Normandy Section

Gold Beach - British Landing Sector - WWII

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Gold Beach - Four assault sectors

Gold Beach stretched over 8km from the villages of Le Hamel - Asnelles to the west, and La Rivière to the east.

This D-Day landing sector was assigned to the British 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division, under the command of Major general Douglas A. Graham, supported by the 8th Armoured Brigade.

Both regiments were part of the 2nd British Army placed under the command of Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey.

Gold Beach was divided into three assault sectors code named from west (Le Hamel-Asnelles) to east (Ver-sur-mer) Item, Jig and King.

The fourth sector, How, was not a landing area.

The 69th Infantry Brigade was to land on King at La Rivière-Ver-sur-mer.

The 231st Infantry Brigade was assigned the assault on Jig at Le Hamel-Asnelles.

The No47 Royal marine Commando, which had been attached to the 50th Division for the landing, was to land on Item.

Gold Beach - The objectives

The 231st and 69th Infantry Brigades' mission was to establish a beachhead between Arromanches and Ver-sur-Mer then link up with the Canadians who had landed on Juno.

The harbour of Arromanches, situated to the left of Gold Beach, was crucial for the future development of the Mulberry Harbour.

Once Gold Beach secure, the 56th and 151st Infantry Brigades - supported by the 8th Armoured Divisions' tanks - would follow and progress inland in order to take control of the Bayeux-Caen road.

The 47th Royal Marine Commando's objective was to destroy the artillery battery at Longues-sur-mer, capture Port-en-Bessin from inland and link up with the American troops landed on Omaha to the west.

Vestiges of the Mulberry harbour in Arromanches

Gold Beach - The German defence

The German coastal defences were positioned in the beach houses and concentrated in Jig-Le Hamel-Asnelles (west) and King-La Rivière-Ver-sur-mer (east).

They had been severely damaged by naval bombardment in the first hours of the morning.

Their infantry force was therefore weakened.

The British troops were therefore able to land with a 'relatively' low number of casualties.

The Germans had installed a few artillery batteries in the dunes, however, the main threat was the battery in Longues-sur-mer to the west of Arromanches.

The landing of the 101st Airborne above the Vire Estuary (between Omaha and Utah) proved to be a major concern for the Germans.

They indeed moved their troops, positioned in Bayeux, towards the paratroops' drop zones.

However, once they realised their mistake, they found impossible to send back their troops towards Gold Beach (situated 30km away from the estuary) in order to counterattack the landings on time.

Cromwell pursuit tank with men aboard

Landing on Gold Beach

The beach was wide enough to allow for the simultaneous landing of two brigades.

The landing on Gold Beach was planned for 07.25am - 50mn after the landing on Omaha and Utah - in order to take advantage of the rising tide (west to east).

The tide would indeed generate higher water level and therefore facilitate the navigation of the landing crafts.

Universal Carriers

Gold Beach - King Sector: La Rivière-Ver-sur-Mer

The disastrous weather conditions and a strong north-west wind resulted in a stormy sea.

Water piled up and submerged the antitank beach obstacles and mines that the German had put in place to destroy the landing crafts.

The British engineers were on the first LCA's which landed at 7.25am.

They had major difficulties reaching and neutralising the submerged obstacles.

They indeed found themselves - along with the men of the Hampshire Regiment and No47 Commando - under direct enemy fire.

The first minutes of the assault were deadly.

The antitank obstacles proving impossible to dismantle, it was decided that the amphibious tanks would not be launched from their landing crafts tanks (LCT's) but would be taken directly onto the beach.

Tragically, twenty of the LCTs struck mines.

However, the dynamics of the landing changed as soon as the first amphibious tanks reached the beach, as the Germans had no armour in this sector.

The tanks were therefore able to support the infantry troops; by 10.00am the units of the 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division had captured La Rivière.

Crusader

Gold Beach - Jig Sector: Le Hamel / Asnelles

Jig-Le Hamel was a lesser defended sector. However, the assault was slow because the Germans put a fierce resistance.

The infantry troops indeed came under the fire of the inland German batteries and mortars.

This sadly resulted in a high number of casualties.

The special vehicles (Hobart's Funnies) of the 79th Armoured Division (6th Green Howards, 4th/7th Dragoons and Westminster Dragoons) eventually landed.

The British troops neutralised the German coastal defence and captured Le Hamel around 4.00pm.

The English miners managed to secure four safe breaches out of six through the beaches and dunes and opened the route for the tanks, which headed towards Arromanches.

The British troops were thus able to make a break through the enemy lines in order to attack the batteries located inland and continued to advance on Bayeux and Caen.

Troops and tanks moving towards inland

Gold Beach - Item Sector: East of Le Hamel

Item was assigned to the Commandos of the 47th Royal Marine.

Their objective was to immediately move overland to Arromanches (which was captured by 9pm), destroy the Longues Battery then head towards Port-en-Bessin in order to liaise with the American forces landed on Omaha.

Port-en-Bessin was a small harbour but of prime importance. It indeed would, once captured, allow for the supply of food and various commodities (including fuel by underwater pipes from the tankers anchored offshore).

The Commandos' progression towards Port-en-Bessin was eased, as the naval bombardment had destroyed the Longues Battery.

They positioned to the south of Longues and dug in on Hill 72. They captured Port-en-Bessin on June 8, after another fierce battle.

Troops moving inland

The outcome of the landing of Gold Beach

By midnight on D-Day nearly 25 000 troops of the British 50th Northumberland Infantry Division had landed.

They had established a beachhead along 10km of coastline and penetrated 10km inland.

They had linked up with the Canadian forces landed on Juno and reached the outskirts of Port-en-Bessin.

Despite this successful landing and the 'relatively low' number of casualties (400!) the Bayeux-Caen road had not yet been captured, nor did the link up with the Americans who landed on Omaha established.

War Memorials:

Juno Beach: Bernieres-sur-mer - Corseulles-sur-mer - Graye-sur-mer - Douvres-la-Delivrande

Gold Beach: Arromanches - Ver-sur-mer

Sword Beach: Ouistreham-Riva Bella

Landing Beaches:

Sword - Gold - Juno - Omaha - Utah

Rediscover the landing beaches during the 75th Anniversary Commemorations

Le Hamel - Asnelles: Lat 49.341768 - Long -0.587131
La Rivière: Lat 49.344220 - Long -0.506240

Photos via Wikimedia Commons - Vestiges of Mulberry Harbour Cromwell pursuit tank - Universal carriers - US troops along the shore - Crusader - Troops moving inland - Troops and tanks moving inland
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