch a counter-attack
Operation Lüttich was intended to break the Allied offensive in Normandy, and allow the Germans to destroy the Allied forces there. The operation was code-named Lüttich (Liège), the point at which Ludendorff had opened the way for the great German march of encirclement across the rear of the French army exactly 30 years before.
AUGUST 14-21 :
AUGUST 21 :
German position in Normandy collapses after fierce fighting at Hill 262
Hill 262 or Mont Ormel Ridge, nicknamed ‘The Mace’ (elevation 262m), was the location of a pivotal engagement fought as part of the wider battle of the Falaise Pocket during the Normandy campaign. The German Seventh Army had found itself surrounded by the Allies near the town of Falaise, and the Mont Ormel Ridge, with its commanding view of the area, sat astride the Germans’ only escape route. Polish forces seized the ridge’s northern height on 19 August 1944, and, despite being isolated and coming under sustained attack, held it until noon on 21 August, contributing greatly to the decisive Allied victory that followed.
AUGUST 25 :
Liberation of Paris
This is an extract from the 17-page extended D-Day feature in issue 46 of Military History Monthly, on sale 12th June 2014. To see this timeline as it appears in the magazine, click here.