Brave Liverpool soldiers key to the Allies' assault on D-Day

Allied soldiers and supplies arrive on the shore of German-occupied Normandy during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944
-Credit: (Image: AP)

The D-Day landings laid the foundations for the Allies triumphing in the Second World War.

80 years ago today - on June 6, 1944 - Allied forces invaded occupied Normandy by sea. Targeting five beaches over 50 miles on the northern coast of Nazi-controlled France, it was the largest seaborne invasion in history and was the first step in the liberation of Western Europe.

Two Liverpool battalions had key roles in the invasion, tasked with securing their beaches and directing reinforcements onto land. They were the The 5th and 8th Battalions of the British Army's King’s (Liverpool) Regiment.

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After extensive training in Ayrshire, Scotland, the battalions were both part of the assault on the beaches on June 6. The 5th Battalion was sent to Sword Beach with the 3rd British Infantry division, while the 8th, which was the Liverpool Irish Battalion, joined the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division at Juno Beach.

In Liverpool Museums' archives is a letter sent on the eve of D-Day from Private Joseph Reddington, from the 8th Battalion to his brother John - a private in the Home Guard in Everton.

It read: "I am on this ship and within twelve hours I will be in a craft taking me to the beach. I have just written home giving them all the news. I am with John, Steven and Pip so I am with somebody I know, that's without the Padre as you know he is here with me.

"I have just seen the maps and everything is laid on. There are some troops who are on this ship going in before us and they are now setting the hand grenades and preparing their arms. All my stuff is also being primed.

"Well kid, I am not getting soft but I am a bit scared, but then I am with good guys so have nothing to be afraid of and there are a load of Canadians with us.

"You know how I liked you beside me when I wanted advice, well I don’t want advice but I wish you were here as well – you’re a good fellow to have around.

"Good night, God Bless.

"Your loving brother

"Joey xx"

Like all of the armed forces which stormed the beaches, the two Liverpool battalions faced machine gun fire from Hitler's forces, while tackling barbed wire, mines and mortar shells.

Of it, Major SD Stromberg, of the 5th Battalion said: "By the evening of D-Day the beaches were a shambles of wrecked craft, wrecked tanks and drowned vehicles."

The Battle of Normandy continued for almost three months as the Allies made inroads into France. Around 11,000 British troops lost their lives, while approximately 54,000 were wounded or missing.

Six weeks into the fighting, the 5th Battalion saw its numbers reduced through casualties and having men dispatched to other units. The 8th Battalion was disbanded.

The 5th moved further into France and became a target force, meaning they had to secure assets for the Allies, including important sites, equipment and intelligence. The 5th remained in this role until the conclusion of the war.

As they continued their assault, more than two million Allied troops made it into France, allowing for the capture of key French ports and towns. Paris was liberated from the Nazis on August 25 and German forces retreated east five days later.

The following summer, Germany was defeated and the war in Europe was over.

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