Sword beach: D-day

The Youtube video on Sword beach.

Sword beach was the farthest East of the five beaches. Maj Gen Rennie commanded the 3rd British division, landing hear.

Many of these men had left France in 1940 through Dunkirk. It was time for their revenge.

The main mission of Sword beach was to take Caen, which Montgomery called the hinge of his plan. They were also to join up with the Canadians at Juno, and with the airborne the other side of the Orne Canal.


It was a tough nut to crack as Caen was a town of 60,000 population. Sword beach also had the single strongest strong point in the whole zone. Wn8 and WN 10 stretched half a mile along the beach. Sword beach was the only beach to face a panzer attack.

They met up with the airborne but didn’t achieve the other objectives on the 6th.

The defenses on the beach itself weren’t as concentrated as at Omaha but there was depth to them. On the coast were 5 strong points (Stp8 Stp10, wn18, WN20 AND 21)

Just inland there were 9 (wn7, WN9,WN11, Wn12,14, 15, 16, 17 19)

The strong points were numbered. Most were called WN and a number. Some StP and a number. WN means WeiderstandeNest or resistance nest. StP means stutpunkt or Strong Point.

In theory a StutPunkt could hold out longer than a WN, but most didn’t last more than a few hours.


The British had given code names to certain key strong points. Fish for strong points on or near the coast, and cars for strong points inland. Sole, Cod and Trout. Then Daimler, Morris, Hillman and Rover.

The whole zone was labelled alphabetically by the allies, from past Pointe du Hoc being Able, to the mouth of the River Orne being Roger. Then there were subdivisions of colors. The famous fictional Captain Miller in Saving private Ryan landed on Dog Green. Sword beach went from Oboe to Roger but the actual landings were confined to Queen Red and White, around Hermanville beach because shoals made it impractical to land in other parts.


The 3rd division landed on Sword. It was made up of three brigades of 3 battalions. They were supported by tanks of the 27th Armoured brigade.

The 8th Brigade was to assault the beaches, clear the defenses, take Hermanville and Colleville.

The 185th brigade would follow through to take Caen.

The 9th Brigade would land to join up with the Canadians. if the 185th didn’t manage to take Caen, the 9th would swing round from west to strike.

The 1st special service brigade, made up of 4 commandos, would land on the left flank to take the strong points at Riva Bella then move to Pegasus then go to Amfreville.

4th special service brigade would land in the right flank to clear the coast between Sword and Juno.

That was the plan. Lets see what happened.


This is Riva Bella, from the cupola to the ferry in the distance, the biggest strong point of the whole landing zone. It stretches over half a mile along the coast and is comprised of WN8 and WN10. There were 6 gun pits for 6in guns. The same guns as at Pointe du hoc. A casemate with double opening for a 50mm gun, the same as at WN72 on Omaha. A tank turret mounting, a 75mm gun, and a 20mm Flak. On top of the fire control position was another 20mm Flak. The fire control tower was 5 stories high as there are no cliffs here. The range finder was on the top floor.

Grand bunker sword beach. Fire control tower

Oposite the casino was a tower for Flak. It’s now a panorama for tourists. The casino had been demolished. There was an anti tank gun emplacement in the ruins and a Flak. The ajoining WN10 had a cast iron observation post and a 75 mm gun. Many MGs flanked the sites.

Flak tower sword beach

These are dragons teeth, still here on the beach after 75 years. They were to break tank tracks.


The 6 inch guns were about a mile from the flame monument on top of the cast iron cupola which was WN10.

This is WN18 the casement has been incorporated into an appartement block . The sloping concrete wall defended the gun from fire from the ships. It also meant that the gun could only fire along the beach, but that was what it was for.

We’re here at the eastern extremity of the landings. The landings extended a mile to the west from here.

WN8 is in the other direction about a mile away at the mouth of the Orne.


From early morning, bombing raids were carried out on the coastal positions, inland strong piints, carpiquet airfield and Caen station. This was followed by an hour long naval bombardement.

The british and Canadian LCAs were launched 7 miles out instead of 12 for the Americans.

The DD tanks led the assault. Of 34 launched, 31 reached the beach.

DD tank : Swimming Sherman tank

The weather slowed the DD tanks and LCTs landed Flail and AVRE tanks first at 7:25. All these tanks started attacking beach obstacles and casemates.

The bombardement had left the concrete bunkers intact and the germans returned fire. The 2nd East Yorks regiment landed on Queen Red opposite cod, coming under a hail of fire.

On Queen White, the 1st South Lancs landed. Lt Bell-Walker crawled behind the westernmost casemate of Cod then threw a grenade through the entrance and fired his sten gun into it. He was killed by a machine gun but his action had opened up an exit for B company. The main casement at cod was soon taken by the rear a petard hit the back of the casement and the whole edifice started to collapse. A bren carrier got near a trench and fired a Vickers into it. The men surrendered.

The main defenses at Queen were neutralised by H+90 , 9o’clock.

The South lancs also took the position from the rear to link up with the East Yorks.

The South Lancs now headed towards Hermanville.

The commandos followed the 8th Brigade in. The 4th special service brigade on the right and the 1st special service brigade led by Lord Lovat, on the left.


