Halifaxes tow gliders over landings


June overview

The invasion of 6 June had gone well. Casualties had been heavy and the American forces on Omaha beach had suffered particularly in this respect. Delays in expanding the beachheads caused by the effective German defences meant that it was not until 8 June that the Gold and Omaha beachheads linked up after the British Commando attack on Port-en-Bessin. By 10 June, the forces landed on Omaha and Utah beaches had also linked up, and had cut the road and rail links between Carentan and Cherbourg. With this successful toe-hold established under the air umbrella along the Normandy coast, the emphasis in air operations shifted.

Strategic bombers were attacking targets such as oil installations and other vital resources, as well as acting in direct support of the advance by attacking major defensive positions and troop concentrations. However, from this point forward the heavy bombers increasingly returned to operations against strategic tagets with the exception of the largest fixed defensive installations.

Light and medium bomber forces continued in attacking the V-weapon, transport and communications centres, but added tactical targets directly in support of the ground forces to this list.

Fighter bombers began a new direct support role, operating with the assistance of radio-equipped Forward Air Controllers (FACs). The fighter bombers were on call from "Cab Ranks", orbiting points close to the forward edge of the battle area. From these Cab Ranks, the FACs could very quickly call on air support for any targets of opportunity or threats to the troops in their area. The FACs were both RAF and Army personnel, specially trained to identify targets to the pilots and direct thier fire. Also, and seemingly almost permanently, airborne over the beachheads were the Artillery Spotter aircraft. These light aircraft directed fire from naval vessels off-shore initially, before they began directing artillery fire once the regiments were established on land. The light aircraft of the RAF, Army and US were also were the first to operate as airborne FACs, sometimes directing the fighter bombers themselves.

Given the vital supplies now flowing across the channel, the operations of Coastal Command to prevent the interuption of this flow by either German submarines or surface vessels became even more important. The sorties cast an increasingly wider net to catch the submarines and vessels as far as possible from the shipping lanes.

D-Day+1 to end of June

7 June RAF Pigeon ‘Gustav’ was one of two birds to be carried by one of the special Dakotas with the first wave on D-Day. At a crucial period when no signals traffic news was allowed or expected, this particular pigeon made history by bringing back the 1st message from "Taylor of Reuters".

7 June RAF fighters attacked road and railway targets in NW France. A German Panzer Division advancing from Alencon, north of Le Mans, lost over 200 vehicles through air attacks.

7 June The first Allied airstrip in Normandy (B-1) completed at Asnelle, northeast of Bayeux.

7 June Two aircraft of 248 Sqn took off at 0533 on an anti-U-boat sweep. At 0729 flying just below the cloud base of 800 feet the aircraft saw a wake six miles to port. On inspection a U-boat was observed trimmed fairly low in the water, although the decks were not awash. The U-boat commenced a zigzag evasive action. Owing to low cloud the formation could not climb for a steeper dive. The aircraft attacked in turn; the first aircraft, piloted by Flying Officer A Bonnet, dived first to enable the leader, Flying Officer D Turner DFC, attacking next to take action appropriate to the U-boats subsequent manoeuvre. The U-boat opened up with Flak from twin 20mm guns. Bonnet circled and made two dummy attacks to distract the U-boat gunners and draw fire from Turner’s aircraft. Turner made three attacks firing six rounds on each. At least two hits were estimated near the top of the conning tower and the U-boat crash-dived. On the fourth attack, Turner fired three rounds at the estimated position. Unfortunately, the low angle of attack meant that damage was limited, as the rounds could not penetrate the hull. Having circled for three minutes, a yellow-brown oil appeared in the wake of the attacks. One crewmember was left in the water after the boat had dived.

7-8 June Transportation Plan - Bomber Command attacked the Grande Ceinture by-pass railway round Paris and over 100 Mosquitoes attacked trains and road transport in France.

8/9 June Transportation Plan - Saumur Railway Tunnel. The first 12000lb Deep Penetration Bombs, known as "Tallboys", were dropped by No 617 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command, on a railway tunnel near Saumur. Barnes Wallace, aircraft designer and inventor of the Bouncing Bomb used against the Ruhr Dams, invented the 12,000 lb "Tallboy" and 22,000lb "Grand Slam" bombs to provide greater penetrating capacity. The Tallboy could penetrate through up to 90 feet of earth. The explosive force was therefore transmitted through the ground instead of the air, producing a far more powerful shockwave, hence the nickname "Earthquake bomb" for these weapons. A single "Tallboy" would displace a million cubic feet of earth leaving a crater that needed 5,000 tons of earth to fill. Twenty-eight Lancasters and three target-marking Mosquitoes of 617 Squadron and four Lancasters from 83 Squadron were given two targets for this raid. The first was the bridge carrying the main line between south-west France and the Normandy invasion area. The second was a long railway tunnel near Saumur. The target was an important one because the intelligence services had reported that a German armoured division was being moved up by rail from the Bordeaux region to make a powerful counter-attack against the invasion forces. The 83 Squadron aircraft were to mark the targets and destroy the bridge. But their radar equipment did not perform well, the target marker flares went wide and the bridge was undamaged. At the second target, Wg Cdr Leonard Cheshire, OC 617 Squadron, accurately marked one end of the tunnel. The large clouds of smoke from each of the Tallboy bombs temporarily blotted out his marker flares, which caused a delay in the bombing. One Tallboy was dropped on the tunnel roof and several were dropped in the cutting leading to it, destroying this important transportation route. This stretch of line remained unusable until the Germans were driven out of Normandy.

