Memories of D-Day: Sword Beach

British troops on Sword Beach on D-Day (IWM B 5096)

British troops on Sword Beach on D-Day (IWM B 5096)

3rd British Division landed here, on the eastern-most beach. The division fought inland, but was not able to capture one of its objectives – the city of Caen. Commandos marching inland linked up with troops of 6th Airborne Division who had captured the famous Pegasus Bridge.

Countdown on Sword Beach>

“I was a Sub Lieutenant RNVR, in command of a Mark IV LCT, LCT 1013. We, together with another LCT of the 43rd LCT Flotilla, LCT 1018 (Lt W. Peacock RNVR) each carried several hundred tons of ammunition, and had to ‘dry out’ on Queen Sword Beach, for unloading. We had rehearsed the ‘profile’ of the beach, and it was uncannily reassuring to find that it looked exactly like the model prepared in England. On beaching we holed ourselves on one of the ‘hedgehogs’, so puncturing several of our double-bottoms, but not in the upshot causing serious damage. In a quiet spell after beaching I remember sharing a tin of peaches or apricots with Sub Lieutenant Anthony Rowland and sitting beside the binnacle on the bridge, reading Livingstone’s ‘Selections from Plato’. I remember that we had some difficulty in unloading our cargo, as the troops we took over with it failed to return after beaching. Some of the material was unloaded on to the beach, but later that day, in the evening, was set on fire and began exploding. Luckily the tide had returned, and we pulled off the beach, with a slight list, and anchored off the beach until the following morning, when we came back to complete our unloading.”
Hedgehogs = beach obstacles places by the Germans, which had protrusions designed to make holes in the underside of Allied landing craft.
LCT = a “Landing Craft, Tank”, designed to carry a small number of tanks or other vehicles.
[Warren Tute Collection, D-Day Museum]

W.H. Jeffries served in No. 6 Commando on D-Day, and landed on Sword Beach from an LCI (Landing Craft, Infantry):
“ After sailing, below deck we made a very special study of our maps, checked our arms and ammunition and had plenty of hot soup provided by one of the crew. June the 6th, soon after dawn, we were crouching low on the deck and to our left a battleship was firing, and above a few Spitfires to cover us in. At this point the enemy gunners were trying to get our range and shells were bursting all around us. Soon we were heading for our part of the Normandy coast, and at once all hell seemed to break out. As the enemy machine gunners opened up, very calmly the LCI crew dropped the landing ramps down, and with good luck from the crew we started on our way through the sea. Part of our task was to reach the airborne forces who in the night had taken and were holding the bridge, now named Pegasus Bridge. After leaving the beach we made our way through open grassland, and all around the Germans had placed notice boards warning of mines. But by a careful study of the ground we found the way across a part where cattle had been grazing some days before. We moved so fast that we were on to one group of Germans drinking coffee in the edge of a field. Our instructions had to be carried out. Push on to the bridge, never mind the odds.”
[Rupert Curtis Collection, D-Day Museum]

Photographs courtesy of the D-Day Museum, the Imperial War Museum, US Navy/US Coast Guard, and The News, Portsmouth. Images may not be copied without permission.