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Operation Neptune : the allied fleet (#1)
 

Operation Neptune preparation

The allied naval officers receive, on April 10, 1944, the confirmation of a landing in the North of France, precisely on the Calvados area coasts. This operation, codenamed Neptune, will be supervised by the commander in chief of the allied fleet: admiral Bertram Ramsay.

Image : Elements of the allied armada in one of the England harbors Elements of the allied armada in one of the England harbors.

Initially, four landing beaches are selected, located between the Vire and Orne rivers in the Calvados area and are indicated by a specific code name: Omaha (American sector), Gold, Juno and Sword, British, Canadian and Free France sectors).

Very quickly, British general Bernard Montgomery informs the allied command that the capture of Cherbourg is a priority for the good course of this operation, knowing that it is the only deep water harbor near these four invasion beaches. He wants to create a landing beach : it is the birth of the Utah beach sector, which will be an American one.

Image : American soldiers board the allied transports American soldiers board the allied transports.

All the landing forces belong to the 21st army corps and they are composed of the 1st American army and the 2nd British army. General Montgomery leads this army corps.

Composition of the Armada

On the whole, the fleet is composed of five great forces, one for each beach. 8 to 16 distinct convoys compose the five principal convoys. These forces represent more than 5300 ships of all types plus 4000 relay boats between the shore and the ships. This fleet is based mainly in five England regions.

Image : A “Landing Craft Tanks”, transporting armoured vehicles and men, sails to Normandy A “Landing Craft Tanks”, transporting armoured vehicles and men, sails to Normandy.

Admiral Kirk leads the American sector: Force U (for Utah) based at Plymouth, and Forces O (for Omaha) based at Portland. The British, Canadian and Free France sector is led by the Admiral Vian: Force S (for Sword) based at Portsmouth, Force G (for Gold) based at Southampton, and Force J (for Juno) based at the Isle of Wight.

 
Image : On the bridge of this transport ship, the soldiers divert themselves during the crossing On the bridge of this transport ship, the soldiers divert themselves during the crossing.

Additional support forces (Forces B and L) are based close to Falmouth and Nore. 12 minesweepers have to open ways through the channels.

The ships of the allied fleet waiting in different harbors do not have the same distance separating them from the Normandy beaches. It is then expected that the various naval convoys start moving at different hours according. Each convoy has to gather at a place code named “Z” and called “Picadilly Circus”, South of the English coasts (precisely 30 km south-east of the Isle of Wight) and will move towards their respective beaches, the way beeing preliminary opened by the minesweepers.

Image : A model of LCA (for Landing Craft Assault), a boat used for the landing of 30 soldiers

A model of LCA (for Landing Craft Assault), a boat used for the landing of 30 soldiers.

To carry out a massive bombardment and to defend the landing craft against German attacks, the allied armada is composed of 325 war ships, including 101 destroyers. The naval support is provided by 6 battleships, 2 monitors, 22 cruisers and 93 destroyers.

Image : Un LCF chargé de la protection des convois A LCF in charge of the protection of the convoys.

Although this allied fleet is primarily made up of American and British ships, Free France, Polish, Norwegian, Greek, Danish and Dutch ships took part in the action.

The crossing of the English Channel

Whereas the preparations of the landing are almost finished and that many soldiers are posted already in the different ships, awaiting the departure towards Normandy, a storm rules in the Channel, on Saturday June 3, 1944.

Image : One of the British convoys crosses the English Channel One of the British convoys crosses the English Channel.

 

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