Ever since June 6th 1944 the words ‘D-Day’ have been associated with the successful Allied landings in Normandy. It was codenamed ‘Operation Overlord’.
From April 1st 1944, Newhaven was within a 10 mile ‘exclusion-zone’ to visitors that stretched across the South Coast of England. This was in a bid to conceal the huge gathering of military forces making their way to ports ready for the eventual embarkation.
Thousands of Allied troops were trained and based at ‘transit’ camps. All roads into the town were full of military traffic. Trains brought troops and supplies, and in the fields of the surrounding countryside were thousands of vehicles & tanks ready to set out in ‘Landing Craft’ across the English Channel.
By 1944, Newhaven Harbour and the town were already well defended by seven ‘Heavy’ Anti-Aircraft batteries with four guns apiece (not to mention around a dozen Light AA sites). As added cover over the assembling forces bound for Newhaven Harbour, two American AA Batteries joined the defence. These were sited at Piddinghoe and Iford villages.
During the build up of activity in Newhaven Harbour huge camouflage nets were erected over the River Ouse at Piddinghoe to conceal some of the assembling landing craft and other naval vessels. Under these, Allied vessels would be concealed from aerial observation.
Newhaven Harbour & D-Day LCIs, 1944
June 5th 1944
The date set for ‘D-Day’ was originally June 5th, but this was postponed due to bad weather. On the 5th of June, Allied commanders received the news that ‘good’ weather was expected for the next three days and the go-ahead was given.
The Allied armada, including many from Newhaven Harbour which had previously set out on the 4th only to be called back, returned to the open waters. This time there was no turning back.
At 23:00 on June 5th, 24 Royal Navy motor launches from Newhaven set off towards the Straights of Dover specially fitted with radar equipment. Flying overhead and in the same direction were Lancaster bombers of 617 (The Dam Busters) Squadron.
Once nearing the Pas-de-Calais, the motor launches circled in the straights and the Lancasters of 617 Sqn dropped millions of strips of aluminium foil – codenamed ‘Window’.
German radar in this region of the occupied coast was now convinced a large force was assembling for an attack on the Pas-de-Calais coast. This deception was codenamed ‘Operation Glimmer’.
Troops arrive at Newhaven Harbour, 1944
During the initial embarkations prior to June 5th and in the days and weeks following June 6th, Newhaven Harbour shared a squadron of Landing Craft Tanks (LCTs) with Shoreham harbour.
Considering the time it took to load vehicles, supplies and thousands of troops, Newhaven Harbour managed to turnover around 19 ‘Vessel Movements’ a day. Each rotation would include;
- 4 Supply vessels (Medium Coasters)
- 3 LCTs (Landing Craft Tanks)
- 1 Infantry Landing Craft with 1800 troops per embarkation.
On the 6th June every year we remember our brave troops and the important role that Newhaven played in defending England.