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AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS, Invasions, Landings, Raids, Special Operations

Part 2 of 2 - 1944-45

Landing Ship Infantry (Small), HMS Prince Charles (CyberHeritage, click to enlarge) in 1941. Not all amphibious warfare ships were specially-designed. "Prince Charles" (2,950 tons, speed 20 knots, built 1930) was a merchantmen converted early in the war. Armed with 2-12pdr guns and equipped with heavy-duty davits, she could carry 8 Landing Craft Personnel (Large) or LC Assault or LC Support (Medium) and 270 troops. She took part in the ill-fated Dieppe Raid of August 1942, from which so many lessons were learnt in time for Normandy. 


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Each Summary is complete in its own right. The same information may therefore be found in a number of related summaries

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JUNE 1944

6th - Normandy Invasion: Operation 'Overlord' 

Following approval of the outline plans for the Allied landings in France at the August 1943 Quebec Conference, detailed preparation was put in hand for putting ashore three divisions on the Normandy coast between the Rivers Vire and Orne. Supplies were to be carried in initially through two 'Mulberry' artificial harbours. When Eisenhower and Montgomery arrived on the scene they insisted on a five-division assault, including one on the Cotentin Peninsula to speed up the capture of Cherbourg. The extra shipping and landing craft needed meant pushing the date from May to 5th June. Unseasonably bad weather postponed the actual landings to the 6th.


Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force - US Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower

Deputy Commander - Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur Tedder

Allied Naval Expeditionary Force
Adm Sir B Ramsey

21st Army Group
Gen Sir B Montgomery

Allied Expeditionary Air Force
Air Chief Marshall Sir T Leigh-Mallory

From his headquarters outside Portsmouth on 1st June, Adm Ramsey took command of the immense armada of ships collected together for Operation 'Neptune', the naval part of 'Overlord'.

Landing Areas: Normandy coast on the SE edge of the Cotentin Peninsular ("Utah"),
and between Rivers Vire and Orne ("Omaha", "Gold", "Juno", "Sword")

21st Army Group - Gen Montgomery
Five US, British, Canadian infantry divisions, followed by one US infantry and one British armoured division, total of 130,000 Allied troops

Forces landing and areas of departure: US Beaches
US First Army - US Gen Bradley
"Utah" Beach - US 7th Corps from Dartmouth area
"Omaha" Beach - US 5th Corps from Portland area

"Omaha" Beach follow-up: one US infantry division from Plymouth area
British & Canadian Beaches
British Second Army - Gen Dempsey
"Gold" Beach - British 30th Corps from Southampton area
"Juno" Beach - Canadian forces of British 1st Corps from Portsmouth area
"Sword" Beach - British 1st Corps from Newhaven area
follow-up: British armoured division from Thames area
Naval Task Forces and Commanders (RN refers to both Royal and Dominion Navy vessels) Western
Rear-Adm A G Kirk USN
Rear-Adm Sir P Vian
Assault Phase Warships Warships
Battleships 3 US 3 RN
Cruisers 10 (5 RN, 3 US, 2 French) 13 (12 RN, 1 Allied)
Destroyers & escorts 51 (11 RN, 36 US, 4 French) 84 (74 RN, 3 French, 7 Allied)
Other warships, incl. minesweepers & coastal forces 260 (135 RN, 124 US, 1 Allied) 248 (217 RN, 30 US, 1 Allied)
Total Warships 324 (151 RN, 166 US, 6 French,
1 Allied)
348 (306 RN, 30 US, 3 French,
9 Allied)
Major Amphibious Forces Landing & Ferry Vessels Landing & Ferry Vessels
LSIs, landing ships & craft 644 (147 RN, 497 US) 955 (893 RN, 62 US)
Ferry service vessels & landing craft 220 (RN & US) 316 (RN & US)
Totals incl. Warships 1,188 1,619
Grand Total 2,807
Plus minor landing craft 836 1,155