When Lord lovat was on the beach , he told Bill Millin to play the pipes. After wwi the rule was that pipers wouldn’t play in the front line. Millin reminded Lovat of that rule but Lovat said « that’s for the English. We’re Scots. Play the pipes. »

Millin was walking up and down on the beach playing the bagpipes. Soldiers were shouting to him to get down. Later , some german prisoners were asked about the piper. They said Dumkopf. When Millin heard of that he thought it was a compliment. When he later learnt German, he realised it meant bloody idiot.

WN18 , was silenced by a shell hitting the opening.


Commando N° 4 , made up of the 177 French commandos and british, headed in land to the main road then left to attack the Riva Bella string pont and the port.

The action of the French commandos was shown on the longest day. They were attacking the Casino bunker which was in the ruins of the Casino. It was filmed at Port en Bessin, 20 Miles away, and Cornelius Ryan represented it as the building of the casino.

The commandos came down Rue Pasteur. They were in range of the Flak tower, as well as the gun in the casino position. As in the film, a tank turned up to force the redition of the German troops.


Part of the riva Bella strong point held out till the 9th. The fire control tower, now the grand bunker. Royal engineers led by Lt Orrell broke in through the lower door. From up the stairs a voice in perfect english said. »You can come up Tommy »

Orrel shouted back «  You take me for a f***ing idiot? You’re coming down »

The next hurdle were the 9 strong points inland and a probable counter attack by the 21st Panzers.

The East Yorks took Sole and Daimler. South Lancashire took Hermanville.

Gen Rennie set up his HQ at Hermanville. The first BBC broadcast from normandy was made here.

The well supplied 1 and a half million gallons of water to the troops.

The Suffolks followed the Comandos to Colleville and waited for the commandos to clear WN19.

Remaining Tobruk near Colleville. The other was destroyed by a tank.

They could then clear the town, house by house. Co A advanced to Morris, the gun battery at W N 16. They just had time to cut the wire when a white flag was shown. The naval and artillery bombardement had made the troops surrender.


Their next mission was Hillman just up the hill. The Norfolks were to take Rover slightly higher up the ridge.

Most bunkers at Hillman were below ground level so they wer e impervious to mortars and tank shells. The fire control officer had been killed on the beach so they couldn’t coordinate fire from the ships. There were three times as many men in Hillman as they had estimated. A stalemate was installed. Finally broken by Private Hunter walking up to the cupola firing a sten gun. By 20h all resistance had been silenced.

At Midnight there was just the main bunker of Col Krugg holding out with 70 men. He telephoned to Gen Richter at Caen. He said th enemy is on top of my bunker, I can’t contact my men. What should I do. Richter said he couldn’t give him any orders he would have to decide what to do. At 7am on the 7th Col Krugg and the 70 men in the bunker finally came out. Richter’s comment to him actualy meant he should commit suicide.


In the west, the 41RMCs had been attacking towards Lion and Luc sur mer to link up with the commandos coming from Juno beach.

Their advance was held up by resitance at the château. Three supporting AVREs were knocked out by a well concealed anti tank gun in Trout.

They dug in for the night to advance to Luc th enext day.

This monument is to the commandos. The tank was refurbished by the REs.

Churchill AVRE at Lion sur mer

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21st PZ were mainly based near Falaise. They were actually aware of the attack on Pegasus bridge and parachute landings at 1am. But, they didn’t get the order to move till the afternoon.

The next nearest Panzers were the 12th SS near Evreux near the Seine. They couldn’t start moving till the afternoon , after Hitler woke up.

Two groups of the 21st Pz were sent to counter attack . Two tank battalions of the 22nd Panzer regiment led by Colonel Opeln-Bronikowski were sent towards Hermanville beach. The 1st battalion of the 192nd panzer grenadier regiment, led by Col Rauch was sent towards the clear coast of Lion and Luc sur mer.

Col Rauch’s group advanced towards Luc sur mer. As they were in the gap between Sword and Juno they met litle resistance and arrived at the coast. Then another stroke of luck happened. 248 gliders going to land near St Aubin d’arquenay and Ranville , went over head, followed by 50 C47s to drop bundles for the airborne. It was an impressive display of air power for everybody who saw it ; the allies and germans. Colonel Rauch realised that if they landed just behind him his attack would be compromised. He decided to return to Caen.


The 185th brigade had passed through Hermanville and had met resistance from artillery that had survived the morning bombing by the RAF. The Suffolks should have taken the ridge near Caen by then but Hillman was holding up the advance.

Beuville was taken without too much trouble but Bieville showed more resistance.

Opeln-Bronikowski’s group came up against the british troops near Lebisy. Tanks of the Stafordshire yeomanry knocked out a panzer and well placed anti tank artillery hit more tanks and forced the attack to be broken off.

Soon 14 panzers were destroyed and over 50 damaged.

Some of the Kings Staffordshire light infantry got to Lebissy , then, as their right and left flanks were open, they were ordered back to Bieville.

This monument shows the greatest advance of the 6th.

Memorial at Lebisy, the limit of the 3rd Division advance.