Countdown to 70th Anniversary of D-Day landings

As we approach the 70th anniversary of Operation OVERLORD (the invasion of Normandy) and Operation NEPTUNE (the seaborne landings) with most attention being paid to the land and airborne operations, I wonder how much coverage will be given to some of the more poorly publicised aspects involving the Royal Navy:

Frogmen - The First Men Ashore on D-Day

The following excerpt is taken from pages 114-120 of The Frogmen - The Story of the Wartime Underwater Operators by T J Waldron and James Gleeson (Evans Brothers Ltd, London, November 1950):

The first men ashore on "D" day were frogmen; this time they were called Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Units [LCOCUs pronounced Lock-yews]. There were a hundred and twenty of them and their object was to clear away the underwater obstructions and mines so that the assault craft could get on to the beach.

The frogmen who blasted a hole in the Nazis' Atlantic Wall, and enabled invasion craft to reach the Normandy beaches on "D" day were nearly all "hostilities only" men. The men who led the units were Lt. R. E. Billington, D.S.C. and Bar, R.N.V.R., aged 28, of Purley; Lt. H. Hargreaves, D.S.C., aged 21, a cotton salesman from Burnley; Lt. J. B. Taylor, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., aged 22, a Middlesex bank clerk; Lt. W. Brewster, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., aged 28, an Edinburgh bank clerk; Capt. A. B. Jackson, Royal Marines, a Dumfries bank cashier; C.S.M., D. J. R. Morss, R.M., a carpenter's mate from Herne Hill; Lt. D. J. Cogger, M.C., R.M., an engineer*ing apprentice from Canterbury; Sgt. P. H. Jones, D.S.M., R.M., a carpenter from Bournemouth; Lt. D. J. Smith, R.M., an assistant engineer from Purley, and Sgt. K. Briggs, D.S.M., R.M., from Dorking.

Hargreaves, Billington, Taylor, Briggs and Jones received their decorations for the Normandy invasion operation. Four others who were decorated were P.O. S. C. Eagles. D.S.M., a costing clerk from Manchester; P.O. F. Livingstone, D.S.M., a Hull carpenter; Cpl. E. Deans, D.S.M., a motor driver from Barrow-in-Furness, and Cpl. R. Headley, a Newcastle-on-Tyne apprentice engineer. So there you have them - bank clerks, engineers, carpenters, clerks and students. Some of them had previously served in midget submarines and the human torpedoes. All of these bank clerks, engineers, carpenters, clerks and students acquitted themselves nobly on "D" day.

A long time before the invasion of Normandy it had become apparent to us that the much vaunted Western Wall of the enemy extended not only to the shores of Europe but beyond them, and into the sea. This extension of the wall consisted of formidable obstacles laid right down to the low-water line in such a manner that they would soon be covered by a rising tide. The most formidable of these obstacles was known as Element "C". It was a two-and-a-half-ton mass of steel, constructed like a picket fence. It was ten feet high by ten feet broad and on a base which measured ten feet by fourteen feet. This had to be scientifically destroyed, because if it had been merely blown up carelessly it would still have been a formidable obstacle. Thirty-six small charges were placed at different positions on the obstruction and when they were all exploded it fell to pieces, and no part of it was more than eighteen inches above the sea bottom.

Frogmen demolishing Element C med.jpg
There were metal objects standing some five feet high in the form of pyramids. There were other steel obstacles known as "Hedgehogs" which looked like a six-pointed star. Every one of these devices was festooned with mines or shells so that even the lightest touch of an invasion craft would have set them off. In any case, even if the mine or shell had not exploded, the obstacles themselves would have ripped the bottom out of any craft which touched it, and rendered it useless, or even sunk it on the spot. This then was the task of these frogmen, the task for which they had been training since the Landing Craft Obstruction Clearance Units had been started in January 1944 at H.M.S. Appledore in the little village of Appledore on the North Devon Coast.

In charge of the training units was Lt.Commander Davis, R.N.R., of Hereford, formerly of the Boom Defence Com*mandos from which the Locku Boys developed. With him was Chief Petty Officer D. P. Reid, an Appledore man and former merchant service bos'n, who put every one of the men through their underwater swimming tests, and was responsible, in all, for about twenty thousand dives.

In their thin rubber diving suits fitted with helmets and breathing apparatus and with huge rubber fins attached to their feet, these men worked and trained steadily until they became experts in the art of swimming under water for long periods of time, in handling dangerous explosives, and preparing to meet any emergency - and deal with it. Their moment came at H hour on "D" day when ten units (four Royal Navy and six Royal Marines) went into action and remained in action until the underwater defences had been cleared and the Allied armies established ashore. They worked in the face of enemy shell and mortar fire. They were sniped at and subjected to underwater blast from exploding shells and mines. This is what Lt. H. Hargreaves, D.S.C., the cotton salesman from Manchester, said about it:

"The invasion of Normandy to the average person was the greatest combined operation that had ever taken place, and that in fact was the truth. However, few people know of the work carried out by small, special units, both before the operation, and during the initial assaults. We were one of the small units which had this particular role to play. A role which was not easy, and from which many of us did not expect to return, but one which we were determined to carry out until our work was completed. For the invasion of Normandy the Force Commanders used approximately a hundred and twenty officers and men of the Locku units divided into ten parties, or units. Each unit had an officer and eleven men, and each was allotted to its own beach and had its own particular job to do. In my case, and that of a brother officer, we found ourselves detailed to deal with the obstacles on a beach near the village of La Riviere.

