British 3rd Infantry Division

3rd British Infantry Division on D-Day

3rd British Infantry Division Shoulder Patch

3rd British Infantry Division Shoulder Patch

The British 3rd Infantry Division was given the task of attacking Sword Beach, the five-mile stretch of beach that ran eastward from town of Lion-sur-Mer to the city of Ouistreham. This area was studded with vacation homes and dwellings located behind a large seawall. Nine miles behind Sword Beach lay the important city of Caen, a primary objective of the Allied Forces. All of the major roads in this sector of the invasion front ran through Caen, making the city a key for both the Allies and the Germans. Also, the River Orne and Caen Canal ran southward from the eastern edge of the sector. Two strategically important bridges over these waterways were to be taken by units from the British 6th Airborne Division. Link-up with the airborne troopers was another primary objective of the 3rd Division.

The units from the 3rd Division, with attached British and French commandos, touched down on Sword Beach at 0725 on the morning of June 6. Scattered resistance met the troops as they came ashore. In some sectors the fire was intense; in others, it was more moderate. Quick advances were made inland and by 1300, Lord Lovat’s commandos made contact with the British paratroopers holding the bridges over the River Orne and Caen Canal. Later in the afternoon, units from the 21st Panzer Division, one of the few German panzer divisions in the invasion area, launched counterattacks against the 3rd. The Germans were eventually able to penetrate to the beach, but were quickly beaten back with anti-tank weapons, air strikes and Allied tanks.

By the end of the day, approximately 29,000 troops had made it ashore on Sword Beach with the cost of 630 casualties. The link-up with the 6th Airborne had solidified the eastern flank of the invasion area, although the important city of Caen was still in German hands. The town fell in early July, after an extensive and costly campaign.