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D-Day – The campaign that led to the liberation of Europe

The UK will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings in June 2024 with a series of major commemorations and events across the UK and in France.

Known as D-Day, the historic operation saw the Allied Forces mount a large-scale invasion of Nazi-occupied France, that ultimately tipped the course of the Second World War in the Allies’ favour.

D-Day, 6 June 1944, was codenamed Operation Overlord, and would see the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare.

The 'D' in D-Day stands simply for 'Day' and the term was used to describe the first day of any large military operation. 

It was on this day that allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on the beaches of Normandy, it was the start of the campaign to liberate Europe and defeat Germany.

To build up resources for the invasion, British factories increased production, and in the first half of 1944, approximately 9 million tonnes of supplies and equipment crossed the Atlantic from North America to Britain.

D-Day required unprecedented cooperation between the Armed Forces of multiple nations.

By 1944, over 2 million troops from over 12 countries had gathered in England to prepare for the invasion. Consisting primarily of American, British, and Canadian troops, it also included Australian, Belgian, Czech, Dutch, French, Greek, New Zealand, Norwegian, Rhodesian, and Polish naval, air or ground support.

Early on 6 June 1944, Allied airborne forces parachuted into drop zones across northern France. Ground troops then landed across five assault beaches - Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold along the coast and could begin their advance into France.

The statistics of D-Day were staggering. Allied forces used over 5,000 ships and landing craft to land more than 150,000 troops on five beaches in Normandy. The landings marked the start of a long and costly campaign in north-west Europe, which ultimately convinced the German high command that defeat was inevitable. 

By June 30, over 850,000 men, 148,000 vehicles, and 570,000 tons of supplies had landed on the Normandy shores. By August 1944 northern France had been liberated and by spring of 1945 the Allies had defeated the Germans. Historians often refer to D-Day as the beginning of the end of World War II.

However, this came at a great cost with many lives lost on both sides. And so, 80 years on, surviving veterans, families, and those supporting them are gathering in Portsmouth and Normandy to remember and to reflect on those losses.

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