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Published on June 17th, 2014 | by Sally Wenham

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D-Day: The Longest Day

Codenamed ‘Operation Overlord’, the D-Day landings combined efforts of Allied British, American, Canadian and other forces to invade Western Europe, which was occupied at that time by the Germans and eventually led to the restoration of the French Republic.

The Allied forces landed on five beaches, codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword with the overall aim of the landings to link these beaches together and also to take the German strongholds of Caen, Carentan, St Lô and Bayeux.

During the efforts of 6th June 1944, 10,000 Allied and 1,000 German casualties were recorded. Of the 10,000 Allied casualties, 4,144 of these were confirmed fatalities. Due to the heavy number of casualties incurred during the Normandy Landings, D-Day is known to many as ‘The Longest Day’. However, irrespective of the high casualty count; D-Day was one of the pivotal points in World War 2 and is regarded as a turning point of the war in Western Europe against the Nazi invasion.

Here is a timeline of pivotal events during D-Day:

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00:16 – Gliders land near Pegasus Bridge which results in gliders and Paratroopers securing the eastern flank of the landings.

00:20 – 04:15 – US 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions dropped at the base of the Cherbourg peninsula. The British 6th Airborne division dropped east of Caen.

04:30 – British Airborne troops attack the Merville Battery which was a position for German long range guns.

06:30 – 07:45 – H Hour: The landings of Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno and Gold beaches begin. The landings were preceded by a heavy bombardment of the beach by warships and aircraft.

07:50 – Numbers 4 and 10 of the Free French Commando land. Heavy fighting now follows on the beaches.

09:00 – German 84th Commando learn of the Allied landings.

09:30 – Hermanville is taken. Riva Bella casino strongpoint is captured by the Free French but heavy German opposition halts the advance. The press is informed of the D-Day landings.

10:00 – 12:00 – German strongholds inland are gradually overcome. Rommel is informed of the Allied invasion.

13:30 – On Omaha Beach, American troops advance inland. 1st Special Service Brigade Commandos link up with 6th Airborne Division on Pegasus Bridge.

16:00 – German and British forces see combat between the areas of Bazenville and Villers-Le-Sec. The 9th Brigade move inland.

18:00 – The British advance towards Caen is halted.

20:00 – Benouville is captured and a German counter-attack is made towards the sea between Juno and Sword beaches. The Allies then secure Colville-Sur-Mer.

21:00 – A group of 250+ Allied gliders fly in and deter the German attach. The 185th Brigade halts at Bieville three miles short of Caen.

23:59 – By Midnight 29,000 troops had landed on Sword beach, with fewer than 1,000 casualties. The troops had reached 6 miles inland.

00:00 – All five Allied beach heads are secured but many D-Day objectives remain unachieved.

Information is courtesy of The Royal British Legion. For students and teachers wanting more information on this topic visit The Royal British Legion website to find out about their learning pack.

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