To mark the 75th anniversary of the D Day landings, in 2019, the foyer of the Museum hosted a temporary display that showcased objects from the collection that demonstrated REME’s involvement in the events of the 6th June 1944. Although the Museum is currently closed, the display, D Day 75, is now available in blog format to reflect on these events 76 years on.
D Day 75
6th June 1944: The beaches of Normandy
The first obstacles the Allied armies had to overcome on D Day were the sea and the Normandy beaches. Water and sand threatened to stop the vehicles that were essential for the invasion to progress. Blocked beaches and stranded landing craft could have ended D Day.
REME’s role on D Day was to maintain the momentum of the British and Commonwealth armies. Secret beach surveys had located the best places to land, but these were still not ideal. Vehicles did get stuck and blocked exit routes. REME cleared these routes and also pushed the vital landing craft back out to sea.
REME also prepared for D Day by waterproofing vehicles. Up until the last minute they protected jeeps, trucks and armoured vehicles from the English Channel. This wasn’t just applying a process, REME had developed the techniques and tested them.
The British and Canadian REMEs amounted to 4.75% of the forces landing at Gold, Juno and Sword beaches. Yet this small component was an essential part of overcoming German defences.
The models seen below are examples from the collection of the vehicles involved in the D Day landings:
Model of a Churchill Tank – This Churchill tank is carrying a Log Carpet, which it would lay across difficult ground so that vehicles had a safe route across.
Model, Churchill Tank with Log Carpet (E:09.0382)
Model of a Churchill Tank with Bobbin – A ‘bobbin’ was a roll of matting laid across difficult ground. Vehicles and soldiers could then safely travel along it.
Model, Churchill Bobbin (E:00.0141.14)
Model of a Sherman Dozer – A Sherman tank with a bulldozer blade, this would be used to clear obstacles, make routes or fill shell holes.
Model, Sherman Dozer (E:00.0141.13)
Model of a Sherman Crab – A Sherman tank that cleared mine fields. When the drum spun around, the chains hit the ground and cleared any mines that were in the way.
Model, Sherman Crab (E:12.1240)
This scene is taken from a much larger diorama made by Brian Baxter. With great skill he recreated British beach landings on D Day, 6th June 1944. The diorama depicts scenes of REME rescuing vehicles and keeping the beaches open. This particular section shows a Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle (BARV). Can you see the REME colours marked on its side?
Cigarette Case, 1944 – Made by 3rd Division Workshop from a glider windscreen, which landed at Pegasus Bridge. Can you see the springs, one for each cigarette? Were they hand wound?
Cigarette Case (1971.1105)
If you would like to find out more about REME and World War Two, why not visit some of our other blog posts:
REME in Denmark: http://www.rememuseum.org.uk/2020/05/19/reme-in-denmark/
Wartime Creative: Personal Ingenuity in World War Two: http://www.rememuseum.org.uk/2020/04/22/2884/