"We were supposed to go in at H hour, which was the very beginning of the assault. We were dropped into our craft from an L.S.I. at seven o'clock in the morning and went hell-for-leather for the beach, and arrived hoping to find the front row of obstacles on the water's edge, and not in the water, but discovered some two or three feet of water over them. We left our craft and got to work at once on posts with mines secured to the tops of them, specially constructed wooden ramps which were mined, and steel hedgehogs with mines and anti-aircraft shells on top of them, and we were subjected the whole time to quite a hot fire from rockets, shells and bombs.

"We must have been about four hundred yards from the beach when the firing first started, and they didn't forget to inform us that they knew we were coming. When we finally got on the beach we discovered that we were being systematically sniped, not only with rifles but also by odd bursts of machine-gun fire - a most unpleasant experience - but one that we soon got used to. As time went on we almost forgot about it until we realised that opposition was dying down because in the meantime the Army had landed and was dealing with machine-gun posts, mortar posts, and all the other unpleasant places Jerry had prepared for us.

"The weather was very much worse than anyone would have expected in June, and we had the greatest difficulty working in a very heavy surf. It was hard going and we soon got pretty tired, but in the meantime the obstacles were being slowly but systematically destroyed. As we made an initial gap for the landing craft to come through, so we increased the size of the gap as time went on. We succeeded in clearing the whole of the beach some thousand yards in length, with obstacles going out to over four hundred yards by the end of "D" day.

"That didn't end our work, of course, although the worst was over. Landing craft of all shapes and sizes were simply pouring on to the beach, and in the meantime, having cleared that beach, we had to proceed to another beach and get rid of the obstacles there. In all, we successfully disposed of over two thousand five hundred obstacles, practically every one mined, in addition to this, as a sort of savoury, we cleared the explosives out of half a dozen beetle tanks.

"Not long before 'D' day a special jacket had been invented to protect us against that terrible blast which can be experienced when a mine or shell explodes underwater. This jacket was known as a 'Kapok Jacket' and was worn underneath our swim suits. It proved to be a most wonderful thing, and saved the lives of no less than three of my men. One of my petty officers, who was working in about six feet of water, had a shell or mortar bomb explode in the water quite close to him, and although he was completely knocked out, and in fact paralysed for several hours, he had no injuries whatever, and no after effects. A Royal Engineer who was swimming towards the beach from one of the landing craft, and was some distance farther away from the explosion than the petty officer, was killed outright, and I have no doubt that many men suffered the same fate on that day.

"I would like to make it quite clear that we don't in any way look upon ourselves as supermen, or heroes, or anything like that at all, and we did not by any means clear all the obstacles off the beaches in time for the landing craft to get in. There were nowhere near enough of us to have hoped to do it. What we could, and did do, was to clear an initial gap for the landing craft to beach safely, and to increase that gap as quickly as possible until the beach was entirely free from obstacles.

"Consequently many of the landing craft who didn't use the gap, because of the simple fact that there just wasn't room for them, struck obstacles, or had holes blown in them or their bottoms torn out, with the result that many men had to swim ashore with full equipment.

"When our original job had been completed we had to keep our reputation as 'Jack the Handyman' by doing many jobs to assist on the beaches, such as winching drowned vehicles out of the water. We did this by taking a wire with a hook on the end, right out to sea in our swim suits and breathing sets, hook up the vehicle, come to the surface and signal to the operator ashore to start up his winch, which he did, and pulled the drowned vehicle up high and dry. We helped to unload stores, we cleared mines, we assisted the Royal Engineers, in fact we did everything except mind the babies, and if there had been any there we would have done that too.

"Throughout the landings, in all ten units, the total casualties were two frogmen killed and ten wounded - some seriously. Lt. Hargreaves was wounded in the shoulder, but carried on. One of the coolest pieces of work was done by Sgt. K. Briggs, D.S.M., R.M., who, although he was being sniped at all the time, rendered a hundred charges safe, single-handed.

On another beach at West Capelle was Sub-Lt. I. A. P. Rumsey, D.S.C., R.N.V.R., whose home is in Lisbon. He said:

"We were spotted from a tower ashore and were subjected to pretty heavy mortar fire during which a petty officer was killed and two men were wounded. Later the R.A.F. blotted out the tower and things were more comfortable although shells still kept coming over. One shell destroyed our breathing apparatus, which we had not been using as the tide was low. When the water came up later, Leading Seaman A. Robertson and myself tried staying underwater by holding our breath. We blew about fifteen obstacles in this way, but we couldn't keep it up. We carried on next morning, after sleeping in a R.A.F. crater, where incidentally we were subjected to fire from an 88mm gun.

