This was the Canadian assault beach of Major General R. F. L. Keller’s Canadian 3rd Division and Brigadier R. A. Wyman’s Canadian 2nd Armoured Brigade of Lieutenant General J. T. Crocker’s British I Corps of Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey’s British 2nd Army in ‘Overlord’ (6 June 1944).
The assault beach extended from Courseulles sur Mer, a village just to the east of the British 'Gold' (iii) beach in the west to St Aubin sur Mer, just to the west of the British 'Sword' beach in the east, and after landing along this 5.25-mile (8.45-km) length, the Canadian 3rd Division had as its D-Day objectives the severing of the road and rail lines linking Caen and Bayeux, the seizure Carpiquet airfield to the west of Caen, and the establishment of a link between 'Gold' (iii) beach to the west and 'Sword' Bbach to the east. The assault on 'Juno' beach was entrusted to the Canadian 3rd Division and Royal Marine commandos of Brigadier B. W. Leicester’s 4th Special Service Brigade under the immediate control of the British I Corps, with support from the naval Force ‘J’, the Juno contingent of the invasion fleet, which included vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy.
'Juno' beach was held by two battalions of the 736th Grenadierregiment of Generalleutnant Friedrich-Wilhelm Richter’s 716th Division within General Erich Marcks’s LXXXIV Corps of Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann’s 7th Army within Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel’s Heeresgruppe ‘B’. Elements of Generalleutnant Edgar Feuchtinger’s 21st Panzerdivision were in reserve near Caen, and overall command of the Western Front was exercised by Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt in his capacity as the Oberbefehlshaber ‘West’.
The ‘Overlord’ invasion plan called for Brigadier H. W. Foster’s Canadian 7th Brigade and Brigadier K. G. Blackader’s Canadian 8th Brigades of the Canadian 3rd Division to land on two beach sectors, designated as Mike and Nan, focusing on Courseulles sur Mer, Bernières sur Mer and St Aubin sur Mer. It was hoped that the preliminary naval and air bombardments would have softened the beach defences and destroyed coastal strongpoints to facilitate the approach, disembarkation and initial inland movement of the assault brigades, and close support on the beaches was to be provided by the Sherman DD amphibious tanks of Wyman’s Canadian 2nd Armoured Brigade. Once the landing zones had been secured, the plan called for the divisional reserve, Brigadier D. G. Cunningham’s Canadian 9th Brigade, to land reserve battalions and deploy inland, the Royal Marine commandos to establish contact with Major General T. G. Rennie’s British 3rd Division on 'Sword' beach to the east, and for Foster’s Canadian 7th Brigade to establish contact with Major General D. A. H. Graham’s British 50th Division on 'Gold' (iii) beach to the west.
In overall terms, the landings initially encountered heavy resistance from the 716th Grenadierdivision after the preliminary bombardment had proved to be less effective than had been hoped, and rough weather had forced the landings of the first wave to be delayed until 07.35. Several assault companies, most especially those of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles and the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, suffered heavy casualties in the opening minutes of the first wave’s landing, but then the Canadian numerical strength combined with the well co-ordinated fire support from artillery and armoured squadrons to clear most of the coastal defences within two hours of the landing. The reserves of the Canadian 7th and 8th Brigades began deploying at 08.30, together with the Royal Marine commandos, while the Canadian 9th Brigade began its deployment at 11.40.
The subsequent push inland towards Carpiquet airfield and the road and rail lines linking Caen and Bayeux gained only mixed results. The sheer numbers of men and vehicles on the beaches created lengthy delays between the landing of the Canadian 9th Brigade and the beginning of the primary attacks to the south. The Canadian 7th Brigade encountered heavy initial opposition before pushing to the south and establishing contact with Graham’s British 50th Division at Creully. The Canadian 8th Brigade encountered heavy resistance from a battalion of the 716th Grenadierdivision at Tailleville, while the Canadian 9th Brigade deployed toward Carpiquet early in the evening. German resistance in St Aubin sur Mer prevented the Royal Marine commandos from establishing contact with Rennie’s British 3rd Division on 'Sword' beach. When all operations on the Anglo-Canadian front were halted at 21.00, by which time the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada had reached its D-Day objective, the Canadian 3rd Division had succeeded in pushing farther inland than any other formation which had landed on D-Day.
The longer-term background to ‘Overlord’ was the agreement in 1942 by the Western Allies to open a second front in North-West Europe as the Western Front to alleviate the pressure of continued German offensives against the Soviet forces on the Eastern Front, While the UK and USA did not yet possess the resources to mount a full-scale strategic invasion, plans for a smaller-scale ‘Sledgehammer’ operation were created for implementation in the event that the German position in western Europe weakened or the USSR’s situation became critical. In August 1942 Canadian and British forces attempted a landing, the disastrous ‘Jubilee’, at the northern French port of Dieppe to test the feasibility of a cross-Channel invasion. ‘Jubilee’ was poorly planned and ended in disaster with large numbers of Canadian soldiers killed, wounded or captured for no physical gain but, in recompense, considerable gains in terms of where not and how to undertake a large-scale landing. After the British, French and US victory against the last Axis forces in North Africa during May 1943, British, Canadian and US troops invaded Sicily in ‘Husky’ (i) during July 1943, and then the Italian mainland in ‘Avalanche’ during September of the same year. By December the Allied progress to the north along the Italian ‘leg’ had slowed in the face of tenacious German resistance and the militarily and logistical difficulties of the Italian peninsula’s terrain.
