Further frustration was felt within the Division when poor weather conditions resulted in the troops kicking their heels in the marshalling areas for another full week.
Immediately ahead of embarkation, the morale of the Division was lifted by receipt of the following stirring words in a message from their colonel, Major-General Comings.
Eventually, the Division sailed on 25th June, meaning that, as mentioned in an earlier post, ‘D-Day’ for my Grandfather and his brothers-in-arms was in fact 26th June 1944.
Such was the compression of the transport timetable as a consequence of the bad conditions that the advance parties, intended to receive the Division in Normandy, only arrived 24 hours ahead of the main body of troops and transport.
On 26th the weather was still poor, but it proved to be an uneventful crossing for my Grandfather who was with ‘A’ Company of the 5th South Staffords. The same cannot be said for his battalion comrades of ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies whose landing craft developed a fault and consequently drifted into a minefield. A helpful destroyer of the Royal Navy came to their aid and gave them safe-passage through a clear channel to the beach.
The 2/6th Battalion transport (including Battalion H.Q.) likewise did not have such an easy time of it as bad weather kept them off the beaches for several days before they were able to land. A rough ordeal for these Midland men with limited experience of the high seas!
Some sources state that the 59th Division landed on the British/Canadian ‘Juno’ beach, however, another detailed account of the South Staffordshire Regiment’s active service* clearly describes a landing on the eastern extreme of the British ‘Gold’ beach with the ‘tiny seaside villages of Arromanches and Tracy-sur-Mer on the right'.
A landing at Arromanches seems most likely, at least for the 5th Battalion and is consistent with my Grandfather’s envelope ‘chronology’ that states Arromanches as the first location after D-Day.
The fact that the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches was up and running by 26th June (or at least Mulberry B was, Mulberry A having been badly damaged in a storm on 19th June) would also suggest to me that this would have been the logical landing location for a follow up formation such as the 59th.
Any clarification as to exactly how the Division landed in Normandy would be gratefully received!
As indicated above, in stark contrast to the hellish reception of sand, steel and blood endured by the troops who landed on 6th, all was quiet and the Germans were no longer in evidence. The indicators of war were limited to ‘a broken-backed landing craft’ on the beach and the roar of Allied aircraft overhead.
Inland the situation was very different indeed, a fact well understood by the South Staffords as the Division concentrated in the area between Bayeux and Cruelly. Given the delays, this concentration was achieved very rapidly and by 1st July, the Division was in one place, less elements of the Royal Army Service Corps (R.A.S.C.).