"This party became short of food and an expedition went into the shattered town to forage. "We found a chicken," said Lt. Rumsey, "which was very difficult to catch, and even more difficult to kill. We also found some black bread and some German spam. I don't know if it was because I was so hungry, but that spam tasted better than any we ever had at home."​

I was proud to be a friend of the Petty Officer who, thanks to his Kapok Jacket, survived the explosion in the water "quite close to him". He eventually became Lt Cdr Robbie Robinson MBE RN who suffered severe pain from his injuries (he described himself as having been "filleted") right up to his death in March 2004.

Pathé News produced this post-war film about the LCOCUs: Naval Frogmen - LCOCU
The Minesweeping Operation 5-6 June 1944
(Courtesy of David Verghese)


The seaborne assault and landing phases of the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944 was perhaps the largest, most intricate and meticulously planned naval endeavour in WWII. Paramount to its success was the absolute necessity for a vast amount of requisite detailed work in its conception, planning and execution to maximise success and minimise intent to the enemy. Nothing could be overlooked in the planning of this ambitious operation if the landing forces were to gain a successful bridgehead and lodgement, with the necessary elements of surprise and speed, upon the five designated beach areas and beyond. It seems incredible today to realise that approximately seven thousand individual vessels were to be involved in the subsequent period to the end of July 1944, including warships, troop landing craft, transport, supply and support ships.

To the minesweepers and their attendant consorts was to fall the responsibility of leading the assault forces to the Normandy beaches. Contingent upon their effectiveness and timely efficiency in clearing the German mine barrier protecting the area, there lay the potential to cross that finely dividing line between success, or otherwise, for the opening day of this amphibious opposed invasion to establish the second front. The interested researcher can find much of relevance regarding Operation Neptune in official Admiralty archives, naval and war museums and indeed one’s local public library. Conspicuous by their absence are accounts of minesweeping operations and movement logs of individual minesweepers or their flotillas. Yet the minesweeping workloads during the months of June and July 1944 were absolutely vital to the success of the beach landings in terms of men and materiel. That relatively few warships, transport or landing craft were seriously damaged or lost due to conventional mines is fitting testament to the organisation and work of the plucky crews of these valiant, but unheralded little ships, who assured that approach routes, bombarding ship and landing craft anchorages were as free as possible of mines.

Fig (i) courtesy of Algerine Association

By well into 1944 minefields were known to have been laid in depth south of latitude 50 degrees N to within ten miles of the French coastline; these fields stretched from offshore Boulogne to the Seine Bay (see map (i)). South of the mined area existed a clear channel used by the Kriegsmarine. The Allied naval planners intended to utilise this channel as the lowering positions for the landing ships to bring in the infantry troops. Ground mines were assumed to be laid between this channel and the beach areas – and these would need to be swiftly cleared just prior to the landings, and opportunity denied to the enemy to lay further mines.

The sea mining of the waters chosen for Operation NEPTUNE was potentially both a lethal and most disruptive weapon available for the German forces. The Neptune routing plan devised involved directing amphibious forces from a large number of ports in southern Britain into Area ‘Z’ (see map (ii)) before turning southwards through the ‘Spout’ and into what would be initially ten channels leading to the lowering positions in the beach assault areas.

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Map (ii)) courtesy of Gordon Smith, and adapted from Stephen Roskill’s War at Sea


The Minesweeping Operational Plan, drawn directly up by Admiral Bertram Ramsey and the Task Force Commanders (Eastern: Rear Adm. Sir Philip Vian RN; Western: Rear Adm. Alan G. Kirk USN), was essentially in the following four overall parts:

(i) In respect of each of the five beach Assault Forces (designated U, O, G, J and S), two channels would be cleared S.S.E. through the mine barrier for the first wave of amphibious infantry on what would be termed D-Day. One assault channel would be for 12 knot convoys and one for slower 5 knot convoys. These channels were to be numbered 1-10 from west to east. A Fleet Minesweeping Flotilla (MSF) of nine ships would be allocated to each channel to sweep well ahead of the invasion vessels. It was of paramount importance to conceal from the enemy the time and place, and indeed intent, of the landings by the forces following up behind.

(ii) Inshore of the coastal channel a Minesweeping Flotilla would precede the movement of the Bombarding Forces of warships to clear the presence of any mines right up to the anchorages of these ships. (the final D-Day positions of the bombarding ships in relation to the five paired channels and the beach areas is shown in map (iii) courtesy of combined ops website). These Bombarding Forces (designated A, C, K, E and D) would target enemy fortifications, gun battery emplacements and reinforcing armour that might be brought up from their reserve points to pose an immediate threat to the LSI(L) craft disgorging infantry onto the five beach areas. There were ground mines, acoustic and magnetic, thought to populate the inshore areas, and the pathway of the bombarding ships had to be commenced as soon as the channels were initially cleared.

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Map (iii) The Operation Neptune Bombarding Forces on June 6 1944

(iii) When the above two tasks were accomplished, planned to be by 0500, the next phase would be to widen the mine-freed approach channels to form a broad area ( known as the ‘SPOUT’) to allow passage of supply and equipment vessels carrying armoured fighting vehicles.