After their forces had gained valuable experience in amphibious assaults and inland fighting, Allied planners were able to return more confidently to planning for an invasion of northern France, now postponed to 1944. Under the overall direction first of the British Lieutenant General F. E. Morgan, the Chief-of-Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander, and then of the US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, the plan for the invasion of France coalesced as ‘Overlord’. Scheduled initially for execution on 1 May 1944, the attack was conceived as a joint assault by five divisions transported by landing craft, and as such constituted the largest amphibious operation in military history. The attack was later rescheduled for 5 June 1944, and Normandy was selected as the target, with a zone of operations extending from the Cotentin peninsula in the west to Caen and the Orne river in the east. There were originally 17 sectors along the coast of Normandy with codenames taken from one of the spelling alphabets of the time, from Able to the west of the later 'Omaha' beach, to Rodger on the eastern flank. Eight more sectors were added when the planned invasion was extended farther to the west to include 'Utah' beach on the Cotentin peninsula. The sectors were further subdivided into beaches identified by the colours Green, Red and White. ‘Overlord’ called for the British 2nd Army to land between the Orne river in the east and Port en Bessin in the west before pressing to the south in order to capture Caen, establish a front from Caumont l’Eventé to the south-east of Caen, acquire airfields, and shield the left flank of Lieutenant General Omar N. Bradley’s US 1st Army as it landed farther to the west and proceeded to the north-west to capture the major port of Cherbourg on the north coast of the Cotentin peninsula.
Possession of the Caen area would also provide the British 2nd Army with a staging area suitable for a push father to the south to capture the city of Falaise, which could then be used as the pivot for a strategic wheel to the west to reach Argentan and the Touques river as the first step in an advance to the Seine river. between Paris and Le Havre.
After delays resulting from logistical difficulties and then the arrival of stormy weather, the launch of ‘Overlord’ was postponed 24 hours to 6 June 1944. Eisenhower and General Sir Bernard Montgomery, the latter commanding all the Allied ground forces as the 21st Army Group, aimed to capture Caen within the first day, and liberate Paris within 90 days.
‘Neptune’ (iii), as the landing phase of ‘Overlord’ was designated, was based on the use of five infantry divisions (two British, one Canadian and two US) to land on a front extending along 50 miles (80 km) of coast, and three airborne divisions (one British and two US) to land in the pre-dawn hours of D-Day and secure the landing front’s eastern and western flanks. Eisenhower and Montgomery hoped to have eight infantry divisions and 14 tank regiments in the Normandy beach-head by the fall of night on D-Day.
The landing zone was divided into five assault areas, with the US forces attacking over 'Utah' beach (at the western end of the undertaking) and 'Omaha' beach, the British attacking over 'Gold' (iii) and 'Sword' beaches farther to the east, and the Canadians attacking over 'Juno' beach, a 6-mile (9.7-km) stretch of coast between the 'Gold' (iii) and 'Sword' beaches between La Rivière to the west and St Aubin sur Mer to the east. 'Juno' beach also included the villages of Courseulles sur Mer and Bernières sur Mer.
(The codename ‘Juno’ arose because Prime Minister Winston Churchill considered that the original codename, ‘Jelly’, was inappropriate. The codenames for the beaches to be taken by British and commonwealth forces were named after types of fish: Goldfish, Swordfish and Jellyfish, which were abbreviated to Gold, Sword and Jelly. Churchill ‘disapproved of the name Jelly for a beach on which so many men might die’, and insisted on a change to the more dignified name Juno.)
Despite the fact that its strength and morale had been adversely affected by the tribulations of the campaigns in the USSR, North Africa and Italy, the German army nonetheless remained an exceptionally powerful fighting force. Even so, most of the German divisions tasked with the holding of the so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’ defences along the coast of France late in 1943 were composed of either new recruits or veteran units resting and rebuilding after service on the Eastern Front. The German strength in France was in the order of 856,000 men, of whom the majority were located along the coast. An additional 60,000 Hilfswillige (‘volunteer helpers’), Soviet and Polish members of the German army, served on the French coast. Under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, the commander of Heeresgruppe ‘B’ in northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt, the Oberbefehlshaber ‘West’, the defences of the ‘Atlantic Wall’, the line of coastal gun emplacements, machine gun nests, minefields and beach obstacles along the French coast, were significantly increased: in the first six months of 1944, the Germans laid 1.2 million tons of steel and 17.3 million cubic yards of concrete. Rommel also littered the coast in his area of responsibility with four million anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and 500,000 beach obstacles.
On 'Juno' beach, the defences of the ‘Atlantic Wall’ were greater than those of many other landing sectors. The German assumption was that the Allied landing would be made at high tide, to minimise the beach width the assaulting infantry would have to cross between their disembarkation point and the shore proper, and therefore created a ‘devil’s garden’ of obstacles sown in rows between 12 and 17 ft (3.7 and 5.2 m) above the low-water line. Strongpoints of machine gun positions, anti-tank and anti-personnel artillery and bunkers were located every 1,095 yards (1000 m) and manned by several platoons with mortars. Minefields were laid round these strongpoints, and additional defences were present in the small harbour of Courseulles sur Mer.
The beaches of Normandy’s Calvados area were defended by the 716th Grenadierdivision, which was a static defensive formation, and Generalleutnant Dietrich Kraiss’s 352nd Division, which was a conventional infantry formation. 'Juno' beach fell within the area held by the 716th Grenadierdivision, which had been raised in May 1941 and spent all its subsequent life in France: for the most part, the division comprised men below the age of 18 or above 35, and it strength was 7,771 combat troops in six battalions: current Allied divisions had nine or 12 battalions. While the 352nd Division was regarded by the Germans as a first-rate formation, the 716th Grenadierdivision was deemed nothing more than a better-than-average static division. The divisions of this latter type generally had very few vehicles or tanks, and therefore comprised little more than basic infantry and field artillery regiments.
