The allied armada in Normandy – Operation Neptune
British landing craft (LCT) in front of the Normandy coast
Photo: US National Archives
General presentation of the allied armada (page 1/2)
Operation Neptune – Normandy landings
Preparations for operation Neptune
Allied naval officers received, on April 10, 1944, confirmation of a landing in the north of France and more precisely on the coasts of Basse-Normandie. The operation of transporting men and equipment across the English Channel, codenamed Neptune, is supervised by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied fleet: Admiral Bertram Ramsay.
|Part of the allied armada in one of the ports of England. Photo: IWM
First, four beach areas were chosen, located between the Vire and Orne rivers in the Calvados region and designated by a specific code name: Omaha, the American sector, Gold, Juno and Sword, British-Canadian-French sectors.
But English general Bernard Montgomery informed the Allied High Command that the capture of Cherbourg should be a priority for the continuation of the military operations, since it is the deepest water port nearest these four invasion beaches. He hoped to see the creation of a fifth landing beach, located west of Omaha, directly south of Cherbourg, in the Cotentin Peninsula region: it was the birth of the Utah beach sector, under American responsibility.
|The embarkation of American soldiers on Allied transport ships. Photo: US National Archives
All landing forces will be designated as belonging to the 21st Corps and will be included in the 1st US Army and the 2nd British Army. General Montgomery will be in charge.
Composition of the Allied Armada in Normandy
In total, the fleet consists of five major task forces, one for each beach. 8 to 16 separate convoys compose the five main ones. All of these forces represent more than 5,300 boats of all types. This fleet is mainly based in five English ports, the names of which follow below.
|A “Landing Craft Tanks” carrying tanks and men heading offshore. Photo: US National Archives
Admiral Kirk commands the Western Task Force: Task Force U (for Utah) based in Plymouth, and Task Force O (for Omaha) based in Portland. As for the Anglo-French-Canadian sector (Eastern Task Force), it is Admiral Vian who takes the lead: Task Force S (for Sword) positioned in Portsmouth, Task Force G (for Gold) positioned in Southampton, and Task Force J (for Juno) positioned at the Isle of Wight.
|On the deck of this transport ship, Allied soldiers are entertained during the Channel crossing. Photo: US National Archives
Additional support forces (Forces B and L) are based near Falmouth and Nore and 12 minesweepers must open the channels to the French coast ahead of the landing crafts. Bombing forces are designated to carry out fire support missions for each landing beach: Task Force A for Utah, Task Force C for Omaha, Task Force D for Sword, Task Force K for Gold and Task Force E for Juno.
The ships of the Allied fleet anchoring in different ports are at different distances from the Normandy beaches. It is then envisaged that the various maritime convoys will be set in motion at different times according to the route to be traveled and that they will pass through a large rendez-vous area called “Z” and known as “Piccadilly Circus” (with reference to this very busy avenue in central London, suffering many traffic jams), south of the English coast, more precisely 30 km south-east of the Isle of Wight, and finally to their respective beaches by 5 channels opened in advance by minesweepers.
|A LCA (Landing Craft Assault) model, a craft used for the disembarkation of about 30 soldiers.|
To prepare the ground for the men by a massive bombardment and to defend the landing craft of the German attacks, the allied armada comprises 325 warships, of which 101 destroyers. Naval support is provided by 6 battleships, 2 monitors, 22 cruisers and 93 torpedo-boats.
|A Landing Craft Flak (LCF) in charge of the protection of convoys. Photo: IWM|
Although this allied fleet consists mainly of American and British ships, there were also French, Polish, Norwegian, Greek, Danish and Dutch ships.
Crossing the Channel
As the preparations for the disembarkation ended and many Allied soldiers were stationed in ships, waiting for the departure to Normandy, a storm was formed in the English Channel on Saturday, June 3, 1944.
|One of the British convoys crosses the English Channel. Photo: IWM|