Where they landed

Where they landed.

 

One of the primary research objectives was to pinpoint with some degree of accuracy where the first echelon of 21 BDS landed.  This basic and fundamental question has not been easy to answer and even now there is a degree of ambiguity about the exact location of their landfall.

We know where they should have landed from the landing table which can be seen on subsequent pages and that was Easy Red.  This section of the beach runs from a point halfway between the Les Moulins draw and the St Laurent draw, runs eastwards to a point very close to the Colleville draw.  Not only was this the scheduled landing point but if everything had gone to plan would also have been the safest and most secure.

As we know they were supposed to land H hour plus 300.  As H hour for the American beaches was 6.30am this would mean that there scheduled time for landing would have been 11.30am.  However during their approach into the beaches it was obvious that none of Omaha was safe for a non-combative group of men to land and the off-shore beach masters instructed them to return out to sea and to circle around until the beaches were in a more safe condition to attempt a landing.  Had everything gone according to plan the beach demolition crews of the American First Infantry Division would have created safe channels in which incoming landing craft could safely negotiate to allow disembarkation to take place irrespective of the condition of the tide.  Their scheduled landing time of 11.30am would have meant that their landing would take place at near enough high water mark.  But we know that very few of the demolition teams succeeded in their task and there were only a handful of channels that had been created during low tide at the commencement of the D-Day landings.

This meant that landings that were attempted between approximately 9.30am onwards not only had the gauntlet of trying to avoid the anti-landing craft obstructions that had been placed on the beach with their associated mines, but also meant that the landing craft were closer to the German defenders.  For these reasons many of the teams that were scheduled to come in during the morning of D-Day had to wait offshore for the situation on the beach to improve.

During 6th June the Americans slowly gained a foothold on Omaha Beach and many separate small groups of Americans fought their way up the bluffs and began to push inland attempting to circle round the German defenders in order to capture the five draws away from the beach.  The two draws where the Americans had their first success involved D-1, the Vierville and E-1 the St Laurent draw.  At that time the St Laurent draw was only an unpaved track offering just a single lane from the beach to the east of the village of St Laurent.  Due to the fortitude and bravery of the men of the 1st Infantry Division, the two strong points that protected the St Laurent draw, WN-64 and WN-65, were silenced in the early afternoon and by 3pm the first signs of an organised and unmolested area of allied occupation was beginning to form at this part of the beach.  We know that by about 4pm as the tide was falling a concentrated effort was made to clear many of the beach obstacles to allow an easier and safer passage for incoming landing crafts.

Out to see the RAF contingent in their five landing craft had had a long and nauseating period of being confined to their landing craft and by the time 5pm came a number of the survivors’ recollections suggested they felt that a landing by them on 6th June was becoming increasingly unlikely.  However just when they felt that they would be heading back to the UK the off-shore “traffic cops” informed them that there had been orders to make a landing immediately and so their five landing craft formed up into an arrow formation and headed towards the beach.

At this point a degree of speculation into what actually happened then must be drawn from the evidence which presents itself to us.  Despite the fact that their pre-arranged destination was on the east of St Laurent and that it was the St Laurent draw which had been opened and was relatively safe for landing craft to land and that it was more or less in the centre of Easy Red for some inexplicable reason which will probably not ever become known it would seem that they actually landed in the Easy Green section of the beach close to D-3 draw at Les Moulins.   Whether it was an error in navigation or there was a communication problem we will probably never know.  The tragic result of this incorrect landing was that they were put on a part of the beach which was still being fiercely defended by the Germans and for which there had yet to be any exit made from the beach onto the road from Les Moulins to St Laurent.  Sadly for 21 BDS this error had tragic consequences for not only did they lose many vehicles during the landing process but even those who managed to reach the shore became sitting targets for German 88mm guns being fired from behind the beach area and mortars which were still being fired from German strongholds – particularly WN-67 and 69.

In order to try and visualise what faced the incoming troops on that day we have been able to collect a number of photographs which attempt to give the reader the sense of what it was like before and after the D-day invasions.

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