On 'Juno' beach the division’s 736th Grenadierregiment deployed four infantry companies: the 7th Kompanie held what was to become the Mike sector, the 6th Kompanie was stationed in Courseulles sur Mer, the 5th Kompanie was at Bernières sur Mer, and the 9th Kompanie held the Nan sector and St Aubin sur Mer. A second line of four infantry companies and one Panzer company was stationed 1 mile (1.6 km) inland.
Feuchtinger’s 21st Panzerdivision was deployed to the south-east of Caen, and two battalions of impressed Polish and Soviet troops were stationed on the flanks of 'Juno' beach adjacent to the 'Sword' and 'Gold' (iii) beaches.
Canadian training for ‘Overlord’ had begun as early as July 1943, when Lieutenant General A. G. L. McNaughton, commander of the Canadian 1st Army until 26 December 1944, informed Lieutenant General H. D. G. Crerar, commander of the Canadian I Corps and from 20 March 1944 commander of the Canadian 1st Army, that the Canadian 3rd Division might play a role in the invasion of France. The division’s initial training regime was demanding, and complicated by the lack of any landing craft, either LCT tank landing craft or LCA assault landing craft, with which to practice amphibious warfare. Field exercises in Scotland began in August and September 1943 in Scotland, and established unique techniques and equipment for use by armoured and artillery regiments in storming the beach; the most significant were the DD (Duplex Drive) amphibious tanks. Techniques and physical equipment were also developed to allow pieces of field artillery to bombard the beach while still attached to their landing craft. Through the winter of 1943/44, the units involved co-operated in the joint development of more advanced assault tactics for use by the regiments committed to the Juno Beach landings.
The landings were to be supported by 7,016 ships and craft of the largest invasion fleet in history, and of these the Royal Canadian Navy contributed 121 vessels including destroyers, frigates, corvettes, landing ships, minesweepers and torpedo boats. Four Canadian ‘Tribal’ class destroyers were in the Royal Navy’s 10th Destroyer Flotilla, which joined other British naval units in keeping the English Channel near Normandy clear of German naval units.
The Naval Force ‘J’ began an intense training programme for the invasion with the Canadian 3rd Division during February 1944, and a full-scale simulation of the invasion was carried out on 4 May as ‘Fabius’. On D-Day, the Naval Force ‘J’, commanded from Hilary, a 7,403-ton passenger liner adapted as a command ship, was to bombard the German defensive positions along the landing zone with everything from the 8-in (203-mm) guns of heavy cruisers to pieces of self-propelled and field artillery embarked on landing craft. It was planned that a light bombardment of the landing zone would start 30 minutes before the landings and continue for 15 minutes, and then heavy bombing of the assault’s flanks would then begin and last until the landings started. Additional cover would be provided by British and Canadian air squadrons both before and on D-Day.
A successful surprise invasion required total air superiority over the English Channel and Normandy, and in the months before D-Day, the warplanes of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham’s British 2nd Tactical Air Force attacked airfields, coastal garrisons, radar sites, railway lines and transport routes in order to soften the beach defences, and also to prevent the Luftwaffe from challenging the Allied air superiority over Normandy. By dawn on 6 June, the British tactical air forces could deploy 2,434 fighters and fighter-bombers, as well as about 700 light and medium bombers, in support of the British and Canadian landings.
The operational plan for the ‘Juno’ beach landings was based on two main sectors: Mike in the west and Nan in the east. The Mike sector was allocated to the Canadian 7th Brigade, with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, the Canadian Scottish Regiment and the 1st Hussars in support. The Canadian 7th Brigade was to take Courseulles sur Mer and drive inland. The Nan sector was allocated to the Regina Rifle Regiment of the Canadian 7th Brigade, as well as the North Shore Regiment and the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada of the Canadian 8th Brigade, while tanks of the Fort Garry Horse provided armoured support. One squadron of AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers) specialised engineering tanks of Major General Sir Percy Hobart’s British 79th Armoured Division was also to land on each beach sector. The Canadian 8th Brigade was to capture Bernières sur Mer and the western edge of St Aubin, then push to the south into Normandy. The operational plan also called for the Canadian 9th Brigade and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers to be deployed to 'Juno' beach as reinforcements some time between four and six after the initial assault. By the fall of night on D-Day, the Canadian 3rd Division was to have captured the high ground to the west of Caen, the road and railway lines linking Bayeux and Caen, and the coastal towns of Courseulles sur Mer, Bernières sur Mer, St Aubin and Bény sur Mer.
Air attacks on the German coastal defences began in earnest at 23.30 on 5 June as squadrons of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris’s RAF Bomber Command targeted the primary coastal defences. The attack continued to 05.15, and in this time 5,268 tons of bombs were dropped in 1,136 sorties: in terms of the tonnage dropped, this was largest attack by RAF Bomber Command up to that point in the war. However, the first attacks on the ‘Atlantic Wall’ proved ineffective, largely as a result of the fact that poor weather and limited visibility made it difficult to see and therefore to hit the bunkers and turrets of the German defences. The bombing left the defences on 'Omaha', 'Gold' (iii) and 'Juno' beaches virtually intact, yet did not damage the fleet of Allied landing craft in the English Channel, which was something which many planners had feared. Some 230 bombers of the Royal Canadian Air Force specifically bombed targets on 'Juno' beach in the course of this attack, yet the direct damage was limited.
As US bombers began their own attacks against the defences of 'Omaha' and 'Utah' beaches farther to the west, the Anglo-Canadian naval forces began their counter-battery fire, seeking to knock out German shore batteries and bunkers. The British had attached the light cruiser Belfast and light anti-aircraft cruiser Diadem to the Naval Force 'J' to serve as heavy support. The 6-in (152-mm) guns of Belfast began to shell the ‘Atlantic Wall’ at 05.30 and the 5.25-in (133-mm) guns of Diadem opened fire at 05.52 on 6 June. The naval gunfire proved more effective than the aerial bombardment. The German battery at Longues was the only battery to return fire, and was quickly destroyed by the 6-in )152-mm) guns of the light cruiser Ajax. Most of the gun batteries in the area of 'Juno' beach were in fact still incomplete on D-Day, and did not possess sufficient protection or communication measures for the accurately return of fire on the warships off the coast. The battery at Bény sur Mer battery was neutralised by Diadem’s guns shortly after she opened fire.
