D-Day History: Commandos and Rangers with Alexander Wilson

D-Day History: Commandos and Rangers with Alexander Wilson

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The story of D-Day and the ensuing Battle of Normandy is endlessly rich and inspiring. Indeed, so much so that it is sometimes best approached from specific angles so as better to see the overall picture. Historian and Context expert Alex Wilson will do just this: approach D-Day from both the British side (Commandos) and the American side (Rangers).

The landings were such an extraordinary and unprecedented challenge in so many ways that their complexity is mind-boggling, necessitating incredibly detailed military and logistical planning, the best possible intelligence, close international cooperation... Over 150.000 men landed in Normandy that day, the numbers are just huge. Divisions and divisions of soldiers on five distinct beaches along a 50-mile coastline. A long, long coastline, therefore, with the different sectors separated by distance, by geography, and by German defensive positions... And this is where the special forces came in.

In 1940, following Dunkirk, Britain's prospects were at their lowest ebb. Unable to contemplate large-scale military action on Continental Europe, Churchill setup Commando units, small Žlite groups of highly trained men, with the aim of harrying the Germans along the seaboard. With the entry of the US into the war, the Americans would pick up on the idea and the Rangers would be trained in the UK by the British commandos.


This seminar proposes to look in greater detail at two of these operations. How on the British side, the 420-strong 47 Royal Marine Commando landing at Gold Beach would liberate the small port of Port-en-Bessin and link up with the Americans landing at Omaha. And how on the American side, 225 Rangers would succeed in taking the Pointe du Hoc, a cliff-top German gun battery slap-bang between Omaha and Utah beaches.

Led by Alex Wilson, local guide and historian who lives in Port-en-Bessin (and whose late father was a Lieutenant in 47 RMC on D-Day), the seminar will also hopefully convey what a great place the Normandy coastline is to visit in the future.

Alex Wilson, a History First from Oxford, has been living and working in France for 35 years. After running his own publishing company, he has been guiding in Normandy (and for Context) for the last ten years. While his interests extend from William the Conqueror through to the post-War reconstruction, his main focus is on WW2 and the Battle of Normandy.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.