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.

d-day landing

D-Day, 75 years on

Into the jaws of death

Depicting the landing of troops of E Company, 16th Infantry Regiment of the United States 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One) at Omaha Beach in the early hours of 6 June 1944, this photograph is one of the most famous images of the Second World War.

A Spitfire of No. 453 Squadron, RAAF, being prepared for take off from Ford, England, on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

Spitfires on the Continent

No. 453 Squadron, RAAF, was the only Australian unit to serve in Normandy. But this distinction came at a heavy cost. By Karl James 

crusade

On the great crusade

Australian participation in Normandy and the liberation of Western Europe came at great cost. By Dr Lachlan Grant

Wilmot

A correspondent’s view

Not everyone who landed in Normandy was a combatant.  By Emma Campbell

richard-pirrie-and-d-day

'We sail for the greatest event in the history of the world'

On 5 June 1944, Sub-Lieutenant Richard Pirrie sat down to write a letter to his family

D-day branding

Exhibition

D-Day: the Australian Story

16 May 2019 - 15 September 2019
Mezzanine Gallery, Anzac Hall

Thousands of Australians risked their lives to play a part in the liberation of France. Theirs is a little known contribution to one of history’s most dramatic events. Visit the exhibition to hear their story.

Wreaths by the pool of reflection

Last Post Ceremonies

Commemorating D-Day

The 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy landings will be commemorated on each evening 1–5 June