At 06.10, the 11 destroyers of the Naval Force ‘J’ moved toward the coast to start their bombardment, hoping to damage light gun emplacements and prevent the 716th Division from mobilising and moving across the beach. The efforts of the lighter warships were supplemented by more British and US medium bomber and fighter-bomber attacks, in which another 2,796 tons of ordnance were on the five landing zones. While the medium bombers proved inaccurate, the Hawker Typhoon fighter-bombers proved more effective at attacking coastal defences. As the bombing runs continued to paste Juno Beach with ordnance, the destroyers and landing craft moved towards the beach and began close-range saturation bombardment. In addition to the fire of the two Canadian, eight British and one Free French destroyers of the Naval Force ‘J’, weight was added to the bombardment by converted LCT tank landing craft fitted with 4.7-in (119-mm) guns. Smaller landing craft were able to get closer to the beach and use their 6-pdr guns against the German defensive positions. Additional weight of fire was provided by eight LCT(R) tank landing craft (rocket) each carrying 1,080 Mk 1 or 936 Mk 2 high-explosive rockets, and 24 LCTs each carrying four M7 Priest 105-mm (4.13-in) self-propelled guns. These field regiments, while still seaborne, were to fire heavy concentrations of high explosive and smoke shells against the four main ‘resistance nests’ in the Mike and Nan sectors from a time 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the landings proper at H-Hour. Forward observation and fire-control officers in the leading assault waves were to make the necessary adjustments to this neutralising fire during the assault.
The bombardment was scheduled to end immediately before the assault companies deployed on Juno Beach, but as a result of heavy seas the landing was delayed by 10 minutes to 07.45 in the Mike sector and to 07.55 in Nan sector. This meant that the landings were made on a slightly higher tide and therefore closer to the German beach obstacles and mines. The LCTs carrying the field artillery were forced to adjust course to avoid landing too early, and the LCTs carrying Sherman DD tanks were forced to break off their advance. The sea proved to be too rough to allow the launch of the Sherman DD tanks, so they were ordered to deploy from the LCTs several hundred yards out from the beach.
Although the Canadian 7th Brigade was scheduled to land on Mike sector at 07.35, rough seas and poor craft co-ordination pushed this time back by 10 minutes. Two assault companies of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, one assault company of the Canadian Scottish Regiment, and one squadron of the 1st Hussars were to land on Mike Red and also on Mike Green, while the Regina Rifle Regiment, supported by a second squadron of the 1st Hussars, landed on Nan Green. The first LCA assault landing craft carrying men of the Winnipeg Rifles beached at 07.49, with the remaining assault companies deploying within seven minutes. The LCAs carrying B Company craft were engaged while about 700 yards (640 m) off the beach. Disembarkation had to be effected under direct fire and, in consequence, heavy casualties were sustained by the company as it landed. The strongpoint in this area comprised three casemates and 12 machine gun emplacements. This left the infantry the grim prospect of clearing it by direct assault, and B Company was unable to advance farther without armoured support. The Hussars’ A Squadron launched 1,500 yards (1370 m) from the beach, but would not be fully deployed until a time six minutes after the Winnipeg Rifles’ landing.
To their west, D Company faced less defensive fire, as it was clear of the strongpoint. The company easily cleared the beach, and went through the barbed wire with only light casualties. A platoon of the 6th Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers, was redirected to clear the minefields facing D Company, given that the flail tanks had yet to land. On the far right, C Company of the Canadian Scottish Regiment landed with little opposition, and discovered that naval gunfire had already destroyed the 75-mm (2.95-in) gun emplacement that had been their objective.
To the east of Mike sector, the Regina Rifles came ashore on the Nan Green sector with the task of defeating the German force in Courseulles sur Mer. A Company beached at 08.09 and almost immediately encountered heavy resistance; B Company beached at 08.15. The Hussars’ tanks first reported deploying 20 minutes before the infantry, with the headquarters of B Squadron reporting its landing at 07.58. The tanks had the task of destroying a gun emplacement equipped with 88- and 75-mm (3.465- and 2.95-mm) guns inside concrete walls 4 ft (1.2 m) thick. The bombardment before the landing had not destroyed the emplacement, and its heavy machine guns then inflicted high casualty rates on the company: one LCA reported the deaths of six men killed within seconds of its ramp’s lowering. One platoon was able to breach the barbed wire lining the beach and take cover in Courseulles sur Mer, and then eliminated the machine gun positions which were firing on A Company of the Regina Rifles. The Sherman DD tanks arrived in the Regina Rifles’ sector with both greater numbers and punctuality than had the tanks in the Winnipeg Rifles’ sector. The 75-mm (2.95-in) gun emplacement in the Courseulles sur Mer strongpoint was destroyed by fire from B Squadron of the 1st Hussars, and the 88-mm (3.465-in) emplacement was similarly silenced. To the east, B Company encountered limited resistance, and succeeded in pushing into Courseulles sur Mer, and soon cleared the little town.
With the initial assault companies ashore and fighting for their objectives, the reserve companies and battalion (Canadian Scottish Regiment) began their deployment across 'Juno' beach. A and C Companies of the Winnipeg Rifles landed at 08.05, and began to push toward the villages of Banville and Ste Croix sur Mer. A Company encountered heavy machine gun fire, and had to request support from the 1st Hussars to clear the position. On the Nan Green sector, C and D Companies of the Regina Rifles prepared to storm Courseulles sur Mer. C Company beached at 08.35 and moved into the village without difficulty. D Company was further delayed, and as a result several LCAs struck anti-tank mines attached to beach obstacles, and only 49 men of D Company reached the beach. The Canadian Scottish Regiment arrived on the beach at 08.30, its leading companies coming under heavy mortar fire, ands it took the regiment one hour to get off the beach and drive inland.
