Hutchinson's Pictorial History of the War, Series 26, No 1

HUTCHINSONS PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE WAR PREFABRICATED H ARBOU R SECTION The inshore end of a pier part of the prefabricated harbour which was erected at Arromanches. commanders expounded their plans and gave out their provisional orders. Admiral Ramsay and Air Chief Marshal Leigh-M allory were the sea and air comman­ders. Anything more impressive than the story they had to tell that day it would be hard to imagine and all of us I am sure would wish to associate ourselves with the tribute paid to these two great men by the third of the triumvirate Field-Marshal— then General— Mont­gomery. At the end of his exposition he put on the wall a large map showing where he expected the Anglo- Canadian-American forces to beat D -f- 90. Somewhere about D -f- 80 I was visiting the General at his field headquarters. The work of destroying the Germans trapped in the Falaise pocket was nearly finished. The Americans were up to the Seine at Mantes. The disposi­tions of the Allied Forccs were in fact almost exactly as they had appeared 011 the map I saw at the pre-view, but the position of the Germans was quite different. They had stood and fought on the wrong side of the Seine. A great part of them had been destroyed in consequencc and the way was open for a rapid advance beyond the Seine to the very German border. I do not think that any further compliment is necessary to those who planned this classic enterprise. The campaign which was to start in the summer of 1944 held the chance of complete and final victory and there was accordingly everything to be said for making our initial effort as great as possible. We therefore decided to throw everything we could into the battle and we did this knowing full well that if for any reason victory were delayed we should either have to reduce the scale of our effort or to call for very spccial measures to maintain it. Thus in the months preceding 6th June, we occupied ourselves in building up the 21st Army Group to the required shape and the maximum size. This was the final stage in the transformation of the Army from defence to attack—a task which first and last involved the creation or conversion of no less than 2000 units. We had for long been engaged in the process of combing outfit men from administrative posts and reducing the number and establishment of non-opera- tionai units. This process had to be intensified. More­over a drastic overhaul o four commitments for home defence was undertaken in the course of which the allotments to Anti-Aircraft Command were heavily reduced and a great number of its units either disbanded or converted to new purposes. And all had to be done in the knowledge that new forms of attack from the air were in preparation and would almost certainly be launched upon us before our invasion began. It will be clear that the recruitment and training of reinforcements sufficient to replace the expected casualties in 21 Army Group was a constant anxiety. Some newspapers and I am afraid some hon. Members have—no doubt unwittingly—given the impression that nothing but the obstinacy of the Secretary of State for War stands in the way of a reduction of the tour of overseas service to three years. Some months Iago explained in this House that to reduce the overseas tour to three years would have the consequence of reducing by 125000 the number of British soldiers deployed at any onetime against the enemy. Clearly then until Germany is defeated any such reduction is out of the question. When Germany has been defeated that will be quite another matter. A great many of those with the longest service will be released but there will still bethe war against Japan. And I am bound to say that I think that our re-deployment plans for this second stage of the war should be based on reducing the maximum tour of unrelieved overseas service to three years. I know that there exists an idea that we still have too many men behind the fighting line. The people who express this are quite often those who insist— and in my view rightly insist— on avery high standard of main­tenance and welfare services for the fighting soldier. But all these services add to the length of the adminis­trative tail. A much more important factor however is the wide distribution in space of our operational theatres. External lines have certain operational advantages but they also impose very heavy burdens. We have had invariably to transport our troops across the sea to buildup bases on open beaches to repair and re-equip damaged or destroyed ports to construct roads and bridges. Here I may say that 75 railway and 723 road bridges apart from an unknown number of improvised bridges had been built by 21 Army Group up to the end of last year. The Ministry of Supply and the War Office worked day and tonight produce not only the large quantities of equipment that were required but also in order that this equipment should be of the very highest quality. It is quite impossible to catalogue it, but I must mention the Bailey bridge the Flail tanks the engineer assault tanks the flame-throwing tanks, which Field-Marshal Montgomery picks out as a particular success self-propelled anti-tank guns and the special forms of anti-tank ammunition. O f the entirely new devices the most notable perhaps was the prefabricated harbour— the “Mulberry.” I could quote many other examples of ingenuity and foresight. For instance a set of spare lock gates for the Caen canal were constructed and made ready to be floated over incomplete case the Germans destroyed the existing gates. And again spare parts and assemblies for the repair of vehicles damaged in the early days were packed in spccial cases so that the required part could be found in the dark and without delay. Two million 24-hour rations specially packed in waterproof covers were issued in the period immediately after landing together with 3000000 self-heating tins of soup and cocoa. Three and a half million cases of compo rations 60000000 gallons of tinnel petrol and 16000 tons of coal packed in 500000 special rot-prool bags were got ready for early shipment. Twenty thous­
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