The British Army The British formations that led the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 were well trained, well equipped, well supported and well led. Their morale was sky high. Since the defeat in France in 1940, which had forced the evacuation of its Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, there had been revolutionary changes in Britain's fighting arms. The British Army's return to France was made by units that had learned much from the actions of other divisions in theatres all over the world. One such division was the 3rd Infantry Division, which was destined to land on Sword Beach. In 1940, commanded by Montgomery, it had been evacuated out of Dunkirk and arrived back in England after fighting many fierce rearguard actions against the advancing Germans. All of its equipment and transport was left in France. The 3rd Division was completely re-equipped and spent the next four years training and preparing itself for a return to war. It was earmarked for several campaigns, including the invasion of Sicily, but remained at home whilst other divisions achieved fame in North Africa and Italy. In the summer of 1943 its then commander, Major-General Ramsden, secured an undertaking that the 3rd Division would lead the British return to north-west Europe and that it would be the first division ashore. From then on, all training assumed a new focus and Ramsden's division entered a programme of preparation that was both vigorous and realistic, concentrating on amphibious assaults and attacks on fixed strongpoints. A Landing Craft Gun Large, LCG (L), on passage in the Solent passing Hurst Castle. The craft, which carried two 4in. guns and two 20mm cannon, provided close-support fire during the run-in of the assault waves to the landing beaches. Its larger guns had a range of over eight miles, so it was also able to give indirect fire support to troops moving inland. The division quickly built up a close relationship with the Royal Navy and began a series of exercises up and down the coast of Scotland. In late 1943 it joined with the naval force that would carry it to the Normandy beaches. Known as Task Force S and commanded by Rear Admiral A.G. Talbot, it was responsible for the seaborne element of the landings on Sword Beach. In December 1943, Montgomery was appointed head of 21st Army Group and designated land commander for the invasion. He immediately brought in new commanders for some of the units already allocated to Overlord, appointing officers who had previously fought with him in North Africa and in the Mediterranean and in whom he had confidence. In the 3rd Division Ramsden was replaced by Maj Gen Tom Rennie, an 8th Army veteran who had commanded a brigade in Sicily. The British 3rd Infantry Division consisted of three brigades, 8th, 9th and 185th, each containing three battalions. The 8th Brigade consisted of 1st Suffolk Regiment, 2nd East Yorkshire Regiment and 1st South Lancashire Regiment; the 9th Brigade contained 2nd Lincolnshire Regiment, 1st King's Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) and 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles; and the 185th Brigade was made up of 2nd Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 1st Royal Norfolk Regiment and 2nd Shropshire Light Infantry. In addition, the division had the usual complement of support troops - 3rd Reconnaissance Regiment RAC, 3rd Divisional Engineers and 3rd Divisional Signals. Heavy machine-gun and mortar support was provided by 2nd Middlesex Regiment. The 3rd Division's artillery element (7th, 33rd and 76th Field Regiments) were re-equipped with self-propelled Priest 105mm howitzers, and its 20th Anti-tank Regiment was given Wolverine 3in. SP guns (US M10’s). This conversion to self-propelled artillery increased the speed with which the guns could be disembarked and allowed them to fire from the decks of landing-craft during the run-in to the beaches, thus increasing the artillery support given to the division during the final critical approach to its landing sectors. The 92nd Light Anti-aircraft 8 Regiment RA completed the heavy firepower of the division. A rusty relic of the invasion. This steel 'hedgehog' was sited on the beach between high and low water and was designed to impede the progress of landing-craft and tanks. Joining with Rennie's division was a number of other units that were placed under command specifically for the assault. These specialised forces included an armoured element in the shape of 27th Armoured Brigade and 5th Assault Regiment Royal Engineers (from 79th Armoured Division); heavier firepower from the guns of 53rd Medium Regiment Royal Artillery; and the swift mobility of Lord Lovat's 1st Special Service Brigade, comprising 3, 4, 6 and 45 (Royal Marine) Commandos. To these were added units to organise the beach landings and traffic movement out of the beachhead - 101st Beach Area and Port Operating Group. To protect from enemy interference from the air, two more anti-aircraft regiments were added. Two specialist field engineer companies were also allocated to help with demolitions and obstacle clearance, while a host of other minor service units took care of various fine details associated with the amphibious landings. All these new arrivals resulted in a doubling in the size of the division, and with these changes and additions the British 3rd Infantry Division became the most powerful division that had ever left England. The British 6th Airborne Division was given the task of landing east of the River Orne prior to the seaborne landings, in order to protect the left flank of the invasion forces. The division was raised on 2 May 1943 under the command of Major-General Richard Gale, with the specific role of providing airborne troops to assist any invasion against occupied Europe. The division was, therefore, completely new, and it had just one year to train and ready itself for this momentous task. It comprised three brigades 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades and 6th Air landing Brigade - each containing three battalions. The 3rd Parachute Brigade consisted of 8th and 9th Battalions the Parachute Regiment and 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion; the 5th Parachute Brigade consisted of 7th, 12th and 13th Battalions the Parachute Regiment; and the 6th Air landing Brigade was made up of 12th Devonshire Regiment, 2nd Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and 1st Royal Ulster Rifles. The 53rd Air landing Light Regiment Royal Artillery provided artillery support, whilst 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment RAC, 6th Airborne Divisional Engineers and 6th Airborne Divisional Signals gave specialist support. Commandos leave their assembly camps and make for the embarkation port of Southampton.