Originally scheduled to land at 07.45 to the east of the Canadian 7th Brigade, the Canadian 8th Brigade’s two assault battalions were postponed by 10 minutes as a result of heavy seas. The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada landed at 08.12 at Nan White and faced the most tenacious defences of any unit in Nan sector: an 88-mm (3.465-in) gun emplacement and several machine gun nests outside Bernières sur Mer. The first LCA to beach saw 10 of its first 11 soldiers either killed or wounded. B Company came ashore directly in front of the main resistance nests, some 200 yards (185 m) to the east of the planned landing zone, and its men were then taken under heavy mortar and machine gun fire. The Queen’s Own Rifles had been scheduled to advance with Sherman DD fire support, but the heavy seas meant that rather than swim to the beach, the Sherman DD tanks left their craft close inshore and landed behind the infantry assault companies. Several men of B Company succeeded in outflanking the main pillbox and killing its gunners with grenades and small arms fire. The rudder of one of the LCAs carrying B Company had jammed, and that platoon landed far to the left of the rest of B Company, which in fact allowed the men of this platoon to outflank and destroy the gun emplacements. With the defences silenced, the men of the Queen’s Own Rifles were able to advance into Bernières sir mer after sustaining 65 casualties on the beaches. To their west, A Company encountered less resistance, but was adversely affected by the poor co-ordination of their LCAs to the beach. A Company was able to reach the sea wall quickly and then to breach the barbed wire, but encountered heavy mortar and sniper resistance in Bernières sur Mer. This was the only sector of Juno Beach in which the armoured support proved ineffective, for B Squadron of the Fort Garry Horse was too far out from the beach to provide heavy support.
The first units of the North Shore Regiment’s A and B Companies beached on Nan Red at 08.10 in chest-deep water. The assault elements were to take and secure St Aubin and to clear the defences in the village. B Company landed to find that the St Aubin strongpoint seemed not to have been touched by preliminary naval bombardment. The two assault companies faced a 100-yard (90-m) sprint across open beach in the face of fire from St Aubin. A Company suffered the heavier casualties, many of these as a result of beach mines. B Company faced stronger opposition at the strongpoint, yet managed to breach the sea wall and barbed wire. The strongpoint’s 50-mm anti-tank gun was still active, and the thick concrete casemates protected it from infantry fire. By 08.10 Sherman tanks of the Fort Garry Horse and AVRE tanks of the 80th Assault Squadron, Royal Engineers, had landed at Nan Red, and began to aid B Company in clearing the gun emplacement. The 50-mm gun knocked out four of the squadron’s tanks, while the North Shore Regiment’s machine gun platoon flanked the position. The right section of the strongpoint was then destroyed by anti-tank guns and combat engineers, while the centrally located anti-tank gun was silenced by 165-mm (6.5-in) petard bombs from the AVREs. When the North Shore Regiment captured the strongpoint, about half of the defenders had been killed, leaving 48 Germans to surrendered.
The Canadian 8th Brigade’s reserve battalion, Le Régiment de la Chaudière, began deploying to the beaches at 08.30 together with the reserve companies of the North Shore Regiment and the Queen’s Own Rifles. More than half of the LCAs were crippled by mines buried along the beach, and those carrying C Company of the Queen’s Own Rifles were compelled to beach farther offshore when their LCAs were damaged by mines. C Company linked with B Squadron of the Fort Garry Horse, and moved to assist the men of A Company, exhausted and pinned down. The North Shore Regiment’s C and D Companies landed outside St Aubin, C Company taking over from A Company in the advance deeper into St Aubin, while D Company established a firm presence inside the village. All but one of the LCAs carrying A Company of Le Régiment de la Chaudière foundered before they could beach, and the men lost most of their equipment while swimming to shore. Even so, the men of Le Régiment de la Chaudière formed quickly outside Bernières sur Mer and St Aubin, linking with Queen’s Own Rifles and the North Shore Regiment.
The reserve also included the No. 48 (Royal Marine) Commando, which was scheduled to land 45 minutes after the first arrivals. The commandos were to skirt St Aubin’s eastern edge and occupy Langrune sur Mer on the eastern end of Juno Beach. The strongpoint facing the commandos had not been cleared, and about 40% of the 400 commandos unit became casualties within seconds of landing.
With 'Juno' beach itself largely secured, Keller now prepared to deploy the reserves of the Canadian 9th Brigade and tanks of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers. The reports coming in from the battalions already on 'Juno' beach were mixed, with the advance of the North Shore Regiment proceeding according to plan and the Le Régiment de la Chaudière making only progress. The two self-propelled artillery regiments (14th Field and 19th Army Field Regiments, Royal Canadian Artillery) had deployed at 09.25 and 09.10 respectively, and had several dozen guns in action before 11.00. The German opposition and continued problems with mine obstacles on Nan Red meant that the whole of the Canadian 9th Brigade would have to land in Bernières sur Mer and the Nan White sector. When the Canadian 9th Brigade’s LCI infantry landing craft beached at 11.40, the congestion on the beach at Nan White was so heavy that most infantry companies could not disembark from their landing craft. The Canadian 9th Brigade’s reserves comprised the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, and the Highland Light Infantry of Canada, and of these the Glengarry Highlanders reported coming under mortar fire from German positions farther inland largely as a result of the fact that the Canadian 9th Brigade, with little room to manoeuvre, became an easy target for the German artillery. The Canadian 9th Brigade crossed the beach quickly and joined Le Régiment de la Chaudière, Queen’s Own Rifles and Fort Garry Horse in Bernières sur Mer to await the orders to begin the inland advance.