Naval & Maritime Forces

The two Naval Task Forces totalled 672 warships for assault convoy escort, minesweeping, shore bombardment, local defence, etc, and 4,126 major and minor landing ships and craft for initial assault and ferry purposes: a grand total of 4,798. To this can be added the following vessels: (1) Home Command for follow-up escort and Channel patrols, plus reserves: 1 battleship (RN); 118 destroyers and escorts (108 RN, 4 US, 1 French, 5 Allied); 364 other warships including coastal forces (340 RN, 8 French, 16 Allied). (2) Western Channel Approaches A/S Escort Groups and reserves: 3 escort carriers (RN), 55 destroyers and escort vessels (RN). (3) Merchant ships in their hundreds - mainly British liners, tankers, tugs, etc to supply and support the invasion and naval forces. (4) British 'Mulberry' harbour project of two artificial harbours and five 'Gooseberry' breakwaters including: 400 'Mulberry' units totalling 1.5 million tons and including up to 6,000-ton 'Phoenix' concrete breakwaters; 160 tugs for towing; 59 old merchantmen and warships to be sunk as blockships for the 'Gooseberries'. All were in place by the 10th June. (5) Specially equipped British vessels for laying PLUTO - Pipeline Under The Ocean - across the Channel from the Isle of Wight to carry petroleum fuel.

The assault forces sailed from their ports of departure on the 5th to a position off the Isle of Wight, and headed south through swept channels down 'The Spout' towards Normandy. Two midget submarines were already on station off the British sector, ready to guide in the landing craft. Partly because of elaborate deception plans, partly because of poor weather, both strategic and tactical surprise was achieved. The invasion was not expected in such weather conditions and certainly not in Normandy. The Germans expected the Pas-de-Calais with its much shorter sea-crossing to be the target although realised that diversionary landings might be made in Normandy.

Soon after midnight on the morning of the 6th, the invasion got underway with the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions dropping behind 'Utah' beach and the British 6th Airborne between 'Sword' beach and Caen. At dawn, after heavy preliminary air and sea bombardments, and with complete Allied air supremacy, the landings went ahead. Royal Marine Commandos Nos 47, 48 and 41 took part in the assaults on the British and Canadian beaches. Against varying degrees of resistance, the toughest on 'Omaha', all five beachheads were established by the end of the day and 150,000 Allied troops were on French soil. 'Omaha' linked up with the British and Canadian beaches by the 8th, and two days later - the 10th - 'Utah' made contact with 'Omaha'. On the 12th, 330,000 men and 50,000 vehicles were ashore.

Between the 19th and 22nd, violent Channel gales wrecked the US 'Mulberry' harbour off 'Omaha' and seriously damaged the British one off 'Gold' beach. Many landing craft and DUKWS were lost and a total of 800 driven ashore. Only the British harbour was repaired and the need for Cherbourg became that much more important. By the 27th, with strong gunfire support from Allied warships, the port was in US hands. Although the installations were wrecked and the waters heavily mined, the first supply ships were discharging their cargoes by mid-July. By the end of June nearly 660,000 men had landed in France.

Normandy Beaches - In spite of the vast number of warships lying off the Normandy beaches and escorting the follow-up convoys, losses were comparatively few, although mines, especially of the pressure-operated variety were troublesome: 6th - Destroyer "WRESTLER" escorting a Canadian assault group to 'Juno', was badly damaged by a mine and not repaired. 8th - Frigate "LAWFORD" on patrol in Seine Bay, also after escorting an assault group to 'Juno', was bombed and sunk. 9th - Old light cruiser "DURBAN" was expended off Ouistreham as one of the 'Gooseberry' breakwaters. Sister ship, the Polish-manned "DRAGON" was damaged in early July and joined her in this final but important role. 12th - By now the battleship "Warspite", the ship that ended the war with the greatest number of Royal Navy battle honours, had left her gunfire support duties off the Normandy beaches to be fitted with replacement gun barrels. On passage to Rosyth, Scotland she was damaged by a mine of Harwich and was out of action until August. Then she was back in the support role bombarding Brest. 13th - Escorting a follow-up convoy to the beaches, destroyer "BOADICEA" was sunk in the English Channel off Portland Bill by torpedo bombers. 18th - Battleship "Nelson" was slightly damaged by a mine as she fired her guns off the beaches. 21st - Destroyer "FURY" was mined and driven ashore in the gales that played havoc with the Mulberry harbours. She was refloated but not repaired. 23rd - Adm Vian's flagship, the AA cruiser "Scylla", was also mined in Seine Bay. Seriously damaged, she was out of action until after the war and then never fully re-commissioned. 24th - Mines claimed another victim. Destroyer "SWIFT's" back was broken and she went down five miles off the British beaches. 25th - As cruiser "Glasgow" in company with US warships bombarded Cherbourg, she received several hits from shore batteries and was out of action for the rest of the war. Nine days after carrying King George VI on a visit to Normandy, cruiser "Arethusa" was slightly damaged by a mine or bomb anchored off the beaches. Three US destroyers and a destroyer escort were also lost off Normandy in June.

