D-Day

Posted by Tenby Museum on Jun 6, 2018 Blog No Comments

Today marks the 74th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the D-Day landings in Normandy, where over 156,000 Allied troops were put ashore at France to start the push-back of the German troops in Europe.

Tenby had played its part in the lead up to these historic events.

Exercise Jantzen was a training exercise in preparation for the D-Day landings. The exercise took place between 22 July and 5 August 1943, with troops of No. 1 Corps under the direction of Western Command. The aim of the exercise was to practise beach maintenance in all its aspects for the landing of two Army divisions and their supplies over a period of fourteen days.   Departure points from ‘friendly’ territory were represented by Port Talbot, Swansea and Tenby. The ‘enemy’ beaches were between Pendine Burrows and Saundersfoot with Amroth giving experience over shingle and Saundersfoot representing an enemy beach with a harbour.

During the fourteen days of the exercise approximately 16,000 tonnes of stores were unloaded from the coasters. One failed experiment was the use of concrete barges to carry petrol. All four of the barges that were tried out leaked. After the war one of these barges became part of the Caldey Island jetty. Logistics of loading supply ships and the unloading rates from different types of vessel under various conditions were all noted for the planning of the landing.   The construction of an airstrip was felt not to be fast enough for invasion planning and improvements were looked for. Attacks were made by the Home Guard to emphasise the need for support troops to remain alert.

This important exercise required strict security. Restrictions were imposed along the coast from Tenby to Laugharne and inland to a depth of six miles. Extra restrictions were put on civilian movement. A curfew operated from dusk to dawn between 12 July and 9 August. Civilians were forbidden to carry cameras, binoculars or telescopes and had to have their identity cards with them at all times. Mail, telegraph and telephones were subject to censorship. A test spy who attempted to get into the area was soon caught. Secretly taken photographs, which did not emerge until after the war, show Tenby harbour cleared of all civilian boats and filled with landing craft loaded with troops.

In a speech to the House of Commons on D-Day. 6 June 1944, Winston Churchill stated, This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place. It involves tides, wind, waves, visibility, both from the air and the sea standpoint, and the combined employment of land, air and sea forces in the highest degree of intimacy and in contact with conditions which could not and cannot be fully foreseen…The ardour and spirit of the troops, as I saw myself, embarking in these last few days was splendid to witness.

 The D-Day landing opened a second major front against the German forces and helped to considerably shorten the war in Europe.

It is estimated that 2,500 Allied troops died on the day of the invasion.