(iv) Constant re-clearing activities were to be maintained in order to nullify mines dropped by parachute from enemy planes or laid from E-boats. To counteract Allied success the enemy did, to some limited extent only, engage on this re-laying with all types of mine including the relatively new oyster mine – these latter were designed to actuate by changes in water pressure as a ship passed in its immediate vicinity. Allied vessels were obliged to slow their speed to a point where pressure generated would be too low to trigger actuation.

Thus one can begin to appreciate the inherent potential danger facing the minesweepers and their crews if the enemy, realising the intent and efficacy of the mine clearing operation, responded with air and fast E-boat attack in the early dawn light. Kriegsmarine Group West actually failed (much to the frustration of Vice Admiral F. Ruge, Rommel’s Naval Advisor) to reinforce the mine barrier with new mines and to lay ground mines with delay action fuses off the beaches. This would have made the task of the minesweeping flotillas much more difficult given the time constraints of the overall operational requirements. They were required to keep station and make difficult turns in changing tides as an operational flotilla in the dark and with rough sea. There is no doubt that the minesweeping flotillas would have to take great risks as an acceptable hazard – if engaged they were required to keep to their sweeping courses as allocated. Incredibly, several of MSFs encountered no enemy reaction as they reached the southern end of their respective channels, allowing them to turn parallel to the beaches sweeping for some distance, before heading northwards to sweep ahead of the Bombarding Forces or to widen the channels.

Order of Battle of the MS Flotillas

In total, about 350 vessels of many types took part in the mine clearing operation of June 5-6. Within each Channel-tasked MSF the typically eight Fleet Minesweepers used (a further was held as reserve for each channel) carried not only gear in abundance to deal with the various types of mines they might encounter but also equipment to deal with the anti-sweeping devices built into the mines. The Fleet Minesweepers were augmented by usually four Danlayers and a small number of Harbour Defence Motor Launches. The latter vessels shallow swept ahead of the Fleet Minesweepers in a protective role. There were other classes of minesweepers as outlined in the table below, and the final type of vessels were the Oropesa “twin Longitudinal line” (or LL) Trawlers of the RN Groups 131, 139, 159 and 181. Two were allocated for each channel flotilla, their equipment being specialised for the sweeping of magnetic mines.

It is worth noting the very precise work of the Danlayers in each Flotilla. Of the four vessels, and occasionally a minesweeper in reserve was tasked for this role, one pair was to follow the Flotilla Leader’s sweep to mark one side of the allocated channel with lighted dan buoys, the other pair would follow the rear minesweeper to mark the opposite side of the channel, each channel varying from 400-1200 yards width. The minesweepers swept in what is termed ‘G’ formation of roughly quarter line, each ship being covered by the outside portion of her next ahead’s sweep wire. The first dan buoy displayed particular flags and a characteristic light to distinguish it clearly from the dan buoys of the neighbouring channels. The next three buoys were laid near the centre line of the channel and then the channel was marked at one-mile intervals, each side of the channel having the same lights and flag, but different to the light and flags of the other side. The reserve pair of danlayers filled in the gaps where buoy lights were broken. By late June 7 Trinity House would replace the dan buoys with ocean light buoys. In the opening phase of Operation Neptune covering June 5-6, the 350 (approx) total minesweeping force carried out tasks as follows:

Flotilla / Class or Type / Role covered

1st / Halcyon / Swept Channel 9 ahead of Force S
4th / Aberdare (Hunts) / Swept Channel 4 ahead of Force O
6th / Algerine / Swept Channel 5
7th / Algerine / Swept Channel 8
7th USM Squadron / AM(US) / Swept ahead of USS Nevada, Tuscaloosa and Quincy
9th / Bangor / Swept Channel 7 ahead of Force J
14th / Bangor / Swept Channel 2 ahead of Force U
15th / Bangor / Swept Channel 10
16th / Bangor / Swept Channel 1 ahead of Force U
18th / Algerine / Swept Channel 6 ahead of Force G
31st RCN / Bangor / Swept Channel 3
32nd RCN / Bangor / Used as required
40th / Catherine (BAMS) / Followed the 15th MSF down Channel 10, then proceeded to within 2 miles of beach area, then met and swept ahead of Bombarding Force D which was protecting the Force S assault craft.

The British YMS, YMS (US) and British Motor Minesweepers below were given the role to sweep the inshore areas, especially the boat lanes between the transport areas and the beaches, and subsequently the artificial Mulberry harbours after the assault phase. They were equipped with light sweeping gear especially designed for sweeping magnetic and acoustic influence mines in shallow waters. A small number of LCTs were also similarly equipped.

British Yard Mine Sweeping (BYMS) Flotillas: 150th, 159th, 165th, 167th

YMS Flotillas (US): Y1 and Y2

Motor Mine Sweeping (MMS) Flotillas: 101st, 102nd, 104th, 115th, 132nd, 143rd, 205th

By 0330 the ten channels had been swept by the Fleet Minesweeping Flotillas and shortly after the inshore areas parallel to the landing beaches had been swept by the BYMS, YMS and MMS ships. The Assault Flotillas were well into their passage to the Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha Beaches to arrive by H-hour, and the bombarding squadrons of battleships, cruisers, monitors and destroyers were now ready to let loose the most concentrated firepower of naval ordnance ever experienced in the history of sea warfare against a land-based foe.

