One of the world’s most important weather forecasts ever made was during the Second World War. Meteorologist, Group Captain James Stagg (attached to the Royal Air Force) persuaded General Eisenhower to change the date of the Allied invasion of Europe from the 5th to the 6th of June 1944 – D-Day. Weather also played a key role in the initial decoding of the complex German Enigma code as code breakers discovered the transmission of coded weather data.
In 1942, in preparation for D-Day, the crucial issue of fuel supply for the tanks and vehicles of the Allied forces became a vital consideration for the military staff, charged with the planning of the landings in Normandy and the subsequent advance through France. It was realised that a reliance on oil tankers might bring with it problems…
Source: D-Day | In Times Gone By…
Possibly the greatest double cross operation in British espionage history was nearly ruined by a Spanish double agent’s homesick wife and her horror at wartime British food, newly declassified documents have revealed.
The prominent heights of Pointe du Hoc on the Normandy coast were the scene of a desperate battle during the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944. The strategic promontory overlooks Utah Beach to the wes…
I knew about this disaster but not the details. Horrific.
It was 1944, and the troops were waiting nervously for the barrage on the beach to end. Their stomachs heaved as their clumsy landing craft rode the swell. Nearby, the support vessels and destroyers watched as their orderly line headed for the landing spot. The men concentrated on trying to overcome their sea sickness, their impending landing and the assault they’d have to make once they made it to shore.
This wasn’t the heart-in-mouth assault on the beaches of Normandy on June 6 – one of history’s greatest ever naval landings that signalled the end of Hitler’s dominance in Europe. No, this was a few weeks earlier – at Slapton Sands, a beautiful beach in Devon, England.
It was a Royal Navy and US Army training exercise called Operation Tiger – the last one before the real thing. But the events that would unfold on the morning of April 28…
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Tucked away at the end of a platform at Bristol Temple Meads railways station, there are some photographs taken by Mark Perham (for a project called ‘Reverberations’ ) of people who work, or have worked, at the station. When I spotted them the other day, as I waited for a train, they moved me; they made me think how many people have given day after day, year after year of their working lives to that station. They made me think how precious are individual lives – lived only once. And they made me reflect, too, on the fact that when each person retires – or dies – that deep accretion of experience, built up over all those days and years, leaves with them.
I thought of this same point when reading coverage of the D-Day commemorations last week in Normandy. I was shocked to realise that, all too soon, the whole of the generation that served in World War II will have gone.
When I was growing up, it was the World War I generation that was elderly, whose numbers were dwindling; even so, I heard many desperately moving interviews with veterans on television and radio, and there were many men and women attending the yearly commemorations who had been there. The World War II generation, by contrast, seemed robust and all around me – energetic people in their 60s. My great-uncle told me stories of his war service in the Middle East and my grandfather (to my great delight) gave me the fascinating coins he’d collected while serving in North Africa – and his Army Ordnance Corps badges too. Although both wars were (of course) a very long way from my own experience, neither felt completely out of reach, since the thread connecting me to them was a living one. Knowing (or seeing) individuals who had been involved, and hearing them speak of their experiences, played a huge part in this sense of proximity and emotional connection. As my children learn now about the World Wars at school, I am aware how different it is for them: once a generation has gone, once the events they lived through have passed out of personal memory and into what we call ‘history’, that connection can never be quite the same…
The juxtaposition of then and now really brings it home. If we but knew it, we’re stepping over dead bodies all the time.
On June 6, 1944, allied soldiers descended on the beaches of Normandy for D-Day – an operation that turned the tide of the Second World War against the Nazis, marking the beginning of the end of the conflict.
Today, as many around the world prepare to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the landings, pictures of Normandy’s now-touristy beaches stand in stark contrast to images taken around the time of the invasion.
Reuters photographer Chris Helgren compiled a series of archive pictures taken during the 1944 invasion and then went back to the same places, to photograph them as they appear today. (Reuters)
A Cromwell tank leads a British Army column from the 4th County of London Yeomanry, 7th Armored Division, inland from Gold Beach after landing on D-Day in Ver-sur-Mer, France, on June 6, 1944. (REUTERS/US National Archives)
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After the rightfully diplomatic D Day commemoration, another event to remember is the war crime at Oradour. If you are reading this today, June 10, it is that exactly 70 years ago that German troops heading north to repel the landings took time out to gather up all the villagers of innocent little French village of Oradour-sur-Glane. They put the women and kids in the church and the men in barns, there to grenade and machine gun to death 642 of them, loot the village and leave it in flames.
The village remains and will forever as the SS left it…
I recommend http://www.oradour.info/general/introd01.htm from whence this photograph is one of many
Re-blogged from The Independent.
Today is D-Day plus 25,565. The pivotal Western European battle of the Second World War is about to pass over the horizon of living memory. Of the 61,000 British soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago this Friday, fewer than 500 are still alive.
The ranks of the 130,000 Americans, Canadians and other nations who took part in the greatest amphibious invasion in history have also been cruelly thinned by time. This week’s commemoration of the Normandy invasion – attended by the world’s leaders from the Queen to Vladimir Putin to Barack Obama – will be the last witnessed by large numbers of survivors.
A year ago, The Independent helped to launch an appeal to ensure that the voices of British veterans of the entire 10-week Normandy campaign – the survivors of the survivors – were not lost for ever. The appeal, though not complete, has been a great success.
Thanks largely to the £10,000 raised by Independent readers, more than 100 interviews have been filmed for a permanent archive, organised by the Normandy Veterans Association (NVA). At least another 150 interviews are being arranged. To reward our readers’ generosity, the NVA has allowed us to publish a selection of the interviews given by the dwindling band of British D-Day veterans. Their memories – recorded in some cases for the first time – offer a compelling eyewitness account of the invasion as seen from different vantage points: the infantryman; the sailor; the airman; the officer; the tank man; the gunner; the landing-craft commander.
Like D-Day itself, recording the “Normandy Voices” has been a race against time. Several veterans have died since their memories were recorded, including Ernie Brewer, the gunner represented here, whose funeral takes place today. His wife, Jeanie, has given permission for the interview to appear as a tribute to him…