Introduction

This website is dedicated to the 180 or so men of the RAF 1st Echelon of 21-BDS (Base Defence Sector) who landed at about 5.30pm on 6 June 1944 on Omaha Beach, Normandy.

The inspiration for this website came from the discovery of a diary that my father, Squadron Leader Norman Best, wrote during the short time he was seconded to 21-BDS.  I only discovered the diary following the death of my mother in 2004 whilst clearing her effects.

Like many men who serve their country, they did not like to talk about their experiences. This was certainly the case for my father who, despite winning the Military Cross at Normandy, never gave his family any narrative as to how he won it.

The popular view of Omaha Beach was that it was an American beach landing, the place where the heaviest casualties occurred during that momentous day 69 years ago.

Popular history allows most people to know that the invasion of France took place over five beaches in Normandy, of which two were allocated to the Americans and three to the combined British, Canadian and Free French Forces.  The two beaches to the west were allocated to the Americans (Omaha and Utah), whilst the three to the east were to the other Allies (Gold, Sword and Juno).

Any précis of what happened on Omaha Beach would not have the space to record the tiny but significant contribution that the RAF made to the success of that landing. Indeed even the most authoritative book on the subject by the noted historian, Joseph Balkoski, does not find space to recount the misfortunes which the small RAF Radar and Signals Team encountered.

However, on p.340 of Mr Balkoski’s book “Omaha Beach D-Day June 6, 1944” (paperback, 2006 edition, published by Stackpole Books) you will find a photograph of the aftermath of D-Day on June 7, D+1. It shows the wreckage of a US Sherman tank and a collection of burnt-out trucks. The trucks shown in the photograph were some of the RAF Radar vehicles which were destroyed by mortar and gunfire when the RAF men arrived.

It is also the main photograph on the introduction to this website, and is such a poignant memory to the eleven men who died and 37 that were injured when they came ashore at D-Day.

My father was a very modest man – as I am sure were all of the technical experts who faced a fiercely-defended beach when they arrived. He never sought recognition nor fuss.

And yet, the story of 15082 GCI and the other RAF units who landed is important historically and needs telling. This website, together with the plaque, which was organised by Les Dobinson and produced by a Franco-Dutch Group called “Deep Respect” with the help of the townspeople of Vierville-sur-Mer, is a lasting memorial to all of those who landed with the RAF that day.

 

 

Our research has led to us to meet many experts and other relations of men who were actually at Omaha either on 6 June or landed subsequently, and meeting wives, sons and daughters of the past generation has been a wonderful experience.  With their help, and particularly the help given to me by David Heathcote, this website seeks to explain why they were there and what became of them during D-Day and beyond.  It is not a complete story and I hope that it will continue to expand as more information becomes available.

I would earnestly welcome correspondence with anyone who feels they can add even snippets of information if they can assist in answering the two fundamental questions and I hope this site will be a lasting memorial to the Royal Air Force at Omaha Beach.

Peter Best

Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England

omahabeach@outlook.com

Comments
2 Responses to “Introduction”
  1. Pete Smith says:

    I have just retired from the RAF after 38 years as a Fighter Controller (GCI in old money). In my last 4 years I ran the Higher Air Warfare Course aimed at RAF Wing Commanders. Part of the 4 week course was a visit to Normandy to study Air Power and draw lessons for operations today. On each occasion we would visit the US War Cemetry at Omaha. I always made a point of collecting the Course at the view point overlooking the beach and asking them which other Nation and Service had landed at Omaha on D-Day. Whilst the story of the Mobile GCI units is not widenly known, there is, at least, an ever growing number of senior RAF personnel today who are aware of the story of 15082 GCI and its sister units during Operation OVERLORD.

    I have just started to research the stories of those RAF units and personnel who came over the beaches as part of Op OVERLORD. I will certainly visit your site regularly to get updates on the RAF GCI units of 21 BDS.

    Best wshes

    Pete Smith

    • David says:

      What a fine gesture, Pete – and how dramatic to put that question as the present day Wing Commanders overlook the Beach! Good luck with your researches – and, if you come across any accounts which may be new to us, please get in touch. Best wishes, David

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