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Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 2 months ago

Allied Liberation of Europe

After the evacuation of Dunkirk in June 1940 Winston Churchill set up a Combined Operations Organisation "to prepare for the eventual invasion of the Continent when the tide should turn." When in October 1941 Captain Lord Louis Mountbatten was appointed to lead this unit Churchill told him, "You are to plan for the offensive. In your headquarters you will never think defensively."

The Dieppe Raid, on 19 Aug 1942, an experimental attack on a strongly defended coastal port, resulted in a tragic loss of life, mainly Canadian. However valuable lessons were learned, particularly that "the three fighting Services must be trained to plan and fight as a team." Tactical air support for the Army would be essential well before, and during the landings.

RAF Odiham had been built in 1936 as an Army Cooperation airfield, from where Nos 400 and 171 Squadrons had taken part in supporting the Dieppe Raids. In October 1941 RAF Hartford Bridge appears to have been conceived as an airfield for photographic reconnaissance and army cooperation, in preparation for the liberation of France.

After the Americans entered the war in the Mediterranean during late 1942 the lessons of Dieppe were applied to preparation for the Allied landings. At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 it was decided to "set up an Allied Inter-Service Staff to prepare a definite plan for (Operation) Overlord."

In June 1943 the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force (2TAF) subsumed the role of the Army Cooperation Command. Dozens of squadrons and airfields, including RAF Hartfordbridge, were transferred from Bomber, Fighter and Coastal Commands to the Second Tactical Air Force. To guarantee success army, air force and navy had to work together under an integrated command.

The tactical plan for the invasion was approved at the Quebec Conference in August 1943. General Eisenhower was made responsible for carrying it out in February 1944. The target date was to be 5 June 1944.

Quotations from The Second World War, Volume V, Closing the Ring, by Winston S Churchill


Back to Yateley Common in WW2


Back to RAF Hartford Bridge in the Military Topic on this website

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