British and Free French Forces Land at Sword Beach in Operation Overlord
Sword Beach was the codename of one of the five main landing beaches in Operation Neptune, which was the initial assault phase of Operation Overlord (the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944). Stretching 8 km from Ouistreham to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer it was the farthest east of the landing points and around 15 km from Caen. The initial landings were achieved with low casualties, but the British forces ran into heavily defended areas behind the beachhead. The British landings were the only Allied sectors that faced attack by German Panzer Divisions on 6 June 1944.
"Sword Beach ran from Lion-sur-Mer to Ouistreham at the mouth of the Oran Canal. In most areas there were vacation homes and tourist establishments just inland from the paved promenade that ran behind the seawall" (Ambrose 549). The British 3rd Infantry Division and its supporting units, including a force of French Commandos, which served with the Scottish 1 st Commando Brigade, assaulted Sword Beach. The Commandos were to clear a way through the town of Ouistreham, very near Benouville, and then meet the members of the British 6th Airborne Division who were waiting at the Orne bridgehead. " After a massive preliminary bombardment, the heaviest on any of the beaches that day, the DD tanks were launched"