After overcoming the German beach defences, the landed forces now had to clear 'Juno' beach of obstacles, debris and undetonated mines, and to establish the headquarters of the Canadian 3rd Division in Bernières sur Mer. MCU movement control units landed shortly before 12.00, and military police began to marshal vehicles through to Bernières sur Mer and Courseulles sur Mer. Engineers of the 619th Independent Field Company also arrived to embark on the task of clearing the minefields surrounding the beach and so facilitate the advance to the south in the direction of Carpiquet. Keller established his divisional headquarters in Bernières shortly after 12.00.
At 14.35 Keller met the commanders of the Canadian 8th and 9th Infantry Brigades, as well as the newly reconstituted Canadian 2nd Armoured Brigade (Fort Garry Horse, Sherbrooke Fusiliers and 1st Hussars). With the ‘Yew’ first line of objectives secured on the beach-head, Keller now ordered the Canadian 7th and 8th Brigades to advance with armoured support toward the ‘Elm’ second line of objectives, after which the Canadian 9th Brigade would leapfrog over the Canadian 7th and 8th Brigade to reach the ‘Oak’ third objective line. Facing the Canadian 3rd Division were the remnants of three battalions of the 736th Grenadierregiment and three battalions of the 726th Grenadierregiment.
B Company of the Winnipeg Rifles was still facing heavy resistance from snipers and machine guns in Courseulles sur Mer, while the eastern companies of the North Shore Regiment were fighting for St Aubin. A and C Companies of the Winnipeg Rifles moved off the beach, cut through the walls of barbed wire behind the German bunkers, pushed through Vaux and Graye sur Mer, and began to advance towards Ste Croix and Banville. C Company advanced on Banville, headquarters of the 2/726th Grenadierregiment, but was stopped by three machine gun emplacements just short of the town. The Winnipeg Rifles’ A Company joined C Company of the Canadian Scottish Regiment and a troop of the 1st Hussars’ C Squadron and advanced on Ste Croix, unaware of the fact that a German was being massed in this village for a counterattack under the command of the 8/726th Grenadierregiment. The Canadian Scottish Regiment’s C Company had deployed to their west, and was able to spot the units of the 8/726th Grenadierregiment and halt the counterattack before it developed fully. The Winnipeg Rifles’ D Company joined the advance on Banville with covering fire from the Cameron Highlanders and the 12th and 13th Field Artillery Regiments. Banville was declared captured at 13.10, although small pockets of German resistance remained until the fall of night, whereupon they extricated themselves and fell back. D Company of the Canadian Scottish Regiment moved to capture two bridges on the Seulles river at points inland of the Winnipeg Regiment’s companies. B Company joined them, and pushed through the gap between Ste Croix and Banville, joining C Company as it did so with armoured support from C Squadron of the 1st Hussars. To these units’ east, the Regina Rifles advanced to the south in the direction of Reviers, engaging units of the 7/736th Grenadierregiment, and reported reaching the town by 12.15 with two companies. The Regina Rifles then began to consolidate their position in preparation for further advance.
In Nan sector, the Canadian 8th Brigade’s advance started more slowly than that of the Canadian 7th Brigade, because Le Régiment de la Chaudière had lost most of its equipment in the advance over the beaches. C Company of the Queen’s Own Rifles was pinned down at the edge of Bernières sur Mer by sniper fire, and could not cross the open fields behind the town. Its armoured support was also stopped by heavy anti-tank fire from Beny sur Mer. A and B Companies of Le Régiment de la Chaudière were caught in the crossfire, B Company losing almost an entire platoon when a German 88-mm (3.465-in) gun scored a direct hit on a Priest self-propelled gun. The progress of the Le Régiment de la Chaudière and the Queen’s Own Rifles was slow, and it took nearly two hours for artillery and heavy guns to clear the defences at Beny sur Mer, allowing the Queen’s Owen Rifles to advance toward the town. Beny sur Mer was reported cleared at 14.00, at which point Le Régiment de la Chaudière began to mass in the town for a continued advance to the south in the direction of Carpiquet. The Queen’s Own Rifles broke off to the left to engage heavy artillery batteries to the west of Beny sur Mer, and B Company was assisted by the 4.7-in (119-mm) guns of the Canadian destroyer Algonquin, which destroyed a bunker of 105-mm (4.13-in) guns. To their east, C and D Companies of the North Shore Regiment advanced towards Tailleville, which was the headquarters of the 2/736th Grenadierregiment. The German mortar fire into the area to the north of the headquarters was both concentrated and accurate, slowing the advance of C Company, which was supported in its drive to the south by tanks of the Fort Garry Horse, which caught close to 100 German defenders in open fields. The North Shore Regiment and its armour support entered Tailleville at 14.00, at which point the six of C Squadron’s tanks moved through the village, destroying German gun emplacements. However, the 2/736th Grenadierregiment had created a complex underground bunker system in the village, which made it possible for men of the battalion to move undetected and constantly outflank the Canadian infantry. Thus it took another seven hours to clear Tailleville of defenders, and this had the effect of preventing the North Shore Regiment from taking the German radar sites to the south on D-Day.
