Normandy: Gold Beach (British)

Bridging the gap between Sword and Omaha was Gold Beach, assigned to the British. Leading the assault was 50th (Northumbrian) Division, commanded by Major General Douglas Graham. 50th Division was also known as the 'Tyne Tees' Division – originally Territorials recruited from north-east England with a divisional badge that embodied the double T. They were veterans of the Fall of France, North Africa and Sicily.

Defending Gold Beach were the German 716th Division and units of the 352nd. The villages of Ver-sur-Mer and Asnelles were well fortified but many other positions were in exposed positions. The German defence was pinned on hopes that local reserves would be able to counter attack any sector that was threatened. Additional support would come from artillery batteries at Longues and Mont Fleury.
On D-Day, 50th Division would land between Le Hamel and la Riviére with four battalions in the first wave, supported by armour and engineers. Two more battalions followed in reserve. The first task was to overrun the beach defences and seize the high ground beyond. Massive fire support was available from both sea and air. On the right, troops were ordered to capture Arromanches and the Longues Battery whilst on the left, Mont Fleury was the objective. The Division would then press inland to the Caen-Bayeux road.

The landing began at 07.25 on a rising tide. The effects of the bombardment were patchy and whilst some of the German defences were devastated, others were relatively untouched. This posed particular problems near Le Hamel, not helped by delays in the arrival of armour. There was fierce fighting here and some heavy casualties amongst the leading infantry companies, and it was not until about 0915 that some progress inland began. The follow up waves were hampered by strong winds that brought the tide in faster than expected. Many beach obstacles were under water before they could be destroyed by the engineers. As a result, numerous landing craft were damaged as they struck mines.

Fortunately progress on the left was better where the bombardment had been more effective. Within two hours a significant breach in the German defences had been made. The Mont Fleury battery was quickly overcome. Here Company Sergeant Major Stan Hollis of 6th Green Howards distinguished himself in the first of a series of gallant actions for which he was later awarded the Victoria Cross – the only one given on D-Day.

Continued success followed and by the early evening, 25,000 men of the 50th Division had landed on French soil, had advanced six miles inland and had linked up with the Canadians on Juno. They had not reached the Caen-Bayeux road and Arromanches and the Longues Battery would not be taken until the next day. However, the massive firepower at Longues was effectively neutralised by some remarkable naval gunnery from HMS Ajax. Overall, it had been an encouraging beginning at relatively low cost -  there were only 400 D-Day casualties on Gold.


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