WARSPITE'S D-DAY BOMBARDMENT OF NORMANDY
With a tug in attendance, HMS Warspite's
15-inch guns pound German positions in Normandy in June 1944.
The battleship had left Greenock on June 2 1944 and together with
the battleship HMS Ramillies, the 15-inch gun monitor HMS
Roberts, cruisers Mauritius, Arethusa, Danae,
Dragon and Frobisher plus destroyers, made up the
Eastern Task Force. Late on the evening of D-Day, on June 5, Warspite
pulled back from SWORD Sector where her big guns had been banging
away all day, and dropped anchor a few miles off shore. The following
day Warspite fired for effect at grid references where
it was thought likely enemy troops, vehicles and guns might be.
German strongpoints also received attention. Having then fired
more than 300 shells in just two days, the battleship's magazines
were low, so she retired across the Channel to Portsmouth to load
up with more ammunition. When she returned on June 9, she was
ordered to support the American beaches where the troops were
hard pressed and the US Navy's bombardment vessels, including
the battleship USS Arkansas, were running short of shells.
Between 16.12hrs and 18.15hrs, ninety-six rounds of 15-inch were
fired, without the aid of aircraft spotters or forward observers.
Warspite devastated a crucial enemy artillery position
and was highly praised in a signal from American commanders. Two
days later she was off GOLD beach and helped save the 50th Division
from a formidable counter-attack by destroying German troops and
tanks assembling in a wood. With all the D-Day bombardments, Warspite's
big guns were getting worn out, so on June 12 she was ordered
to Rosyth to get replacement barrels. By now, age and battle damage
were catching up with the Grand Old Lady. She had set sail to
take part in the D-Day invasion with her X turret permanently
out of action and with a huge caisson moulded over the large hole
in her hull made by the glider bomb explosion at Crete.