Meanwhile, B Company of the North Shore Regiment and No. 48 (RM) Commando were engaged in a protracted fight to secure St Aubin and Lagrune sur Mer. B Company had generally neutralised its strongpoint target within two hours of landing, and this allowed the Royal Marines’ A and B Troops to push to the west. These units had the important task of bridging the 5-mile (8-km) gap between the 'Juno' and 'Sword' beaches and thus create a continuous British and Canadian front by the end of the first day. The Royal Marines began to advance on Lagrune and the next German strongpoint, while to their east No. 41 (RM) Commando advanced from 'Sword' beach. The strongpoint was held by a reinforced platoon of the 736th Grenadierregiment, and was centred on a group of fortified houses and 50-mm anti-tank guns. B Troop’s first attempt to take the strongpoint failed, and the assault was renewed with the close support of Centaur IV tanks, only to again falter in the face of heavy resistance. No. 48 (RM) Commando was forced to halt the assault as night fell, even as reports began to arrive that the 21st Panzerdivision was grouping for a counterattack on the gap between 'Sword' and 'Juno' beaches. The strongpoints at Lagrune and Luc sur Mer were captured only on 8 June.
The Canadian 3rd Division’s advance to the south of Tailleville had halted, preventing an attack on German radar stations. The Queen’s Own Rifles and C Company of Le Régiment de la Chaudière opted to continue their advance toward Anguerny and Columby sur Thaon and the ‘Elm’ objective line. The beach-head was now packed to capacity with troops, to the point that B Company of Le Régiment de la Chaudière could not be deployed alongside C Company without severely hindering the advance of the Queen’s Own Rifles to its east. C Company’s advance on Basly was even further hindered by the almost close-quarter nature of the combat: fighting was taking place at such close range that the 14th Field Artillery would not provide fire support for fear of inflicting ‘friendly fire’ casualties. When C Company reached Basly, the North Nova Scotia Highlanders formed up outside Beny sur Mer, with the intention of overtaking Le Régiment de la Chaudière and making for Carpiquet and the road and rail lines linking Caen and Bayeux. At 16.45 the North Nova Scotia Highlanders assembled in Beny, where it became the target of concentrated German mortar fire as the Sherbrooke Fusiliers removed the waterproofing from its tanks. Three companies of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and a squadron of the Sherbrooke Fusiliers advanced on the mortar positions, the infantry suffering heavy casualties but the German position being cleared. The Queen’s Own Rifles entered Anguerny. on the ‘Elm’ objective line, at 17.30, and despatched its D Company to probe the German defences on the hills overlooking the village. The Le Régiment de la Chaudière reported that Basly was clear of defenders at 18.15, allowing the Canadian 9th Brigade to advance towards Carpiquet airfield. By 19.00 the North Nova Scotia Highlanders was advancing towards Carpiquet, encountering their first resistance an hour later. With reports of the 21st Panzerdivision attacking the flanks of the British 3rd Division on 'Sword' beach, the commander of the British 2nd Army, Dempsey, ordered the forces on 'Sword', 'Juno' and 'Gold' (iii) beaches to establish defensive positions at their intermediate objectives.
On the western edge of the Canadian sector, the advance of the Canadian 7th Brigade had stalled in the face of stiffening resistance in Ste Croix and Banville, dislocating the schedule of the assault’s right flank. The German defenders gave ground only slowly, and did not begin to withdraw from the towns until the Bren light machine gun platoons began to arrive at 14.00. Once Ste Croix and Banville had been cleared, the Canadian Scottish Regiment pushed to the south in the direction of Colombiers, reinforced the platoons which had taken the bridge across the Seulles river earlier in the day, and moved toward the road linking Creully and Caen. The Canadian Scottish Regiment reported reaching the road at 16.30, and continued to push to the south past the ‘Elm’ objective line. To the Canadian Scottish Regiment’s west, the Royal Winnipeg Rifles halted on the ‘Elm’ line and began to create defensive positions with Bren-equipped Universal Carriers and artillery. The Regina Rifles, meanwhile, had been slow to advance from Courseulles sur Mer because of the heavy casualties it had taken while securing the village. B Squadron of the 1st Hussars was in a similar position, for only half of its fighting strength had made it off the beach. By 18.00 the Regina Rifles were advancing, while the 1st Hussars scouted ahead of the infantry companies. As the Regina Rifles linked with the Canadian Scottish Regiment, the order to hold positions and dig in arrived from Keller’s headquarters, and these two battalions halted at 21.00.
Three tanks of the 1st Hussars’ C Squadron (No. 2 Troop) had continued to advance to the south, pushing along side roads towards Carpiquet airfield. Aside from a German staff car and a machine gun nest, the three Sherman tanks met almost no resistance, advancing all the way to the rail line linking Caen and Bayeux, and thereby becoming the only unit on the whole of D-Day to reach its final objective. Although the unit’s commander tried to contact his superiors to bring up reinforcements for an attack on Carpiquet airfield, the three tanks eventually withdrew to the Canadian lines.
At the end of D-Day, the Canadian 3rd Division was situated firmly on the ‘Elm’ objective line, short of its ‘Oak’ final D-Day objectives. In the west, the Canadian 7th Brigade was anchored in Creully and Fresne-Camilly; in the centre the Canadian 9th Brigade was positioned a mere 3 miles (4.8 km) from Caen, the farthest inland of any Allied units on D-Day; and on the eastern edge of the Canadian sector the Canadian 8th Brigade had taken up positions in Anguerny and Columby, having begun in the late afternoon to dig in. The Canadian 3rd Division had succeeded in advancing farther than any other divisional element in the 21st Army Group, but as a result of heavy fighting in Lagrune and St Aubin had failed to link with the British 3rd Division from Sword Beach. The 716th Division was scattered and heavily depleted and Richter, its commander, recorded that less than one full battalion could be mustered for further defence. The 21st Panzerdivision had driven a wedge between the British 3rd Division and Canadian 3rd Division, yet had been unable to dislodge either from its beach. To the south, Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein’s elite Panzer-Lehr-Division and SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Fritz Witt’s 12th SS Panzerdivision ‘Hitlerjugend’ had been released by Adolf Hitler, and now prepared to move to the north with SS-Obergruppenführer und General der Waffen-SS Josef Dietrich’s I SS Panzerkorps.