The minesweeping flotillas, having been given the honour of leading the way for the Allied Assault Forces, now moved northwards, either widening the channels or withdrawing to holding areas in what was to become, over the next few days, the ‘Trout Line’. This was a defence barrier set up around the Normandy anchorage to protect the ships from the multiple threats of E-boats, R-boats, human 'Neger' torpedoes and Linsen explosive motor boats. The ‘Trout Line’ itself was composed of LC(Guns), LC(Flak) and LC(Supply) set up in a continuous double line one cable apart. The minesweepers slotted in at 5-cables (half mile) intervals six miles seaward on each side and parallel to the beaches. Sword Beach, on the eastern flank, was particular vulnerable to attack from the Le Havre area and enemy submarines were always a potential risk apart from the offensive threats above".

Coastal Forces Control Frigates patrolled just outside the line sometimes augmented by destroyers thereby adding to defence in depth. Ships' speeds had to be tempered, knowing the potential to actuate the newish oyster mines.

Those 350 or so ships, from the Flotilla leaders to the Fairmile B MLs, had engaged in the most meticulously planned and well executed minesweeping operation ever undertaken and all had survived by the end of D-Day on June 6.

D-Day-SeineBay1 med.jpg
Mines swept in Seine Bay 6 June to 31 July 1944

(Courtesy of Michael Friend)

This narrative will close with a fitting tribute paid to all those involved, by the Naval Commander of the Western Task Force, Rear Admiral Alan Kirk USN. (ADM 234/366 p. 49):

"It can be said without fear of contradiction that minesweeping was the keystone in the arch of this operation. All of the waters were suitable for mining, and plans of unprecedented complexity were required. The performance of the minesweepers can only be described as magnificent."
D-Day Minesweeping - A Few More Facts

306 Allied minesweepers participated in the initial D-Day assault on 6 June 1944. These included 274 from the Royal Navy, 84 of which had been built in America under Lend-Lease. 32 minesweepers flew the US Navy ensign and 15 of the Bangor Class fleet minesweepers were built in Canada and manned by Canadians. The Canadian 31st MS Flotilla (Bangors) swept 78 mines in the first 7 days of the operation. 36 converted RN Fairmile ‘B’ MLs (Motor Launches) were also used to conduct skim sweeps ahead of fleet Minesweeper Flotillas and many converted landing craft undertook snag-line sweeps in the shallows.

British minesweeping forces assigned to Operation NEPTUNE for the Normandy invasion included:

25 x Algerine Class fleet minesweepers
29 x Bangor Class fleet minesweepers
12 x Catherine Class BAMS (British American Minesweepers) fleet minesweepers
9 x Halcyon Class fleet minesweepers
9 x Aberdare Class ('Smokey Joes' - improved Hunt Class dating from WW I) fleet minesweepers
40 x BYMS (British Yard Minesweepers) coastal minesweepers
61 x MMS (Motor Minesweepers or ‘Mickey Mouse’) coastal minesweepers
38 x danlaying trawlers
36 x Fairmile ‘B’ MLs for inshore work.

It is worth noting that this comprised only 25% of the RN’s minesweeping forces at the time; the rest were still involved in keeping UK coastal routes and port approaches clear or were operating in other theatres of the war.

Two ships in each fleet Minesweeper Flotilla were fitted with radio countermeasures to confuse the German fire control radar as were a number of BYMS and MMS. Escorting coastal craft and aircraft produced smoke screens to mask sweeping operations.

The danlaying force in the British sector included 8 converted fleet minesweepers built during the war and 25 pre-war trawlers each carrying 70 danbuoys. The coastal minesweepers (BYMS, American YMS and MMS) performed their own danlaying. Taut Wire Measuring Gear assisted the accurate measurement of distances along channels and ten underwater sonic beacons were laid, using radio navigation, to provide accurate reference points for the start of each main channel. HMS Vernon produced 1,500 lights for danbuoys to mark the edges of channels plus 200 flashing lights for the ends of channels. On the night, they all worked well and gave a ‘fairyland look’ to the whole area of sea between the Isle of Wight and the beaches.

Southwick House D-day Map.jpg
Southwick House D-Day Map

Some days before D-Day, a large circle of water (Picadilly Circus) was swept a few miles south-east of the Isle of Wight connected to the existing swept channels off Southern England. On the night before the invasion, ten channels were cut south towards the Normandy coast. On the morning of the assault, channels and boat lanes were then swept into the beaches. These operations were broken down into 100 different serials, complicated by bad weather and severe cross-tides. The original intention had been for the fleet sweepers to wire-sweep and the coastal sweepers to influence-sweep but soon the fleet sweepers were also influence-sweeping and the BYMS, US YMS and some of the MMS were wire-sweeping on a wide scale too.

Despite coming under coastal battery fire and attack by E-boats, minesweeping casualties were relatively light to begin with. On 4 June, the sweeper USS Osprey was sunk in a moored minefield south of the Isle of Wight and the fleet sweeper USS Tide was mined on 7 June.