Channel Patrols - Attempts by German light forces to interfere with invasion shipping had little effect and they suffered heavy losses. However, on D-day, torpedo boats sank the Norwegian destroyer "SVENNER". Then on the night of the 8th/9th another force of destroyers and torpedo boats tried to break through from Brest but was intercepted by the 10th Destroyer Flotilla of 'Tribals' off Ushant. Destroyer "ZH-1" (ex-Dutch) was damaged by "Tartar" and torpedoed and sunk by "Ashanti", and "Z-32" driven ashore by the Canadian "Haida" and "Huron" and later blown up.

Elba, Italy Landings - On the 4th, units of Gen Mark Clark's US Fifth Army entered Rome. The Germans now withdrew, fighting as they went, to the Gothic Line running north of Florence and across the Apennine mountains to the Adriatic, and with its forward defences along the River Arno in the west. They reached there by mid-July as the Allies came up and prepared for their main attack at the end of August. On 17 June, Royal Navy and US warships landed French troops on the island of Elba.

JULY 1944

Normandy, Northern France, Invasion Support - The heavy ships of the Royal Navy were still providing gunfire support off both the British and American sectors, and supplies and reinforcements continued to pour in through the British 'Mulberry' harbour as Cherbourg started to become operational. Attacks on the beachhead shipping by E-boats and small battle units such as the newly introduced "Neger" and "Marder" human torpedoes had limited successes, but mines still caused the most damage: 20th - Destroyer "ISIS" was sunk by a mine or possibly a Neger off the beaches. 24th - Escort destroyer "GOATHLAND" was badly damaged by a mine and although saved, was not repaired.


Northern France, Invasion Support - The assault on Brest in Brittany, which began later in the month, was assisted by naval gunfire including "Warspite's" 15in guns. Meanwhile German coastal forces and small battle units continued to attack shipping off the invasion beaches, sinking and damaging a number of vessels in return for heavy casualties: 3rd - 'Hunt' class escort destroyer "QUORN" on patrol off the British sector was sunk, probably by a Linsen explosive motor boat. 9th - Old cruiser "Frobisher", acting as a depot ship for the British 'Mulberry', was badly damaged by a Dackel long range torpedo fired by E-boats.

15th - South of France Landings: Operation 'Dragoon'

Originally code-named 'Anvil', the South of France invasion was planned to coincide with the Normandy landings. Since that decision had been made, Britain pushed for the Allies to concentrate on the Italian campaign, but under US pressure agreed to go ahead with the now re-named Operation 'Dragoon' using forces withdrawn from US Fifth Army in Italy. No major British units were involved and for the first time in the Mediterranean the Royal Navy was in the minority in both ships and commanders. However, Adm Sir John Cunningham remained Naval C-in-C.

Landing Areas:

Three Attack Forces landing on the southern French mainland between Toulon and Cannes. A fourth Force on the offshore islands

Forces landing:

US Seventh Army - Gen Patch
US Sixth Corps followed-up by French Second Corps

Departure from:

Italy, Algeria

Naval Attack Force Commanders:

Naval Control force Commander
Vice-Adm H K Hewitt USN
US Rear-Adms Davidson, Lewis, Lowry, Rodgers

Naval Control, Attack & Convoy Escort Forces

British & Allied











Destroyers & escorts




Other warships




Attack transports & LSIs




Landing craft & ships (major only)








Grand Total


The warships were allocated across the four attack forces and, in addition, over 1,300 mainly assault landing craft took part in the landings. Air cover and support was provided by Rear-Adm Troubridge with seven British and two US escort carriers. After intensive air and sea bombardments, the landings took place against light resistance accompanied by US airborne drops inland. Both the US and French Corps soon spread out and headed north after the retreating Germans. Before the month was out, Cannes, Toulon and Marseilles had fallen into Allied hands.

