Gold Beach was the code name for the center of the landings on the
Normandy coast. The British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry
Division of the 2nd Army under Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey
was to land at H-Hour + 1 (0730), seize Arromanches and drive
inland to capture the road junction at Bayeux. Its
additional objectives were to make contact with the US forces to
the west at Omaha Beach and the Canadians to their east at Juno
Beach. In addition to the 50th, the 47th Royal Marine
Commandos were to land on sector Item and to attack south of
Arromanches and Longues and take Port-en-Bessin from the rear.
Gold Beach spanned nearly 10 miles long although the areas where
landings were to occur were about 5 miles wide. Gold was
characterized mainly by the 3 sea villages of La Rivière, Le
Hamel, and the small port of Arromanches to the west. The
Allied sectors were designated from west to east: How, Item, Jig,
and King. Of these four sectors, only the easternmost 3 were
to actually become assault sectors.
Units of the German 716th Division and elements of the veteran 1st
Battalion of the 352nd Division defended the coast in the beach
houses along the coast with concentrations at Le Hamel and Le
Riviere. Fortunately for the Allies, these houses proved to
be vulnerable to naval and air bombardment. In addition, an
observation post and battery of four 155mm cannon was located at
fierce opposition initially, the British forces broke through the
German defenses with relatively light casualties. Of note,
the 79th Armoured Division made use of specially equipped vehicles
termed "Hobart's Funnies", named after their inventor,
Major General Percy Hobart. These vehicles were various
vehicles that performed special functions such as the Sherman
Flail tank for clearing minefields, thirty-foot bridge-carrying
tanks, bulldozer tanks, Churchill crocodile tanks which acted as
flamethrowers, tanks which carried fascines (large bundles of wood
meant for crossing anti-tank ditches), tanks equipped with matting
to be laid down on the sand, and finally Shermans with
Considerable opposition from inland enemy batteries and mortars
hampered landings somewhat, but by 1000, La Rivière was captured
and a couple hours later, Le Hamel fell. The Royal Commandos
were able to reach within a kilometer of Port-en-Bessin after
finding that the Loungue battery had been destroyed in a duel with
the HMS Ajax.
German defenses had consisted of several OST battalions comprised
mainly of Russian conscripts. Kampfgruppe Meyer, the 352nd's
division reserve, had been in an ideal position to counterattack
the landings at Gold Beach at the beginning of June 6th.
But, General Kraiss, the Commander of the 352nd, interpreted
misdropped US 101st landings near the Vire estuary and sent the
force at 0400 to deal with this perceived threat. By the
time Kraiss realized his error, several hours had been spent
retracing the 30 or so kilometers back towards the real threat at
Gold Beach. Now instead of being able to counterattack, it
found itself in a mainly defensive position.
By the evening of June 6, the 50th Division had landed 25,000 men
with only 400 casualties. They had penetrated six miles
inland and met up with the Canadians at Juno Beach, but were
unable to take Bayeux. But, overall, the landings at Gold
could be considered a great success.
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