6 June 1944
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the D–Day landings in Normandy, France, on 6 June 1944. D–Day and the battle of Normandy marked the first step in the Allied liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Involving the largest armada of ships ever assembled, and more than 10,000 supporting aircraft, D–Day was the culmination of years of planning and preparation. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described it as “much the greatest thing we have ever attempted”.
Australians played a small but important role in the large Allied forces that participated in D–Day, and in tribute to them and all Australians who served throughout the war, the Australian War Memorial recognises and remembers their contributions to what was one of the momentous events of the twentieth century.
Approximately 3,200 Australians participated in the D–Day landings on 6 June. Thousands more would serve during the Normandy campaign and beyond. In the fleet some 500 members of the Royal Australian Navy served on attachment with the Royal Navy. A small number of Australian soldiers also served on the ground with the British Army. Our nation’s main contribution came in the air, where approximately 1,000 Australian airmen flew with Royal Australian Air Force squadrons, and a further 1,800 operated on attachment to the Royal Air Force. On top of this, 10,000 Australians waited in training and reserve pools, ready to join operational squadrons as the campaign’s casualties mounted. Thirteen Australians were killed on 6 June in Operation Overlord, and hundreds more were killed over the course of the campaign while flying in support of the ground forces in Normandy. In fact, in terms of total casualties June 1944 was the worst month in the history of the Royal Australian Air Force.