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Mining of USS Tide 7 June 1944

Among other ships, however, mines claimed the destroyer USS Corry off Utah Beach three minutes before the assault hit the beaches and the American PC 1261 and 16 landing craft were lost later that day. On 7 June, the fleet destroyer HMS Swift was mined together with three more landing craft. On 8 June, the destroyers USS Glennon and USS Meredith, the destroyer escort USS Rich, the British netlayer Minster, the US LST 499 and several landing craft were all sunk in the same minefield while the destroyer USS Harding was heavily damaged.

Perhaps the greatest blow to British minesweeping forces occurred when three Catherine Class BAMS were lost off Normandy over a three day period a month after D-Day. On 6 July, HMS Cato and HMS Magic were sunk by Neger human torpedoes and on 8 July, HMS Pylades was sunk by a Neger. Some sources state Biber midget submarines were among the perpetrators but according to Biber operator Enrico Doering, these did not start operations off Normandy until August 1944.
The UK Government has published this information with an interactive map showing areas subject to restrictions:
UK Government 8 Apr 2014 said:
Advice for British Nationals travelling to the Commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy.

The Commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy will take place over 5 and 6 June 2014. Her Majesty The Queen and many other Heads of State are expected to attend the commemorations. This will inevitably lead to tight security constraints and many ceremonies and sites in the region will have stringent access control in place by the French authorities.

The main international ceremony will be held on Sword Beach in Ouistreham, Calvados. The main UK/French bi-national ceremony will be held within the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery, Bayeux, Calvados. There will also be ceremonies at locations such as Bayeux Cathedral, Arromanches, and Ranville. Other bi-national ceremonies will also be held on Juno Beach and Omaha Beach. Exact times, locations and participants have not yet been announced. News and information on the commemorations can be found on the specific site...(more)
This may annoy some of the more senior of the Crab bashing fraternity but the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force were ashore on OMAHA Beach at 061700ZJUN44 with 27 specialised vehicles fitted with Radar and Radio Communications equipment. They were No 15082 GCI Unit with the function of providing RADAR early warning and forward Fighter Control for the American assault forces. For their efforts, 4 Military Crosses, 2 Military Medals and a Croix de Guerre each to their Chaplain, Medical Officer, Commanding Officer and the Chief Technical Officer were awarded. I didn't know that until today. A fairly good account is given in
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Things are happening:

Five days of events and international flotilla to mark D-Day 70th anniversary
Royal Navy website 10 Apr 2014 said:
Five days of events ashore and at sea will mark Portsmouth’s key role as a springboard for the Normandy landings. A flotilla of ships – including HMS Richmond – will leave the city bound for France as part of 70th anniversary commemorations of D-Day this June.

Five days of events ashore and at sea will mark Portsmouth’s key role as a springboard for the Normandy landings – 70 years on from D-Day. The Royal Navy and Portsmouth City Council today launched a programme of events to mark the milestone anniversary. The city was the focal point for events marking the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the 1944 landings – and intends to be the hub again on this side of the Channel seven decades on from the greatest amphibious operation in history.

A veterans’ village will be set up on Southsea Common from June 3-8 for the dwindling band of survivors who took part in Operation Overlord to meet up. Veterans are expected from all over the world.

On June 5 there will be a traditional drum head ceremony on the common, performance by the Royal Marines Band and a military parade involving serving personnel, veterans and cadets. The Royal Marines will stage a beach landing and the Red Arrows will perform a 20-minute display over the waterfront, before a flotilla of ships – including Portsmouth-based frigate HMS Richmond – heads across the Channel to take part in international commemorations on Norman shores.

June 5 concludes in Portsmouth with a ‘sunset concert for heroes’ by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on the common.

June 6 begins with the annual service of remembrance at the D-Day Stone in Southsea, followed by a parade along the seafront past the D-Day Museum and statue of Field Marshal Montgomery to the common, where people will be able to watch proceedings across the Channel beamed live on to giant TV screens.

June 7 and 8 are dedicated to ‘the D-Day Experience’ on Southsea Common with entertainment, contemporary vehicles, a vintage market, showings of war films, talks, displays, street theatre shows and much more to capture the spirit of 1944. There will also be a 40s-style concert on the common on June 7, closing with fireworks.

With few surviving veterans, this year is also an opportunity to capture the stories and images of those who took part.

“It's a very proud moment to be able to meet Normandy veterans and mark the anniversary. It's very important people actually listen to these stories and remember that a lot of people did lose their lives,” said 22-year-old AB Sarah George from HMS Richmond. “Without meeting the veterans, they wouldn't be able to tell me their stories about what actually happened on D-Day, and without hearing those stories I can't pass it on to my son. Otherwise these could just be distant memories soon.”

Cllr Lee Hunt, the council's Cabinet Member for Culture said given the area’s vital role in 1944 – General Eisenhower established his HQ at Southwick House just north of Portsmouth – the city was making every effort to commemorate the 70th anniversary. “We want to honour the actions of all men and women involved and it's important surviving veterans and those who played vital roles in the operation take centre stage. This is why it's so important Normandy veterans and their families contact us so we can make sure they're invited as guests of honour to all events. With a range of events aimed at commemoration and also harnessing the spirit of community during the conflict we hope many residents and visitors will join us."
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MoD website 10 Apr 2014 said:
Details on accreditation and funding for D-Day 70 commemorations in France on 6 June 2014 for veterans, family members and those accompanying them.

