D-Day 70th anniversary

It was the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings in 2014, centred around the date of the invasion, 6 June, known as “D-Day”. A series of major commemorations took place to mark this historic occasion, with events occurring in both the United Kingdom, and at various locations along the Normandy Coast.

Operation Neptune

When the Allies took the upper hand in the Battle of the Atlantic – the critical struggle against the U-boat – in 1943 it allowed convoys to bring troops and material from America in greater numbers with less risk than before, opening the way for a ‘Second Front’ in western Europe, stretching the Germans who were locked in a bitter struggle with Russia in the east.

The need for training and a build-up of equipment and manpower meant the Allied invasion of Europe was planned for mid-1944 – and when locations, tides and weather were considered, the assault was scheduled for June 5 in Normandy.

Storms delayed the invasion by 24 hours, but on D-Day – June 6 – more than 130,000 men, mainly British, American and Canadian, stormed ashore on five beaches (Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah) in an amphibious operation – Neptune – that included more than 6,000 vessels and 5,900 aircraft.

The invasion – the springboard for Operation Overlord, the liberation of western Europe – was possible because the Allies had almost total naval and air superiority. Ingenuity and imagination also played a role, the most breathtaking idea being the creation of prefabricated harbours which supplied the invading forces who eventually fought their way to Berlin and victory.

All images courtesy of the Imperial War Museum


Location Normandy, France

HMS Belfast

At 0527 hours on 6 June 1944, HMS Belfast was one of the first ships to open fire on German positions along the Normandy coast. The cruiser was the flagship of Bombarding Force 'E', providing naval gunfire support to the troops landing at Gold and Juno beaches.

Operation Neptune

A booklet has been produced by the Naval Historical Branch on the assault phase of the D Day landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944.

The booklet contains details of the operation including the military Forces involved, what shore bases were used, the ships and units that made up the various task forces and a chronology of Naval action.

Order of the Day

"It is to be our privilege to take part in the greatest amphibious operation in history – a necessary preliminary to the opening of the Western Front in Europe which, in conjunction with the great Russian advance, will crush the fighting power of Germany.

This is the opportunity which we have long awaited and which must be seized and pursued with relentless determination; the hopes and prayers of the free world and of the enslaved peoples of Europe will be with us, and we cannot fail them.

Our task in conjunction with the Merchant Navies of the United Nations, and supported by the Allied Air Forces, is to carry the Allied Expeditionary Force to the Continent, to establish it there in a secure bridgehead and to build it up and maintain it at a rate that will outmatch the enemy.    Let no-one underestimate the magnitude of this task.

The Germans are desperate and will resist fiercely until we outmanoeuvre and outfight them, which we can and will do. To everyone of you will be given the opportunity to show by his determination and resource that dauntless spirit of resolution which individually strengthens and inspires, and which collectively is irresistible.

I count on every man to do his utmost to ensure the success of this great enterprise which is the climax of the European War.       Good luck to you all, and God Speed."

Admiral Bertram Ramsey

Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief
Expeditionary Force