British Contribution to the Landing on Omaha Beach

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British Contribution to the Landing on Omaha Beach

Post by Lightbob » 03 Jan 2012 17:24

A little while ago in the waiting room at the local hospital, looking through the usual old magazines, In it was a preview of ‘ Saving Private Ryan; It mentioned the anger of British Veterans at there being no mention of the British involvement at Omaha and the derogatory remarks made by one of the characters. In his defence Steven Spielberg said ‘I’m sorry but Omaha was an American affair’. But was it? After a little searching I found that the British had some important involvement, far more than I thought.

Let’s start with the RAF. In a previous link an American friend was adamant that the RAF did not carry out any attacks on Omaha Beach. On the contrary, the RAF with its attacks persuaded Rommel to move the guns on Pointe Du Hoc out of the danger area to protect them from further attacks. Considering the guns did not have hard overhead cover, an air attack would have been disastrous. However due to Ultra the British learned of their move and warned the US Command who chose to ignore the warning. Nevertheless the RAF, Attacked the Pointe du Hoc in the early hours of the 5th and again on the early morning the 6th June, preventing the guns from being put back in place and brought into action.
The RAF’s 2nd TAF Spitfires also carried out target spotting for the ships off shore; they were assisted by pilots from USAAF’s 9th air force flying Spitfires. The RAF spitfires attempted to neutralize the German defences missed by the earlier USAAF bomber attack; unfortunately several aircraft were shot down or damaged by gunners of the US merchant navy transport ships. Who had not been taught to tell the difference between the Spitfire and the Messerschmitt 109? US navy ships had all Royal Observer Corps assisting with target recognition. See;

Can I mention the French Squadron flying with the 2nd TAF? 342 Sqn - "Group Lorraine", 2nd TAF - 2 Group. Part of 137 Wing. Based at Hartford Bridge, Hants. The Squadron's D-Day task was to spread a smoke screen intended to hide American landing craft and amour from the German guns on Omaha Beach. See; ... ayrole.cfm

To round off the RAF’s contribution a mention should be made of the RAF Ground Radar Units who landed to provide Aircraft control for both the RAF and the USAAF. Like everyone else they were bogged down on the beach however they made themselves useful by recovering and treating the US wounded from the beach and later helped construct a ramp to allow the Americans to get their tanks and vehicles off the beach. See the following for a veterans’ story of their actions. ... beach.html ... beach.html

The British Army was also represented if only, but importantly by a Lt Col Tom Trevor from the Commando Climbing School, ordered to assist the Rangers scale the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc. He had controlled the Ranger’s training in Wales. And organised their ascent, after which he ran the evacuation of the wounded Rangers during which he was wounded in the head. A picture of him with the Rangers is in the reference below he is marked with a red cross and notice his regimental shoulder title and his combined operations arm badge.

Could I also mention the COPPs (Combined Operations Pilotage Parties) who surveyed the beaches at the request of the US HQ. Two Royal Engineer Divers were taken to Omaha Beach by Midget submarine and lived under water for three days swimming ashore each night, surveying the beach and collecting samples of the sand and gravel and reconnoitring the German defences? The two Sappers, Major Scott Bowden and Sgt Ogden Smith attended a US conference and warned General Bradley that they should expect a lot of casualties, Bradley agreed. The COPP Midget submarines were posted off the British and Canadian Beaches equipped with visible and electronic beacons. However the US refused them. Scot Bowden later manned a motor launch that provided the navigation beacon for the assault ships on Omaha Beach. Perhaps the errors in navigation on Omaha and Utah caused by the masking of landmarks by smoke and debris could have been avoided by use of the Midget Subs. ... /

The largest British involvement was of course the Royal Navy and the most criticised by the early US historians. In fact of the 16 warships covering the American Western beaches (Utah and Omaha) 50% were British and Allied ships. There were 195,700 naval personnel involved; 112,824 (58%) were British (Royal Navy), 52,889 (30%) US and 4,988 Allied countries.

