- Boxall-Hunt, Brian OBE, Commander, RN
- History - WW2, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2004 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Events on D-Day:
At 0130 on 6th June 18,000 Allied paratroops dropped behind the beaches, but were very spread out and were reinforced at dawn (0558), including glider drops.
There were 2,727 ships taking part in the task of the assault and the naval bombardment of the beaches before H-hour. The German Navy made one attack with MTBs from Le Havre on part of the Eastern Task Force and sank the Norwegian destroyer Svenner by torpedo at 0500. At the time they had 35 U-boats and 3 destroyers in French ports. (Though this was the only surface action on D-Day, human torpedoes, E-boats and U-boats were encountered in ensuing weeks.)
The German air force did very little on D-Day though they had 160 serviceable fighters in Northern France out of a total of 183. About 124 had been moved to eastern France on 4th June to conserve them for the future. Air attacks increased by night and during following days included glider bomb attacks. (On D-Day the Germans had altogether 815 aircraft in France).
As to the assault itself, the capture of UTAH by the Americans was easier than expected, most of the casualties being caused by mines. UTAH had, in fact, the least casualties of any beach and considerably less than the 638 suffered during the rehearsal on 28th June in Lyme Bay, which had been attended by 9 E-boats! The US destroyer Corry was also mined off UTAH. OMAHA was the bloodiest of the lot, whilst of the Commonwealth beaches JUNO was the worst, with SWORD being better than JUNO but worse than GOLD. Casualties were as follows:
- 6,603 (1,465 killed)
- 946 (335 killed)
- Not published, estimated 3,000
Up to 22 June:
- 2,006 killed, 8,776 wounded
- 3,012 killed, 15,362 wounded
(In June the Germans lost 28 Generals, 354 Commanders and an estimated 250,000 men – though this figure may be exaggerated).
The Restoration of the Wall Map:
Just as suddenly as the troops had gone ashore, so the Allied Naval Commander and his staff departed from Southwick House and Dryad. One day they filled the establishment and the next they had gone, with only the Wall Map, set to D plus 34, to dominate the room. Chairs and tables, charts and once highly secret papers lay where they had been left.
There was so much to be done to prepare the house for the return of the Navigation School from Greenwich that little could be done to the exposed wall map, and the ravages of time became apparent. The many visiting officers who came to view this room where the liberation had been planned were dismayed to see its state and it was a while before the impetus for restoration started.
The then Captain, Captain Norris, directed his attention to the preservation of the Wall Map as a national relic. A small committee was appointed and with the assistance of appropriate expert dockyard officers, proposed the erection of a glass casing, fitted with internal lighting around the map. As to the settings of the map, only two were really appropriate, either the last setting on D plus 34 or that of H-hour on D-Day. The latter was the obvious choice, and was submitted for approval by the Admiralty, with the recommendation that the symbols used should be of the type used by the ANCXF but of a more permanent nature. As there was no record of the setting of the map on D-Day, it had to be built up with care, using Operation NEPTUNE Naval Operation orders (the copy used was that of Rear Admiral Creasy, Chief of Staff to ANCXF), Report on Operation Overlord, information supplied by Lt. Cdr. I.G. Steel, Royal Navy (ex-staff of ANCXF), information supplied by staff of C-in-C Plymouth, recollections of various officers concerned in the operation, confidential reports of the naval commanders, charts used by ANCXF and similar documents held in Dryad and relevant charts of swept channels.
On 7th August 1946, the D-Day Wall Map (reset to depict the situation at H-hour on 6th June 1944) was formally unveiled in the presence of senior officers of Flag Rank and their equivalents in other services, foreign officers and officers and men of HMS Dryad.