If you are a veteran, family member, or accompanying someone who took part in the Normandy campaign and plan to attend the commemorations in France on 6 June , you will need to register your details with the Ministry of Defence in advance in order to gain access to the invasion beaches and surrounding areas, such as Arromanches, Bayeux, Caen, Ouistreham and in the American sector. As a major anniversary, significantly more people than normal are planning to attend this year’s commemorations, putting significant pressure on the transport network, and as a result the French authorities will be putting in place stringent access control...

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued separate travel advice to the public for those wishing to make the journey to Normandy during the D-Day 70 commemorations here. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued separate travel advice to the public for those wishing to make the journey to Normandy during the D-Day 70 commemorations here...

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has issued separate travel advice to the public for those wishing to make the journey to Normandy during the D-Day 70 commemorations here.

Funding for your trip

Veterans wishing to return to Normandy in June will be able to apply for financial support from the Big Lottery Fund, who last February extended their “Heroes’ Return 2 Scheme” till December 2015. This scheme enables veterans and their spouses, widows and widowers, and accompanying helpers to undertake the journey. Details of the scheme can be found at:

For further information on planned D-Day 70 commemorations in the United Kingdom and Normandy please see the events page.
Portsmouth News 11 Apr 2014 said:
PRINCESS Anne will join veterans, members of the armed forces and the public to mark this year’s 70th anniversary of D-Day in Portsmouth. June 6 will mark 70 years since the D-Day landings – one of the most significant events of the Second World War – took place.

Portsmouth was one of the key locations across the south coast where thousands of Allied troops left for the beaches of Normandy. This year, Portsmouth City Council says it wants the city to again be the British focus of the commemorations and has announced a line-up of events taking place from May until June. It includes a major drumhead ceremony, which will be attended by the Princess Royal.

D-Day veteran Frank Rosier, 88, from Cowplain, has welcomed the events. He said: ‘Portsmouth was at the centre of that operation and it’s right we hold these 70th anniversary commemorations here. I was an 18-year-old boy who survived the blitz, had never seen a dead body, and arrived in the second wave and the carnage on that beach brought me to a halt. It was a horror film, I can’t begin to describe it. We must never, ever forget those boys who lay dead on those beaches, the army, the air force and the navy boys. Pure and simple, they fought for something us Brits get a bit blase about – it’s called freedom.’

As reported in The News, there will be a series of events taking place from May through to June, including a 20-minute aerobatic display from the elite Red Arrows flying team.

Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Sarah George, 22, from Gosport, will sail to Normandy with her ship HMS Richmond. She met veteran Frank at a launch event at the D-Day Museum yesterday. ET(ME) George said: ‘It’s a very proud moment to be able to meet Normandy veterans and mark the anniversary. It’s very important people actually listen to these stories and remember that a lot of people did lose their lives. Otherwise these could just be distant memories soon.’

Portsmouth City Council is encouraging all Normandy veterans to contact them to make sure they are invited to all the events taking place.

Councillor Lee Hunt, the city councillor in charge of culture, said: ‘We want to honour the actions of all men and women involved and it’s important surviving veterans and those who played vital roles in the operation take centre stage. This is why it’s so important Normandy veterans and their families contact us so we can make sure they’re invited as guests of honour to all events.’

For more information, you can call (023) 9283 4109 or e-mail [email protected].


May 10 to May 11

A two-day conference will take place to look at the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy. There will be a range of expert speakers and historians at the event, including Max Arthur and a visit to Southwick House where General Eisenhower gave the command for D-Day. The conference takes place at the D-Day Museum.


June 5

A drumhead ceremony attended by Princess Anne will see veterans, cadets, members of the public and the Royal Marines Band Portsmouth remembering those killed during the D-Day landings. There will also be a military parade along the seafront. Later in the day, there will be an amphibious landing demonstration by Royal Marines landing on Southsea seafront. The Red Arrows will also put on a 20-minute aerobatic display.

In the afternoon, a flotilla of ships from various nations will set sail from Portsmouth for France, where they will take part in international commemorations.

In the evening, a concert produced by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra will take place on Southsea Common to pay tribute to the veterans and their families, who will be guests of honour. The programme will feature film, music and moments of commemoration.

June 6

A remembrance service will be held at the D-Day Stone in Southsea to honour those killed during the D-Day landings. After the ceremony there will be a military parade from the D-Day Stone along the seafront, past the D-Day Museum, and the statue of Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery to Southsea Common. People will be able to bring a picnic and watch live coverage of the commemorations in Normandy on big screens which will be put up across Southsea Common.

June 7

To mark the 20th anniversary of Portsmouth’s naval reservist unit being commissioned, a parade of reservists from HMS King Alfred will march along Southsea seafront. There will be a family-oriented concert on Southsea Common featuring the hit music of the 1940s, with live singers and bands building up to a fireworks finale. People are encouraged to come along in 1940s clothes and take part in the fun.

