In the early stages of the campaign a considerable proportion of the stores which had to be imported into the beach-head consisted of supplies and petrol.The Directorate of Supply and Transport was faced with the problem not only of providing them on a very large scale but of transporting them from coasters to beach dumps and later to roadheads, the distance to which increased as the campaign progressed. Provision of the commodities was carried out without any great departure from normal principles but careful planning was necessary in order to solve the difficulties of their conveyance across beaches in proper quantities and sequence.
Each man in the force landed with two twenty-four hour packs which were for consumption during the first forty-eight hours ashore. Apart from these the only rations employed for a considerable time were “fourteen-man Compo packs”, which proved to be very successful.
Airborne supplies for the two parachute brigades of 8 Airborne Division were carried initially by packing normal first-line scales on the man and in containers, in addition to which all spare space in the aircraft and gliders was used to stow such stores as supplies and ammunition.
Supply maintenance through BMAs was carried out according to plan and two DIDs were allotted to each beach sub area, while 33 and 38 Port Detachments and another DID were established in 4 L of C Sub Area.
The sites chosen in 101 and 102 beach sub areas were suitable but those for Nos. 2 and 5 DIDs at CREPON were cramped and unsatisfactory. Depot sites in 101 Beach Sub-Area were moved three times, having sustained shell ﬁre, and the majority of the stocks landed into the DIDs in that area were destroyed.
Morale was good from the outset and casualties were light but it was found that there was insufficient labour at all depots. As no Corps FMCs were yet open rations were drawn by first or second line transport direct from BMAs’.
By D+6 approximately two day’s reserve of Compo had been built up by means of a planned rate of one third of a day’s reserve per day from D-day onwards.
An extra fifty tons of shipping space was allotted to S & T on the express coaster which sailed on D+5 and this was used for shipping urgent additional requirements.
The express coaster service was also used for shipping bread for hospital patients daily after D+13.
Owing to the operational situation the supply depots in No. 1 Army roadhead were formed in the area of LA DELIVRANDE by the amalgamation of depots in 101 and 102 BMAs. This was not a satisfactory location but no alteration in site was possible before the capture of CAEN.
No.2 Army roadhead however, formed from 104 BMA was located NORTH, EAST and SOUTH of BAYEUX and proved to be an excellent site for supplies with plenty of room, good natural cover and a suitable traffic circuit.
Base Supply Depots, from which formations were maintained, were established in both roadheads.
By the end of this phase the Field Service Ration had been introduced but it was wholly a preserved ration except for bread which was available in limited quantities from the beginning of July. It had not proved possible to provide frozen meat during this period although steps were taken to provide cold storage at ARROMANCHES in anticipation of it becoming available.
The storm which lasted from 19 to 22 June caused a virtual cessation of unloading but fortunately substantial reserves had already been built up and 8,200,000 rations, representing approximately fifteen days reserves for the force ashore, were in depots in addition to formation holdings on 19 June against the planned ﬁgure of 7,200,000.
Since it was impossible to estimate the precise uses for which coal would be required and in order to have as few different qualities as possible, it was decided to select a coal suitable for several purposes called “GP” or general purpose coal. To facilitate handling all solid fuel was packed in 70 lb. bags.
About 20,000 tons of coal had been packed in the UK and moved to various ports in ENGLAND and WALES ready to be shipped as required and during the period 6 June—25 July approximately 8,000 tons were shipped to the BRITISH sector and taken on charge by 67 and 73 DIDs. As all cargoes shipped were mixed commodities no vessels were loaded with solid fuel only. These DIDs had been given instructions handling coal prior to D-day by working for a period with civilian coal merchants.
The planned phasing in of MT units was based on certain known factors such as the minimum tonnage and mileage required to support the assault and the maximum planned capacity of the beaches. There were, in addition, certain forecast factors which were not as certain, such as the build-up of reserves, the progressive build-up of personnel and the forecast of dates for the progress of the operation. In planning these forecasts were treated as ﬁrm facts from which the amount of transport required and the dates of landing were calculated.
For the many other imponderables, such as rate of depreciation of MT coys by vehicle casualty, the amount of bridging to be undertaken or the requirements for troop carrying at different stages etc., only estimates could be made. Planning proceeded on that basis and Second Army were to be responsible up to D+17 for the phasing in of such units as they thought necessary for normal Base and L of O transport work, beach work, medical etc. in addition to their own requirements. For tasks which were not a Second Army responsibility e.g. construction at PORT EN BESSIN and motor craft for Tn HQ 21 Army Group nominated a few units for phasing in by Second Army. On completion of Second Army planning HQ 21 Army Group phased in all remaining transport units up to D+60.
The most interesting feature concerning transport was undoubtedly the operation of the 2 1/2 ton amphibious truck known as DUKW. Eleven General Transport Companies were equipped with DUKWS, ten of which were employed exclusively in transportation of stores from coasters and other craft lying off the beaches or from MULBERRY B to dumps ashore.
