By Matt Baker
“A detailed study of the actual effects of Naval and Army Fire and R.A.F. bombing on the beachies in the Assault phase of “Overlord.”” / COHQ Special Observer Party
In the days following the D-Day landings, British military officials dispatched observers to the Normandy beaches in order to assess the effectiveness of naval, aerial, and Army fire preparation directed against the Atlantic Wall. Available digitally for the first time through the LMH Archive, this remarkable document catalogues in great detail the type and state of German positions encountered by assault forces, from open gun pits to massive concrete bunkers impervious to all but a direct hit.
Originally intended to provide ‘lessons learned’ in neutralizing enemy emplacements, the report gives historians an extraordinarily precise picture of the state of German defensive positions as British, Canadian, and American troops hit the beach. This allows us to determine the type and volume of enemy fire for specific portions of beach, as well as the obstacles that harried successive waves. It also provides insight into the importance of specialized armour and infantry infiltration in reducing positions hardly scathed by pre-landing bombardment.
The report covers all beaches, but focuses on the British and Canadian sectors where the observers had the greatest opportunity for study.
Of particular interest are the detailed appendices:
Appendix I: Description of assault beaches and immediate hinterland and general notes on the effect of fire preparation.
Appendix II: Details of Strong Points and Damage
Appendix III: Notes on Pro-Forma
Appendix IV: Batteries
Appendix VI: [includes copies of photos] Massive Concrete Positions , Examples of Heavy Concrete Beach Defences , Examples of 5cm A.T.K. Positions , Open Gun Pits , “Tobruk” Type Emplacements , Concrete Positions Under Construction , Examples of Camouflaged Strong Points , Examples of Houses Damaged by Gun Fire , Beach Obstacles , Miscellaneous.
A less detailed analysis, “Army Operational Research Report No.292, ‘Comparison of British and American Areas in Normandy in terms of Fire Support and its Effects’” appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Canadian Military History.