June 7 & June 8

A weekend of entertainment and activities for all the family, featuring music from the 1940s, arena displays and parades, military vehicles, lindy hop dancers, a 1940s vintage market, war film screenings, talks by local veterans, photographic displays and street theatre performances.

June 3 to June 8

A veterans’ village at Southsea Common will be set up for veterans to gather and meet up with former comrades. The village will open on June 3 and will grow larger as more veterans arrive each day.

*Exact timings for these events have yet to be confirmed. Keep up-to-date with The News and


Book Reviewer
Taking 'engineering' in its broadest sense of identifying and organising components, D-Day must surely be the greatest feat of engineering in the history of the world
Planned TV and radio coverage of the day's events:
BBC website 11 Apr 2014 said:
The 70th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings is to be marked by a series of programmes on BBC TV and radio.

Chris Evans will broadcast his Radio 2 breakfast show live from the Normandy beaches on 6 June, while Huw Edwards will present the corporation's coverage of the day's commemoration ceremonies. A service of remembrance will also be broadcast live from Bayeux Cemetery.

Sophie Raworth will present four BBC One programmes about the event in the week leading up to the anniversary.

On BBC Two, historian James Holland will take a fresh look at the wider 77-day campaign in one-off documentary Normandy 44.

Other offerings on Radio 2 include a Jeremy Vine show broadcast from HMS Belfast and a Friday Night is Music Night from the Royal Albert Hall. Vine will host the event with Dermot O'Leary and Louise Minchin, with performances from folk singer Seth Lakeman and the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Radio 4, meanwhile, will air D-Day Dames, a documentary about female US war correspondents working in London in June 1944.

The June 6 attack saw more than 156,000 Allied troops storm the beaches of France and marked the beginning of the end of World War Two.

This year's commemoration ceremonies at Arromanches, France, will be the biggest since the 60th anniversary of D-Day in 2004. "We all owe so much to the brave servicemen and women who took part in the D-Day campaign," said Danny Cohen, director of BBC television. "It is a privilege to commemorate and mark this incredibly important anniversary with a range of programming across BBC TV, radio and online."

An outline of anniversary events in Normandy:
Daily Telegraph 17 Apr 2014 said:
Our Normandy expert explains how the anniversary of the D-Day landings will be commemorated this June, and suggests the best way to visit the key beaches, museums and war cemeteries...

What is happening

Heads of state including the Queen, presidents Obama and Hollande, and Chancellor Merkel will attend the official ceremony on the afternoon of Friday, June 6. Although recent such events have focussed on the imposing American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, this time around it’s being staged ten miles east in the British sector, at the Channel port of Ouistreham on Sword Beach.

Only a privileged few can attend the governmental ceremonies, but the anniversary week will also see several large-scale public events. The most spectacular is likely to be a huge firework display on the evening of June 5, which will be visible from 24 beachfront towns. There will also be a massive picnic on Omaha Beach on the evening of Saturday June 7, featuring a Glenn Miller tribute band, while that same evening Bayeux, which became the first town in France to be liberated on June 7, 1944, will mark the anniversary with a Liberation Ball and an open-air jazz and gospel concert. Other events will include an outdoor film screening and concert at Arromanches on June 6; a children’s international football tournament in various coastal towns on June 7 and June 8; and 1940s flash mobs dancing in the streets of Carentan on June 7, and Ste-Mère-Église on June 8.

The crucial role of parachutists in the Allied invasion will be honoured by mass parachute jumps over Carentan at 1pm on June 4; Ste-Marie-du-Mont at 7.30pm on June 5; near Ranville, close to Pegasus Bridge, later that evening; and over Ste-Mère-Eglise at 11am at June 8. Members of the public can even join tandem parachute jumps at Ste-Mère-Eglise on June 6 and June 7 (€365 per person; 0033 233 21 00 33), while the Patrouille de France, the French equivalent of the RAF’s Red Arrows, will perform above Arromanches at 4pm on June 7.

Vintage military vehicles will parade along Omaha Beach from Vierville-sur-Mer on June 5; in Ste-Mère-Église on June 6; between Grandcamp-Maisy and Isigny-sur-Mer on June 7; through the streets of Bayeux and Carentan on Sunday June 8; and in Arromanches on June 9.

During the anniversary week, several communities will host reconstructions of Allied camps. The Arizona camp in Carentan is expected to welcome 420 participants and 150 military vehicles, and similar encampments will open in Colleville-sur-Mer, St-Laurent-sur-Mer, Vierville-sur-Mer and Ste-Mère-Église.

Accommodation is already over-subscribed for the anniversary week itself, though places are still available on some of the tours listed below. Visit at any other time during the summer, however, and it shouldn’t be hard to find a place to stay in the low-key resorts that line the invasion beaches, or the towns of Bayeux and Caen just inland.

Not much mention of the contribution by the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy to date. Can we assume they will be strongly represented at these events as they were in June 1944 (6,939 vessels and 195,700 personnel) or will HMS Richmond be the sum total?
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