10 June Allied aircraft began operating from airfields built since D-Day in Normandy. All the airfields were given Within the first three weeks of the Normandy Campaign, no fewer than thirty-one Allied squadrons had been transferred to airfields in North Western France. For more information about the airfields and the units that built and serviced them, [link not available].

12 June The VC was posthumously awarded to Pilot Officer A C Mynarski RCAF, a mid-upper gunner who gave his own life in an attempt to save that of a fellow crewmember during a low-level attack on marshalling yards at Cambrai. PO Mynarski was aboard an Avro Lancaster X, KB726, of No 419 (RCAF) Squadron, Bomber Command.

12 June The two "Mulberry" floating harbours, having been towed across the channel in pieces, are constructed and operational, speeding the flow of supplies to the frontline by offering proper harbour facilities to the convoys crossing the Channel. The two harbours are at Arromanches, on the British held Gold beach, and St Laurent, on the American held Omaha beach. The St Laurent Mulberry was almost completely destroyed in the worst Channel storm for 40 years on 19 June. It became vital to capture a major port as a result of this loss.

13 June The first V-1 Flying Bombs were launched against targets in southern England. Of the first ten launched, four reached England, and one killed six people in Bethnal Green, London. The anti-aircraft artillery and the Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB) forces were quickly reorganised to meet this threat more effectively.

14 June German fast attack E-boats sortied at night from Le Harve and Boulogne to attack the cross channel transport convoys bringing more troops and supplies to the beachhead area. At dusk of 14 June, Wg Cdr Leonard Cheshire led No 617 Squadron on the second "Tallboy" raid. It was argued that, if the 12,000 lb bombs caused an earthquake effect on land, they may cause a tidal wave if used in water.Cheshire, again marking in a Mosquito, laid his target indicators among the concrete E-boat pens from only 700 feet. Fifteen Lancasters of 617 dropped Tallboys into the pens and the water around them. These were followed by a force of nearly 400 lancasters from Nos 1 and 5 Groups, loaded with 1,000 lb bombs. Post strike reconnaissance photgraphs showed only two E-boats were still visible, both of these thrown up onto the harbour quay and smashed by the force of the explosions.

15 June A third "Tallboy" raid was mounted, this time against the E-boat forces in Boulogne. Wg Cdr Leonard Cheshire again marked the target at low level in a Mosquito, but heavy cloud caused half of the twenty 617 Squadron Lancasters to abort their bomb runs. Such was the value of the Tallboy bombs, crews who could not bomb for any reason were ordered to bring the 12,000 lb bomb back. Jettisoning the bomb was only to be carried out if the aircraft was in dire emergency. The results of this raid and the one carried out on 14 June were impressive, 133 small ships, mostly E-boats, were sunk in both operations. It was considered possible that some E-boats had escaped from the harbours, but once the ports were captured by the advancing ground forces, it was discovered that all the E-boats present had been destroyed.

16 June Due to the incredible efforts of the engineering teams, twelve airfields were available in the British sector, along with a similar number in the American area.

22 June RAF and USAAF fighter-bombers flew their first combined operation. Four Typhoon squadrons fired rockets against flak batteries south of Cherbourg and six Mustang squadrons dropped 1,000 lb bombs before straffing with cannon. Their attack was followed up by 557 P-47 Thunderbolts and P-38 Lightnings dropping 500 lb bombs.

25 June 416 fighters and fighter-bombers based in Normandy were joined by 330 UK based aircraft in preparatory attacks against the defences around Caen.

27 June Since 13 June, V-1 Flying Bombs have killed 1,600 people and wounded 4,500 more in the south of England. In a courageous move that left London undefended over a 36 hour period, all anti-aircraft units were moved to the south coast, to form a barrier between the V-weapon sites and the capital. After the barrier had been put in place, along with the radar guided ADGB fighter squadrons patrolling off-shore, the V-1 threat diminished rapidly. As the V-1 weapons flew a straight and level course, prediciting their flight path was a simple matter for fighter pilots and flak gunners alike. The new depth to the defences destroyed the vast majority of the V-1s launched.

27 June The American forces liberate the vital port town of Cherbourg.

27 June Typhoon fighter-bombers operated in appalling weather in support of 8th Corps of the British Second Army who were attacking in the area of Odon. Bridges, tanks, anti-tank guns and defensive strong points were attacked, as was the airfield at Carpiquet. At night, 223 Lancasters and Halifaxes bombed three railway stations at Bar-le-Duc, Vierzon and Vitry-le-Fran├žois to prevent the transport of reinforcing German panzer regiments.

28 June 200 German fighters supported a counter-attack in Normandy. Twelve were shot down by RAF fighters.

30 June The whole of 83 Group, eight fighter and fighter-bomber wings, one reconnaissance wing and five Air Observation Post squadrons, was now based in France. The close proximity of the German defensive forces meant the airfields were under almost constant attack.

30 June Since 6 June, 1,284 allied aircraft had been lost to enemy flak and fighters. A total of 158,000 sorties had been flown and on this day alone, 2nd TAF launched 1,040 sorties.

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