New Guinea, SW Pacific, Final Landings - On 30th July, US troops were landed near Cape Sansapor at the extreme west end of New Guinea, and the Allies were now firmly established along the whole length of this huge island. However only in August, did the fighting die down around Aitape and on Biak Island, still leaving the Australians to finish off the remnants of by-passed Japanese divisions, in some areas until August 1945.


Halmaheras, Palau Islands & Ulithi, Western Pacific Landings - Gen MacArthur's South West Pacific campaign and the Central Pacific advance of US Adm Nimitz were about to meet for the invasion of the Philippines. Before they did, three more landings took place in the month, two on the 15th to secure bases for the coming assaults. To the northwest of New Guinea, Gen MacArthur's men were landed on Morotai in the Halmaheras by Seventh Fleet, which included cruisers "Australia" and "Shropshire" of the Royal Australian Navy. Air bases were soon under construction. On the same day, US Third Fleet under Adm Halsey set US Marines ashore on the Palau Islands. Although vicious fighting continued for some weeks, the issue was never in doubt as the Japanese were wiped out, pocket by pocket, in the limestone caves. On the 23rd, the unoccupied atoll of Ulithi in the western Carolines was taken as a major fleet anchorage.


Western Europe - In all sectors the Germans fought stubbornly. At this time the Canadian Army's task was the most crucial - to capture the banks of the Scheldt Estuary, and allow vitally needed supplies to reach Allied forces through Antwerp, Belgium. By the end of the month they had almost cleared the north and south sides of the estuary ready for the final assault on Walcheren Island.

Leyte island, Philippines, US Invasion of - Because of faster-than-planned progress, the Americans decided to by-pass Mindanao and go straight for Leyte (map left). On the 20th Gen MacArthur returned to the Philippines with four US Army divisions. The landings led to the vast Battles of Leyte Gulf. Directly under Gen MacArthur, Vice-Adm Kinkaid's US Seventh Fleet carried out the invasion and provided close support. Including ships loaned from US Third Fleet, he had 18 escort carriers and six old battleships. Australian cruisers "Australia" and "Shropshire" with two destroyers were again present. The one Royal Navy representative was fast cruiser-minelayer "Ariadne" serving as an assault troop carrier. The US fleets totalled well over 800 ships.


Assault on Walcheren, Holland (Operation 'Infatuate') - The island of Walcheren was heavily defended and largely flooded when the battle took place. On the 1st, Army units were carried across the Scheldt to land on the south side, while Royal Marines were put ashore to the west (at Westkapelle) against tough resistance. Under the command of Brig B. W. Leicester, the 4th Royal Marine Special Service Brigade consisting of Nos 41, 47 and 48 Commandos was carried from Ostend in 180 landing craft. Capt A. F. Pugsley commanded the naval forces and heavy gunfire support was provided by "Warspite" in her last action of the war, and the two monitors "Erebus" and "Roberts". Many landing craft were lost in the assault and by the time the Germans surrendered on the 8th, Allied casualties totalled 8,000. By then the Canadians had crossed over to the eastern side of Walcheren from the mainland and 10 flotillas of minesweepers had begun the task of clearing 80 miles of the Scheldt.

Greece, Landings in - By mid-month Greece was free of those Germans that could escape and British troops had landed in the north.


Greece, Landings in - Disagreements with the Greek communist movement EAM/ELAS over the future government of the country led to fighting and the declaration of martial law. British troops, supported by Royal Navy ships, had the unenviable task of fighting their previous allies. By month's end the fighting started to die down as proposals for the setting-up of a regency were announced.




