Halifaxes tow gliders over landings

June 6

June overview - D-Day

Listed below are more of the most significant organisations the RAF commited to support the D-Day operations. Included with these are their strengths at the beginning of June and a description of how they operated to support the invasion.

Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB). On 6 June, ADGB had 45 squadrons available to support invasion, consisting of 809 serviceable aircraft. An additional 12 squadrons of No 85 Group, 2nd TAF, was attached to the ADGB for the invasion period. The ADGB was responsible for a wide variety of tasks. First among these was the day and night air defence, along with the Anti-Aircraft Command, of the troop concentrations and marshalling areas, airfields and embarkation ports. ADGB was also tasked with providing night air defence over the battle area, including the beaches, shipping routes and embarkation ports and also for air-sea rescue in Channel. ADGB were also to protect Coastal Command aircraft during Anti-Submarine Warfare and Anti-Shipping operations near French coast, and to operation night-intruder aircraft over Continent. Finally, ADGB were to provide fighter cover for daylight bombing and airborne forces operations and to suppress enemy air and sea activity in Brittany to Pas de Calais areas. ADGB had a huge combination of tasks which directly affected every part of the air war over the Channel and Normandy beachhead.

On 6 June, ADGB flew 1,246 sorties, part of a total of almost 3,500 sorties between last light 5 June and last light 8 June. Operating in conjunction with 2nd TAF fighter Squadrons, ADGB Spitfire Squadrons flew 363 low cover sorties over landing area itself. The ADGB Squadrons also assisted in escorting the glider and tug combinations during Operation MALLARD on the evening of 6 June.

ADGB also flew 169 defensive patrol sorties, 134 offensive patrol sorties, 203 convoy patrol sorties, 152 naval spotting patrol sorties and 57 anti-shipping recce and strike sorties, showing the breadth of their operational remit during the invasion period.

Under ADGB command, the RAF Air Sea Rescue Service aircraft flew 76 sorties on 6 June. Aircraft and High Speed Launches (HSLs) rescued 60 aircrew and 44 soldiers and sailors.

Similar to the ADGB in role but intended to move forward as soon as the beachhead was secure and forward operating airstrips were available was the 2nd Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF) of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force. 2nd TAF were responsible for the air cover in battle area, except over the Cotentin Peninsula, for Close Air Support for British assault troops and for Tactical Reconnaissance over the battle area. 2nd TAF were also to provide smoke cover for the extreme East and West flanks of landing area and for spotting for naval gunfire.

2nd TAF fighter squadrons flew 1,226 low cover patrol sorties over the beachhead and 90 escort and convoy protection sorties during 6 June, encountering negligible resistance. Fighter-bomber squadrons flew 400 Close Air Support and armed reconnaissance sorties in support of the landings. From these sorties eight Typhoons were lost. 2nd TAF reconnaissance squadrons flew 87 tactical reconnaissance and 23 photo reconnaissance sorties. 435 naval spotting sorties were flown over the British and US landing areas, from which seven aircraft were lost. In total, during the 5 and 6 June, 2nd TAF aircraft flew 4,386 sorties, of which 40% were offensive and 60% defensive.

As an example of the level of 2nd TAF activity on 6 June, these were the sorties flown by a single Spitfire Squadron, No 329:

329 acted as low beach cover in the following waves:
0900-1050 – 12 aircraft patrolled Caen – Bayeaux (led by Wg Cdr Crawford-Compton)
1400-1555 – 12 aircraft patrolled Le Havre – Trouville
1720-1920 – 12 aircraft patrolled Caen – Bayeaux (led by Wg Cdr Crawford-Compton)
At 2000-2200, 12 aircraft escorted gliders troops to Caen – Albermarles towing Horsas.

Altogether, Allied air forces flew an astounding 13,743 sorties on this most vital of days.

