Sword Beach

It is the most easterly beach of the British-Canadian zone, from Luc-sur-Mer to Ouistreham. It was assigned to the 3rd British Infantry Division and to the 27th Armoured Brigade. It is 8th, 185th and 9th brigades which launch the attack, supported by the 1st Special Brigade (Lord Lovat), that includes the French people of the Commando squad n°4, the famous Kieffer commando squad (officially for Frech Army : 1er Bataillon de Fusiliers-Marins Commandos).

commando-kieffer-stoneThe main part of the assault takes place in the sector of The Breach of Hermanville. As on the nearby beach of Juno, the German defenders of the 716th Infantry division do not show a staunch heroism, but that is not the same thing with the 21st Panzerdivision, who throws her counterattack at the end of the day. Very fortunately, heterogeneous material of the division (real Panzers but also some tanks who were got back during the battle of France in 1940, even tanks taken at the Red Army in 1941/1942 and returned from the eastern front) will not allow it to compete with Sherman tanks. Thus the counterattack is stopped, but it forbided to make the junction with the troops landed at Juno – this junction will be actual the following morning. In the evening of the first day, if, as on the nearby beaches, the Allies entered well the inland,  we are nevertheless far from the assigned objectives (the storming of Caen) and farther still of the most optimistic scenario: a breakthrough to Falaise ! Nevertheless, 30 000 British men will have landed, for losses (killed and wounded) estimated between 600 and 700 men. The photography came’s from this blog.

pipe-major-bill-millinThe posterity, in particular thanks to the influence of ” The longest Day “, which we well realize today that it seems more important in the collective memory than the facts themselves, will have held the personality of Lord Lovat. This one, born Simon Christopher Joseph Fraser, is the 15th Lord and the 4th Baron Lovat. He commands the 1st Special Brigade and participated in the raid on Dieppe in 1942 (he was then Lieutenant-colonel of the Lovat scouts). Asked to relieve the parachutists of the Major Howard, who seized at night the bridges on the Orne, he lands on the beach and progresses during the forehead preceded by his piper, Bill Millin (whose legend wants that he plays ” Blue bonnets over the border “). In the movie, the role is played  by Peter Lawford. For Bill Millin, he is interpreted by an authentic bagpiper: Leslie of Laspee, who was at this time the official Bagpiper of the Queen mother. Bill Millin, died in August, 2010, 88 years old, was the last of the wellknown protagonists of the movie.

Today, an association (D-Day Piper – Bill Millin) have set up at Colleville-Montgomery, where he landed, a memorial in his honor. It is also at Sword beach that land the men of Philippe Kieffer, who are the only French unit not to participate in the landing, but to get a foothold on beaches. They are 177, and are rather quickly going to seize at first a German gun, then the former casino of Riva Bella, before making the junction on the Orne with the British parachutists. At the end of the day, the tribute is rather heavy: 10 deaths, by whom two officers, 25 % of the staff out of action (Philippe Kieffer will be twice hit himself), but Free France was there.

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