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Beach Groups: Operation NEPTUNE

The invasion of Normandy was an immense undertaking not only in terms of the number of divisions, men, and vehicles employed, but for the logistical support necessary to make it work. Among this logistical overhead was the Beach Groups. Maintenance of the bridgehead was to be done over open beaches, with the "Mulberry" artificial harbours not expected to be in place and operational until over a week following D-Day.1

The beaches were code-named consecutively from west to east using the phonetic alphabet. The three major beaches were GOLD, to be assaulted by 50th Infantry Division, JUNO, by 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, and SWORD, by 3rd Infantry Division. They were further subdivided into sectors and individual beaches as shown below.2

BEACH Assault Formation Parent Formation




GOLD 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division XXX Corps 104th Beach Sub-Area JIG JIG GREEN
JUNO 3rd Canadian Infantry Division I Corps 102nd Beach Sub-Area MIKE MIKE GREEN
SWORD 3rd Infantry Division I Corps 101st Beach Sub-Area QUEEN QUEEN WHITE

The Beach Groups were required to establish exits from the beach so vehicles could travel inland, control traffic, unload and store materiel such as ammunition, rations, petrol, etc., setting up medical care, and even the neutralization of enemy strongpoints bypassed in the initial landing.3 Pre-war doctrine had assumed these tasks could be overseen by a Royal Navy beachmaster and an Army logistics officer, but early in the war the need for a more detailed organization was made obvious. Combined Operations headquarters began formal training of Beach Organization in 1942, and the concept was honed with combat experience at Madagascar, North Africa, Sicily and Italy.4

Each beach was assigned a Beach Sub-Area Headquarters, and each Sub-Area had a number of Royal Navy Beach Commandos,  Army Beach Groups, and RAF Beach Units assigned to it. The naval Beach Commandos focused on traffic control of the incoming and outgoing landing craft, while the Army took responsibility for the cargo they discharged. The air force Beach Units were much smaller than the naval and ground forces on the beach and looked after special needs of the air force, whose priority was in establishing forward air bases inland. On D-Day, one of their tasks was establishing a fighter control and radar unit so that RAF night-fighters could patrol the beaches on the first night of the invasion. RAF units also supplied barrage balloon units.5

Beach Maintenance Areas were created from dumps formed on the beaches after the assault.
The BMAs were code-named "SUN" (GOLD Sector), "STAR" (JUNO Sector) and "MOON" (SWORD Sector).

There were eight beach groups available for Normandy, including two in reserve.6 Each Army Beach Group was based around an infantry battalion. The infantrymen provided the majority of the needed labour, as well as the combat capability to fight where needed, either to clear stubborn hold-outs from the beach or defend against counter-attacks. Specialists were assigned from various supporting corps to perform a variety of tasks, including Royal Engineers, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Army Ordnance Corps, and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Royal Army Medical Corps, Military Police and Pioneer Corps.7

Major beach units employed on D-Day in Normandy included:

Sub-Area 104th Beach Sub-Area 102nd Beach Sub-Area 101st Beach Sub-Area
Beach Groups 9th Beach Group
(King Beach)

10th Beach Group
(Jig Beach)

7th Beach Group
(Mike Beach)

8th Beach Group
(Nan Beach)

5th Beach Group
(Queen Beach)
Reserve Beach Groups 36th Beach Group 4th Beach Group 6th Beach Group
Royal Navy Beach Commandos J, Q & T L, P & S F & R
RAF Beach Units 4th
(107th and 108th Beach Sections)
(103rd and 104th Beach Sections)
(101st and 102nd Beach Sections)

The infantry component of the Beach Groups was as follows:

5th Beach Group 5th Battalion The King's Regiment
6th Beach Group 1st Battalion The Buckinghamshire Regiment
7th Beach Group 8th Battalion The King's Regiment
8th Beach Group 5th Battalion The Buckinghamshire Regiment
9th Beach Group 2nd Battalion The King's Regiment
10th Beach Group 6th Battalion The Buckinghamshire Regiment
36th Beach Group 18th Durham Light Infantry


The insignia of the Beach Groups was a blue disc with a red border, bearing a red fouled anchor insignia. This insignia was worn as a shoulder patch on the sleeves of battle dress, and was also seen painted on vehicles.

There is evidence that the patch was worn overtop of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division formation patch by Beach Group personnel assigned to Juno Beach.





Beach Group personnel on SWORD Beach on 6 June 1944. Shown are three Despatch Riders from the Corps of Military Police and an unidentified soldier meeting a French civilian. The fouled anchor Beach Group insignia is clearly seen on the sleeves of the Battle Dress. According to Bouchery, the helmets are painted with white bands to further identify them as members of a Beach Group. Additional helmet markings include a blue band with the letters MP (for Military Police) in red.

Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV) of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. The coloured flash is in REME colours while the Beach group insignia can be seen painted on the hull. The Sherman BARV was designed to assist in moving wrecks and beached vehicles.

Left: Beach Group insignia (detail from image above) painted on Sherman BARV

Right: the Beach Group insignia worn on top of the formation patch of 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.


  1. MCHS 0514 - "Administrative History of 21 Army Group - 6 June 1944 - 8 May 1945. (Printed in Germany, November 1945). Digital copy accessed online at

  2. "Combined Operations Pilotage and the Beach Organisation." - UK National Archives website accessed online at The beaches were originally to be named GOLDFISH, JELLYFISH and SWORDFISH but an objection to the whimsical sounding "Jellyfish" provided impetus for change.

  3. Bouchery, Jean The British Soldier: D-Day to VE-Day Volume 2 (Histoire & Collections, Paris, France, 2008) ISBN978-2908182743  p.58

  4. "Combined Operations", Ibid

  5. Ibid

  6. MCHS 0514, Ibid

  7. "Combined Operations", Ibid 1999-present