Adm Sir Bertram Ramsey RN - Allied Naval Commander, Expeditionary Force, architect of the Dunkirk evacuation and with major responsibility for the North African and Sicily landings as well as command of Operation 'Neptune', was killed in an air crash in France on the 2nd. Vice-Adm Sir Harold Burrough succeeded him.

Burma, Amphibious Operations - In the south of Burma, the Arakan offensive moved on by a series of amphibious hops aimed at occupying suitable sites for air bases to support the central Burma campaign. 3rd/21st - Landings at Akyab & Ramree Island - Early on the 3rd, British and Indian forces landed at Akyab from destroyers and smaller vessels of the Royal, Australian and Indian Navies to find the Japanese had gone. On the 21st more British and Indians were landed on Ramree Island with support and cover partly provided by battleship "Queen Elizabeth" and escort carrier "Ameer". The few Japanese resisted in their usual manner into February.

Luzon, Northern Philippines, US Invasion of - Three years after the Japanese landed at Lingayen Gulf on the northwest coast of Luzon, Gen MacArthur's Sixth Army went ashore early on the 9th, supported as usual by Seventh Fleet. As the US forces spread out and head south towards Manila, a secondary landing was made at the end of the month on Bataan Peninsula to stop the Japanese falling back there as Gen MacArthur had done in 1942. 5th-9th - Off Lingayen, Australian heavy cruiser "Australia" was hit by kamikazes on the 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th and finally had to be withdrawn.


Burma, Landing Support - Supporting operations on Ramree Island, south of Akyab in Burma, destroyer "PATHFINDER" was hit by Japanese bombers and went into reserve, the 153rd and last destroyer or escort destroyer casualty of the Royal Navies.

MARCH 1945

Rhine River, German and Holland Operations - In March the Allies not only reached the River Rhine all along its length, but by the end were across in strength. British 21st Army Group was carried across and supplied in part by Royal Navy landing craft of Rhine Force U.

Okinawa, US Pacific Fleet prepares for Invasion of - On the 15th, the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) was ready to join the US Fifth Fleet. Now known as Task Force 57, it included battleships "King George V" and "Howe", carriers "Illustrious", "Indefatigable", "Indomitable" and "Victorious", five cruisers including the New Zealand "Gambia" and eleven destroyers, two of them Australian. On the 26th they were on station off the Sakishima Islands in the Ryukyu group, South of Japan. Their mission was to prevent the islands being used as staging posts for Japanese reinforcements flying from Formosa to Okinawa. BPF's main weapon was of course not the battleships, but the Seafires and American-made Avengers, Hellcats and Corsairs of the carriers' strike squadrons. They started their attacks that day.

APRIL 1945

Italy, Royal Marine Assaults - The last and decisive Allied offensive aimed at clearing the Germans from Italy got underway with commando assaults near Lake Comacchio on the 1st. In these operations the Royal Marines won their only VC of the war. Cpl Thomas Hunter, 43 Commando, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in action against German forces on the 2nd.

Okinawa, US Pacific Fleet Invasion of - Okinawa was the main island in the Ryukyu group and half way between Formosa and Kyushu. It was needed as a major base for the coming, bloodiest invasion of all - mainland Japan. The Japanese were committed to defending Okinawa for as long as possible and with maximum use of kamikaze attack. Under Adm Spruance and Fifth Fleet, the greatest amphibious operation of the Pacific war started on the 1st with US Tenth Army including both Marines and Army forces landing on the west side of the island. There was little opposition to start, but by the time they had taken the northern five-sixths of the island on the 13th, bitter fighting was raging in the south, continuing through April, May and into June. Air and sea kamikaze missions lea to heavy losses on both sides. The British Pacific Fleet did not escape: 1st - Operating off the Sakishimas, "Indefatigable" was hit by a suicide aircraft but saved from serious damage by her armoured flight deck. 6th - Japanese launched the first of 10 'kikusui' (floating chrysanthemum) mass kamikaze attacks which carried on until June. US losses in men and ships sunk and damaged were severe. On the 6th, British carrier "Illustrious" was hit. Damage was slight and she continued in service, but this much-battered ship was shortly relieved by "Formidable". BPF continued attacking the Sakishima Islands as well as airfields in northern Formosa, with short breaks for refuelling. The Fleet sailed for Leyte on the 20th to replenish

