TOMORROW Australia will mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings during the Second World War as part of Operation Overlord — the beginning of the end of the German occupation of north-western Europe.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said Australians across the nation should take a moment to appreciate the significant actions of veterans of D-Day and the Second World War more broadly.
“During the Second World War it became clear that to defeat Germany in the west the Allies would need to launch an amphibious operation from Britain, landing on the coast of France,” Mr Chester said.
“On the morning of 6 June 1944, thousands of British, Canadian, French and United States paratroopers landed behind the beaches to secure the Allied flanks, destroy enemy artillery positions and seize and hold vital points until infantry and armour could make their way inland.
“Australian sailors, soldiers and airmen were all involved in D-Day, but our main contribution was through some 2,000 to 2,500 Australians serving in Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force squadrons.
“Around 500 Australian sailors served on Royal Navy vessels and about a dozen Australian soldiers were attached to British Army formations to gain experience in preparation for amphibious operations in the Pacific later in the war.”
Mr Chester will today join a veteran of D-Day, Mr Lawrence (Laurie) William Woods AM DFC at one of three Last Post Ceremonies at the Australian War Memorial this week honouring those who served and died in the D-Day landings.
“It will be my privilege to meet and talk with Laurie about one of the defining moments during the Second World War and to personally thank him for his service,” Mr Chester said.
“On 3 September this year we will commemorate the 80th Anniversary of Australia’s entry into the Second World War, which saw almost one million Australians enlist, of whom more than 39,000 Australians died.”
Sadly, 14 Australians are known to have been killed on D-Day, including two sailors and 12 airmen. Many other Australian airmen lost their lives in operations directly related to the invasion of France in the period leading up to 6 June 1944 and in the days that followed.
There is currently an exhibition at the Australian War Memorial on the D-Day landings detailing the involvement of Australia in the landings, a little-known story in one of history’s most dramatic events.