D-Day in Normandy 1944

A Company, 2 RUR, inland from Queen Red beach. This photograph was taken on June 1944.
A Company, 2 RUR, inland from Queen Red beach. This photograph was taken on June 1944.

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, both regular battalions of The Royal Ulster Rifles landed in Normandy, one by air, one on the beaches. It was a unique distinction, as The Royal Ulster Rifles was the only British Army regiment to do so.

First in was the 2nd Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles. It was the second time in France in 4 years, having being part of the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940. At 10am on D-Day the landing crafts containing the Battalion touched down on the Queen Red sector of Sword beach in Normandy at a spot slightly west of Ouistreham, a pleasant French summer resort with a wide sandy beach fringed with sand dunes. On June 7, the Battalion was ordered to capture Cambes, a small village thickly wooded, approximately six miles inland from the coast.

Soldiers of 1RUR move off from LZ-N on June 6, 1944.

Soldiers of 1RUR move off from LZ-N on June 6, 1944.

The initial company level attack was repulsed with over 30 casualties. On June 9 the Battalion conducted a deliberate attack, capturing Cambes after ferocious fighting. At the end of the day, the Battalion had suffered nearly 200 casualties. Three Military Crosses, one Distinguished Conduct Medal and three Military Medals were awarded to Battalion personnel for actions during the battle on June 9.

During the Second World War 2, the 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles was converted into a glider-borne unit. As part of the 6th Airlanding Brigade of 6th Airborne Division, the battalion was carried into battle in Horsa gliders. On the evening of June 6, the 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles landed at LZ-N, near Ranville, north east of Caen and several miles from the coast. The Battalion was greeted by German mortaring and a degree of small-arms fire. These, however, did very little to hinder the forming up of the Battalion and only one casualty was sustained. Their task was to help enlarge the southern sector of the bridgehead by capturing the villages of Longueval and Sainte Honorine. The first of these was taken without incident on June 6, however on June 7 the attempt to move on the second was dogged by communications difficulties and determined German resistance.

The Battalion was forced to retire to Longueval, having suffered in excess of one hundred casualties, the overwhelming majority of which were either wounded or missing. Two Military Crosses and two Military Medals were awarded to Battalion personnel for actions during the battle on June 7.

Both Battalions were in almost continuously thereafter until the battle for Normandy was won in late August 1944.