MAY 1945

German Surrender

Burma, Amphibious Operations concluded - Concerned that 14th Army coming from the north would not reach Rangoon - the capital and major port of Burma - before the monsoon broke, the go-ahead was given for airborne and amphibious landings. On the 1st, Gurkha paratroops landed near the coast. Early next morning on the 2nd in Operation 'Dracula', the main landings took place near Rangoon. Under the naval command of Rear-Adm B. C. S. Martin, an Indian division was carried from Ramree island in landing ships and craft and put ashore at Rangoon, covered by escort carriers, cruisers and destroyers (Cdre G. N. Oliver). At the same time, diversionary attacks were made on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by Vice-Adm H. T. C. Walker with battleships "Queen Elizabeth" and the French "Richelieu" and aircraft from two escort carriers. Rangoon was entered on the 3rd by the Indian landing force to find the Japanese gone. On the 6th they met up with 14th Army units just a few miles to the north. The rest of the war was spent mopping up those Japanese unable to escape to Thailand.

Borneo, SE Asia Landings - Australian forces under Gen MacArthur started landing operations on Borneo, partly to recover the oil fields. On the 1st they went ashore at Tarakan on the east coast of Dutch Borneo, covered by ships of Seventh Fleet including the Australian cruiser "Hobart". Similar assaults took place at Brunei Bay on the north coast of British Borneo on 10th June, after which the Australians advanced south down the coast of Sarawak. In the last major amphibious operation of the war on the 1st July, the Australians landed at Balikpapan, south of Tarakan on the east coast. Tough fighting was needed to secure the port.

Okinawa, Invasion Support - As the struggle for Okinawa continued, US Fifth Fleet was hit by four 'kikusui' attacks in May. By the 4th, BPF was back off the Sakishimas and also under fire: 4th - "Formidable" and "Indomitable" were hit by one aircraft each. 9th - "Victorious" was damaged and "Formidable" hit again by a suicide aircraft. In all cases the carriers' armoured deck allowed them to resume flight operations in a remarkably fast time. On the 25th the RN ships headed first for Manus to prepare for the next stage of the attack on Japan. In two months the aircraft of BPF had flown over 5,000 sorties.

JULY 1945

Thailand, SE Asia Landing Support - In East lndies Fleet operations against the Phuket Island area off the west coast of southern Thailand, including mine clearance, fleet minesweeper "SQUIRREL" was mined and sunk on the 24th. Two days later on the 26th, kamikaze aircraft attacked for the first and last time in the Indian Ocean theatre. Fleet minesweeper "VESTAL" was hit and scuttled. Heavy cruiser "Sussex" was very slightly damaged by a near miss. These were the last major Royal Navy warship casualties of the War

Japan Invasion Preparation - The British Pacific Fleet of Adm Rawlings, now with "King George V", Formidable", "Implacable", "Victorious" and six cruisers including the Canadian "Uganda" and New Zealand "Achilles" and "Gambia" joined US Third Fleet in mid-month to bombard Japan by sea and air through into August.


Japanese Surrender

27th - Ships of Third Fleet under Adm Halsey started to arrive in Tokyo Bay and anchored within sight of Mount Fuji. Representative ships of the British Pacific Fleet and Commonwealth Navies included "Duke of York" (flying the flag of Adm Fraser), "King George V", "Indefatigable", cruisers "Newfoundland" and New Zealand "Gambia" and two Australian destroyers. Australian cruisers "Shropshire" and "Hobart" later joined them.


Royal Navy - As ships of the Royal and Commonwealth Navies repatriated Allied prisoners of war and transported food and supplies throughout South East Asia, other surrenders followed during the next few days. 6th - On board light carrier "Glory" off the by-passed Japanese stronghold of Rabaul, Australian Gen Sturdee took the surrender of the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Local surrenders in the area took place on Australian warships. 12th - South East Asia was surrendered to Adm Mountbatten at a ceremony in Singapore. 16th - Arriving at Hong Kong in cruiser "Swiftsure", Rear-Adm C. H. J. Harcourt accepted the Japanese surrender.


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