Part of the remaining company was used to evacuate casualties from the beaches to LSTs while the rest of it was used to bring stores ashore. The companies were an outstanding success and contributed greatly to the maintenance of the forces over the beaches.
During the 24 hours ending 1800 hours D+5 the quantity of stores carried over the three beaches, SWORD, JUNO and GOLD, by amphibians exceeded 10,850 tons. Thirty-six DUKWs were in need of replacement due to damage: of these, about 60 per cent were damaged by mines, 30 per cent by shell ﬁre and 10 per cent by the torpedoing of an LST.
Drivers of amphibious vehicles had great difficulty in recognising and locating ships in the smoke but managed to achieve ﬁve turn-rounds between 0500 hours and 2300 hours daily, which was at times more than shore arrangements could handle. DUKW tyres sustained heavy wear and the need for replacements became acute. Otherwise the spares situation was generally good due to the fact that parts that were urgently required were despatched by air.
The work of the DUKW companies and of the Tn units, who were already engaged in the construction of MULBERRY B was considerably assisted by two motor boat companies which arrived during the first two days. One equipped with fast launches was employed in the control of DUKWs while the other, equipped with harbour launches, was employed chiefly in the ferrying of Tn personnel. The motor boat companies had a very low incidence of casualties losing only one launch in the operation.
In addition to stores landed by DUKWs RASC transport was employed both to clear beached craft after they had dried out and, to a lesser extent, the stores brought ashore by Rhino ferries. These were taken to sector stores dumps which were sited just off the beaches and later, to BMA depots when they opened on D+2.
When roadheads were formed the distance from the beaches to depots was too great for DUKWs and it became necessary to establish transshipment areas into which DUKWs delivered their loads. Those units which were to constitute the basic army transport of Second Army remained under control of army and were allocated to lift stores forward from transshipment areas to roadheads. The remaining general transport was placed under HQ L of C who became responsible for movement of stores in rear of the army roadheads.
From the transport point of view this period was characterised by the long hours of the drivers and the bad road conditions which were to have their effect on the vehicles at a later stage.
After D+9 the transport situation changed considerably and there tended to be a surplus of transport for the immediate task, but this reserve was essential in case of a break through. As casualties had been very much lighter than expected the two Ambulance Car Companies in the theatre were only 25 per cent employed during this phase. However, such units as Tipper Companies employed mainly on RE tasks were in great demand and distinguished themselves by their hard work.
It was planned to maintain the forces on the Continent up to D+18 by fuel products packed in UK. The total tonnage involved amounted to 63,000 tons which included the requirements of the RAF. From D+ 18 onwards although the maximum quantity of packed POL would continue to be imported so that the largest number of containers would be available in the theatre, it was proposed to concentrate on importing increased quantities of bulk petrol.
To make the plan effective, small depots were landed in the early stages to receive packed products and to issue them subsequently as required. By D+ 1 there were two Petrol Depots type “C” in each of the beach sub areas. The heavy demand for ammunition as early as D+1 caused a reduction in POL tonnage but even though imports were considerably decreased and 100,000 gallons of petrol and derv were lost by enemy action on D+2 a reserve of POL was rapidly built up because the consumption in the small bridgehead was one third of the planned figure.
By D+6 1,000,000 gallons of POL were stacked in the depots representing a reserve of approximately 2 1/2 days for each vehicle ashore.
While these stocks were accumulating a reconnaissance party had conﬁrmed that PORT EN BESSIN, the small port planned to be used for bulk petrol storage, would be excellent for the purpose.
By D+6 the construction of Tombolas, which were pipelines running some hundreds of yards from the water edge to permit deep draught tankers to discharge off-shore, was put in hand. In spite of bad weather and high seas which retarded the construction work the first tombola was working by 24 June and the first load of bulk petrol was discharged from ship to storage at the pumping rate of 80 tons per hour on 30 June.
By the end of July storage tanks capable of holding 9,800 tons of MT80 and 2,000 tons of aviation spirit had been completed on shore by the Engineers assisted by Pioneers.
When the army roadheads were functioning the packed petrol imports were divided between them most, however, going to No. 2 Army roadhead at BAYEUX as this was to be the first part of the RMA to be developed.
By 5 July, although bulk petrol was beginning to flow steadily into the theatre, packed products were also arriving in large quantities and in order to deal with this tonnage extra petrol units were landed so that by this time there was one petrol depot type “A”, nine type “B” and nineteen type “C” working within the beach-head.
Units to handle bulk fuel were also necessary and the first Mobile Petrol Filling Centre arrived on 30 June and the first Bulk Petrol Transport Company on 5 July.
It was conﬁrmed on 20 June that work in UK on PLUTO which was a scheme for laying cross channel oil pipelines on the ocean bed was so far advanced that the project could be launched on the capture of CHERBOURG, where the first lines were to be connected. In the meantime work had proceeded in laying the pipelines in the RMA.