The Great Debate UK
- Nick Hewitt is a historian in the Department of Research and Information at the Imperial War Museum in London. He studied history at Lancaster University and War Studies at King’s College, University of London, where he specialised in naval history. He joined the Imperial War Museum in 1995. The opinions expresed are his own.-
“D-Day at last! Invasion! Hurrah! God save the King!” wrote a Cheshire schoolgirl on the evening of 6 June 1944. For her, news of the successful D-Day landings clearly meant a great deal. But looking back after sixty-five years, what was the historical significance of D-Day?
In purely military terms, it is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of this extraordinary operation. Operation “Overlord” was the result of four years of hard-won experience, painstakingly acquired from the early commando raids, and then from amphibious operations of steadily increasing scale and complexity in the Mediterranean. By June 1944, the Allied sea, air and land forces were at a peak of efficiency and strength, but it had been a long, hard road.
“Overlord” was probably the most ambitious military operation in history. It involved putting ashore on one day around 133,000 men and as many as 10,000 vehicles along 50 miles of defended coastline, from more than 4,000 landing craft. A wealth of ingenious equipment had been developed, from new helmets, to swimming tanks and the “Mulberry” artificial harbours.