Gold Beach was one of five designated beaches that were used during the D-Day landings in June 1944. Gold, Sword, Juno, Omaha and Utah beaches were all in Normandy and designated to either the British, American or Canadian military forces. The landings at Gold Beach were to prove highly successful.
Out of the five designated targets for the Normandy landings, Gold Beach was in the centre. The sector called ‘Gold’ was five miles wide. At the western end of the beach was Arromanches – the site for the Mulberry Harbour.
Gold Beach with remains of the Mulberry Harbour
The commander of the invasion force for Gold was Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey and the main assault unit was the British 50th Infantry Division, part of the British 2nd Army. The main regiments used in the attack were the Dorsetshire, Hampshire, East Yorkshire and Devonshire. Along with these regiments was 47th Royal Marine Commandos who were attached to the 50th Division.
Against the attacking force were the German 716th Division and units of the 352nd Division. Many of the defenders were in exposed positions and vulnerable to Allied naval and aerial gunfire. Based in Bayeaux was the mechanised unit of the 352nd Division and this was expected to rush to the front once an attack had started. Also on top of the cliffs at Longues there was an observation post for four 155-mm guns, located half-a-mile further inland. This observation post was taken out by HMS Ajax thus putting out of action the guns, which were effectively blinded.
The time for the landing at Gold Beach was set at 07.25. However, the British forces here experienced a major problem. Intelligence had provided the British with information that the beach was littered with defences – be they Rommel’s anti-tank creations or mines. On the morning of June 6th, a strong wind whipped up the water along the coast so that it was higher than planners had anticipated. The major problem was that the seawater covered over the mines and other obstacles so that engineers could not go in and disarm them.
The first landing craft landed military vehicles that were subsequently damaged by mines. Twenty armoured cars were damaged this way. Such a situation could have been very dangerous but the German defenders had been neutralised by constant and accurate naval and aerial bombardment. By midday, a lot of the designated beach was in the hands of the British.
By the early evening, 25,000 men of the 50th Division had been landed and the advance force of this division had moved six miles inland and had linked up with the Canadian forces that had landed at Juno Beach. Just 400 casualties had been taken whilst securing the beach.