On D-Day, British XXX Corps was ordered to break open the German
defences on Gold Beach and advance to capture Bayeux. Its
commander, Lieutenant-General G.C. Bucknall, chose the 50th
(Northumbrian) Division, a veteran formation blooded in North
Africa, to spearhead the landing, supported by 47 Royal Marine
Commando. Despite poor weather conditions hampering the planned
armoured support, the assaulting infantry overcame stiff resistance
and heavy casualties to storm the beach. By noon Gold Beach was in
full use as a reception and dispersal site, with all four brigades
of 50th Division ashore and pressing inland. Although Bayeux was
not taken, the defences towards Arromanches were quickly cleared,
securing the site of the first artificial harbours so vital to the
Normandy campaign. The arrival of 7th Armoured Division (the Desert
Rats), also North Africa veterans, in the days following D-Day
consolidated the beachhead in the face of mounting German
resistance, setting the scene for further penetration inland.
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