On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Allied troops departed England on planes and ships, made the trip across the English Channel and attacked the beaches of Normandy in an attempt to break through Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” and break his grip on Europe. Some 215,000 Allied soldiers, and roughly as many Germans, were killed or wounded during D-Day and the ensuing nearly three months it took to secure the Allied capture of Normandy.
In 1943, the 5th and 8th King's (Liverpool Irish) received specialist training at Ayrshire in preparation for a planned invasion of France. They had been selected to form the nucleus of the 5th and 7th Beach Groups, which would have the objectives of maintaining beach organisation, securing positions, and providing defence against counter-attack.
|The invasion on June 6th 1944|
As invasion neared in mid-1944, the two battalions moved from their camps to ports in southern England and embarked aboard troopships and landing ship tanks. Much of the Liverpool Irish embarked aboard the Ulster Monarch, a passenger ship that had served on the Belfast-Liverpool line before the war. Having been delayed, the invasion fleet proceeded to Normandy on 5 June. Both King's battalions landed on D-Day, the 5th at Sword with the 3rd Division and the Liverpool Irish at Juno with the Canadians.
Two companies of the Liverpool Irish landed in the assault wave with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. Under intense machine gun and mortar fire, the landing of Major Max Morrison's "A" Company proceeded well, allowing some to establish a command-post upon reaching the sand dunes. In contrast, in "B" Company's sector, the late arrival of the reconnaissance party and DD tanks exposed the landing infantry to heavy machine gun fire. The company's officer commanding, Major O'Brien, and the second-in-command were among those wounded at Sword. As the 3rd Division moved inland, the 5th King's attempted to neutralise hostile positions and snipers. Casualties included Lieutenant-Colonel D. H. V. Board, killed by a sniper, and the OC of 9 Platoon, Lieutenant Scarfe, mortally wounded in an attack on a German position that captured 16 soldiers.
|After landing at the shore, these British troops wait for the signal to move forward, during the initial Allied landing operations in Normandy, France, June 6, 1944.|
|Wounded British troops from the South Lancashire and Middlesex regiments are being helped ashore at Sword Beach, June 6, 1944|
Under fire, the beach groups collected the wounded and dead, located and marked minefields, attempted to maintain organisation, and directed vehicles and troops inland. The two battalions operated with the beach groups for a further six weeks. While the depleted Liverpool Irish disbanded in August, much of its strength having been transferred to other units as reinforcements, the 5th King's survived as a reduced cadre. Disbandment had only been avoided through the determination of Lieutenant-Colonel G.D. Wreford-Brown, who argued that the 5th Battalion was nearly the most senior unit active in the Territorial Army.
British veterans have made a cross-Channel pilgrimage to Normandy to honour comrades killed in the D-Day landings. 150 British veterans, now mostly in their 90s have travelled to northern France to attend events commemorating the military invasion on June 6, 1944.
Liverpool Central Library
Liverpool Records Office
Robert F Edwards