While the Normandy landings in all five sectors managed to establish footholds in Normandy, many D-Day objectives were not met. Major General Matthew B. Ridgway’s US 82nd Airborne Division and Major General Maxwell D. Taylor’s US 101st Airborne Division had suffered heavy casualties but had captured Ste Mère Eglise to the west of 'Utah' beach. On the Cotentin peninsula, Major General Raymond O. Barton’s US 4th Division had suffered lighter casualties in securing 'Utah' beach, and had established a strong beach-head by the end of D-Day. On 'Omaha' Beach the US assault force had met with less success, as intact defences and higher-calibre troops of Kraiss’s 352nd Division caused heavier casualties than at any of the other beaches: at one point the attack was going so badly that Bradley, commander of the US 1st Army, considered withdrawing Major General Leonard T. Gerow’s US V Corps from the beaches. A second wave of attacks breached the coastal defences, but could push only 2,000 yards (1830 m) inland by the fall of night. To the west of 'Juno' beach, Graham’s British 50th Division encountered only light resistance on 'Gold' (iii) beach, and succeeded in advancing inland and creating a continuous front with the Canadians from 'Juno' beach but not with the Americans from 'Omaha' beach, at the cost of only 413 casualties. To the Canadians’ east, Rennie’s British 3rd Division succeeded in establishing a foothold on 'Sword' beach. However, the counterattacks of the 21st Panzerdivision during the afternoon had prevented the British 3rd Division from advancing to Caen and also from establishing contact with the Canadian 3rd Division on 'Juno' beach. The counterattack did not succeed in driving the British 3rd Division off 'Sword' beach as units of Major General Richard N. Gale’s British 6th Airborne Division, which had landed during the previous night in ‘Tonga’ near the Orne river, were able to outflank the 21st Panzerdivision and force it to withdraw.
Despite the heavy casualties which had been inflicted on the 352nd Division and 716th Division, the 7th Army quickly established plans for counterattacks. Early logistical responses to the invasion were confused, as the divisions required for the counterattacks came under a formation not tasked with coastal defence and, moreover, the heavy Panzer formations, such as the Panzer-Lehr-Division, 12th SS Panzerdivision and SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Heinz Lammerding’s 2nd SS Panzerdivision ‘Das Reich’, could not be moved toward the coast without the explicit permission of Hitler, who still believed that ‘Overlord’ was a feint designed to draw his attention away from the Pas de Calais region, where he expected the main assault. The order to move the Panzer-Lehr-Division and 12th SS Panzerdivision was not finally given until the middle of the afternoon of 6 June.
When the Canadian 9th Brigade and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers resumed their advance on 7 June, they were met by the entrenched forces of the 716th Division and 21st Panzerdivision. At 17.00, the advancing force was counterattacked by the 12th SS Panzerdivision. After heavy fighting the Canadian 9th Brigade was forced to withdraw to its D-Day positions after suffering heavier casualties than any single unit on 'Juno' beach itself the previous day. However, the Canadian 7th Brigade succeeded in reaching its final D-Day objectives along the ‘Oak’ line, while the Canadian 8th Brigade attempted to destroy German radar stations to their east, a task which the brigade completed only on 11 June.
The Canadian 3rd Division made contact with the British 3rd Division from 'Sword' beach on 7 June, and a single British, Canadian and US continuous front had been established by 13 June. The subsequent advances to the south on Caen and to the north-west on Cherbourg were slow as the Germans had concentrated large numbers of Panzer units near Caen and Carentan. The Canadians finally took Carpiquet airfield during ‘Windsor’ on 5 July, while British and Canadian forces captured Caen as part of ‘Charnwood’ (8/9 July) and ‘Atlantic’ (18/20 July).
Initial predictions for the losses which might be expected on Juno Beach had been very high, approaching 2,000 men including 600 drowned. As it emerged, the Canadian 3rd Division lost 340 men killed, 574 wounded and 47 taken prisoner for a total of 961. The Queen’s Own Rifles suffered the heaviest losses, with 143 casualties, the Winnipeg Rifles 128, the North Shore Regiment 125 and the Regina Rifles 108. Of the varied landing craft used on the run-in to Juno, 90 of 306 were lost or damaged.
As a result of the breakdown of logistics on D-Day, the exact numbers of casualties suffered by the 716th Division are unknown. Of the 7,771 men of the division’s four German battalions before the invasion, however, Richter reported that the equivalent of only one battalion remained, and then at only 80% strength. At least one of the two conscript battalions of the 716th Division was reported to have fled. Richter also reported that 80% of the division’s artillery had been destroyed or captured on D-Day, while only two gun batteries were intact to the west of the Orne river. By 9 June the division had been reduced to a 292-man Kampfgruppe.
Despite its failure to capture any of its D-Day final ‘Oak’ objectives, the Canadian 3rd Division’s assault on 'Juno' beach is generally considered, with that of the US 4th Division on 'Utah' beach, to have been the most successful of the D-Day landings in operational and tactical terms. Despite this, the failure of the Canadian 3rd Division’s units to reach their ‘Oak’ line final objectives has been the subject of some dispute. Some have laid the blame on Keller, who committed the whole of the Canadian 9th Brigade reserve to land on the narrower beaches of the Canadian 8th Brigade, which was itself still fighting to clear the seaside towns, after receiving reports of poor progress by the Canadian 7th Brigade. Others have noted the adverse effects of the huge mass of vehicles and other equipment in the beach as these sought to break the congestion and move inland. The Canadian official historian, on the other hand, suggested that the division might have been able to reach its ‘Oak’ line objectives but for the propensity of the British and Canadian forces to do better at deceiving the enemy and achieving initial success in the assault than at exploiting surprise and success once achieved.