With the Destroyers HMS Talybont and USS Satterlee gave covering fire to the Rangers by engaging the Germans on the Pointe du Hoc cliffs, the British Motor Launch 304 with its shallow draft went in closer than Satterlee was able and poured 3 pounder and 20 mm fire into the German pillboxes. At this point HMS Talybont withdrew from this action and steamed to another part of Omaha ... 9468.shtml

During the landings the British Destroyers HMS Tantaside, Talybont and Melbreak sailed in close and engaged the German defences untouched by the earlier USAAF attack These ships had been designed with a shallower draft than normal to allow them to get closer in shore. Another ship that took part in the action but I think that there may be some confusion here. HMS Vidette was convoy escort in the Atlantic and had previously taken part in the sinking of 5 U Boats Its position on D Day seems to be a mystery as it seems to have been in two or three places at once. However it does seem from the article that they were sent to Omaha beach independently. Read the account below and see what you think ... 2348.shtml

Finally a rather tenuous association with Omaha was 47 Commandos Royal Marines attack and capture of Porte Au Besin. I include this for a number of reasons. Porte Au Besin was included in the Western Naval Task Force Bombardment plan. The actual Bombardment was carried out by two Free French Cruisers the Georges Leygues and the Montcalm. It was in the Area of US responsibility and certainly nearer to Omaha than Gold. The troops defending it were from the same units defending Omaha the German 351ID. The Commando were forced because of losses caused by the high seas to abort the landing close to their target and instead landing on 'Gold' and completing a twelve mile approach march before their successsful attack See:

John Forfar’s: ‘From Omaha to the Scheldt: the story of 47 Royal Marine Commando’ ... 9853.shtml

All in all the actions on Omaha beach can honestly be said to be truly inter- allied action, without taking any credit for the gallantry and the blood spilt by the US Army on that beach.

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Re: British Contribution to the Landing on Omaha Beach

Post by bf109 emil » 11 Jan 2012 22:04

In his defence Steven Spielberg said ‘I’m sorry but Omaha was an American affair’.
maybe Spielberg never visited Omaha??
But was it? After a little searching I found that the British had some important involvement, far more than I thought.
maybe Canada too as there is commemorative plaque on Omaha Beach cited Canada's contribution to the Omaha's landings...

Minesweepers were vital to the success of Allied landings in Normandy. Bangor Class minesweepers of the Royal Canadian Navy, from the beginning of May until D-Day, 6 June 1944, opened up the channels for the Western Task Force landing on Omaha and Utah Beaches. HMCS Caraquet (Commander A.H.G. "Tony" Storrs, RCNR), Cowichan, Malpeque, Fort William, Minas, Blairmore, Milltown, Wasaga, Bayfield and Mulgrave formed the 31st Canadian Minesweeping Flotilla; HMCS Thunder, Vegreville, Kenora, Guysborough, Georgian and Canso joined the British 4th, 14th and 16th Flotillas. Just after midnight on 6 June, using electronic navigation aids of extreme precision, unable to take evasive action if under attack, sometimes within a mile and a half of the German coastal guns, and thus the spearhead for the landings, the 31st, 4th and 14th flotillas off Omaha Beach, and the 16th flotilla off Utah Beach, successfully cleared the assault channels, undetected by the enemy, in spite of moonlight that "provided ample illumination" for the defences of Germany’s vaunted ‘Atlantic Wall’.


for a pic of the commemorative plaque and source see herehttp://www.canadianbattlefieldsfoundati ... Plaque.htm

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Re: British Contribution to the Landing on Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 11 Jan 2012 23:19

Thanks for the summary. Hope I can recall it when any of that information is needed. My web site book marks are extensive and difficult to search through.

Since I dont watch war movies, and never use them as a historical refrence, its difficult for me to take any controversy over their 'accuracy' seriously. Speilberg has been well known for a variety of fictional stories in his movies so I have always assumed the Pvt Ryan thing was fiction as well, & having nothing to do with historical documentation, education, or witness.

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Re: British Contribution to the Landing on Omaha Beach

Post by BillHermann » 22 Jan 2012 19:15

It's nice to see a thread discussing this topic as there has been so much fictional information out there on this event and mis information over roles and capabilities of the allied armies that contributed to the landings at DDay. Even to see that some have taken sections of the script from SPR and look at it as fact.

I have always enjoyed the movie as it holds up well as entertainment however I do not assume that it is a factual tale. Even some of the comments from the actors on screen may have a place in th film as those types of opionons were there however to base fact around those comments is somthing diffrent.

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Re: British Contribution to the Landing on Omaha Beach

Post by circourt » 02 Dec 2012 12:17

Just came accross this thread and can add to it. There was an RAF Radar unit of about 180 men that landed on Omaha at about 5.30 pm on 6th June.
They suffered about 25% casualties. I have been doing some research into this unt and although just started, you can view their story on
This unit won 4 MC's and 2 MM's on that day.

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Re: British Contribution to the Landing on Omaha Beach

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 03 Dec 2012 03:15

Looks like a long read there. Appreciate any sort of summary you might be able to provide.

Thanks for the link.

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