6 June - D-Day

6 June 135 Wing intercept Ju88s heading for Gold Beach.

6 June Leaflet Drops - Shortly before the first landings were made at about 0630, Allied aircraft flew over northwestern France dropping leaflets. These told the French civilians that liberation was at hand and those living near to the coast should make their way inland, or if that were impracticable, avoid the roads and seek safety in open country.

6 June 21 Squadron of 140 Wing based at Hunsdon, flying Mosquito VIs, were fully occupied patrolling behind enemy lines at night attacking trains, transport and literally anything that moved.

6 June Early Warning Radar in Normandy - Normandy is approximately 80 miles from England. The Chain Home Radar Stations would thus give insufficient warning of enemy aircraft approaching the beachheads. Allied radar cover would therefore have to be extended. Three Landing Ships, Tank, (LSTs), were fitted with Ground Control Intercept (GCI) equipment, to operate off the beaches and warn the Headquarters Ships. This information would be used to generate air raid warnings and to direct anti-aircraft gun control. Two RAF personnel serving on these ships were LAC Eric Ingham and LAC Peter Read who were aboard Fighter Direction Tender 216 (FDT216) off the US Beaches. On D-day they were stationed off Omaha and Utah Beaches controlling Spitfires by day and Mosquitoes by night. FDT216 sailed on 5 June and the ship was sunk on D-Day itself. Vehicle-mounted mobile GCI stations were landed from the end of D-Day onwards to increase the radar cover across the Channel in order for the Allied Bridgehead to develop its own radar reporting screen independent of the UK based Chain Home Radars or the FDTs.

6 June RAF Servicing Commando Units - The SCUs set sail for the Normandy Beaches. These units were to provide maintenance and engineering support for RAF Squadrons in the field and to build and develop three types of forward airfield. These were Emergency Landing Strips (ELS), 600m long for aircraft in trouble and unable to reach another site; Rearming and Refueling Strips (RRS), for aircraft operating from England and needing to fly another sortie as soon as possible; and Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG), 1200-1700m long and 40-50m wide. These were capable of accomodating up to 54 fighters. A full description of the SCUs and their deployment is available [link not available]

6 June RAF Medical Services - The first RAF Medical personnel to set foot in Normandy were the advanced surgical team of No. 50 Mobile Field Hospital. They landed on the evening of D-Day and took up a position near an Emergency Landing Strip. The team offered full surgical aid to both RAF and other Service Units in the area.

6 June Not all the air fighting took place over the beachhead. An example of this kind of supporting action was the activity of Coastal Command. One Mosquito Squadron, No 248 was based at Portreath. Late on D-Day, 10 aircraft took off at 1845 on an Anti Shipping Strike with 17 Beaufighters of 144 Sqn and 14 Beaufighters of 404 Sqn. At 2015 the formation sighted a U-boat but it crash dived.

At 2057 the formation sighted three Seetier Class enemy destroyers on a northerly course at 15 knots. The Mosquitoes climbed to give cover and the Beaufighters attacked with Rocket Projectiles (RP) and cannon fire out of the sun. Strikes were observed on the middle of the first ship which caused an explosion and fire and the ship stopped. The rear vessel received numerous underwater RP hits and sunk. The other was hit by RPs, stopped and was left smoking. One Beaufighter was lost.

On their return to base, the formation saw a Ju188 shadowing six Allied destroyers. Two 248 Squadron Mosquitoes attacked. The pilots were Flying Officer J F Green DFC and Flight Sergeant L D Stoddart. Hits were observed on the cockpit and the starboard engine caught fire. The enemy aircraft rolled on its back and spun steeply into the sea shedding pieces of fuselage. None of the Beaufighters or Mosquitoes were damaged.

6 June Operation MALLARD - In the evening, the remainder of the 6th Airborne Division was delivered by 256 gliders, 246 of which landed on the correct zones. These were towed by aircraft from 14 Squadrons of No 38 and 46 Groups.

6 June Operation ROB ROY - During the night of 6/7 June, re-supply operations were flown with supplies being dropped by parachute.

See June overview

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