North West Europe 1944 - 1947
The campaign in North West Europe covers the period from the landings of Allied forces in Normandy on 6 June 1944 through to the surrender of German Forces in the West on 8 May 1945. The campaign took place in the countries of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemborg and Germany.
At the beginning of the campaign, all the troops employed on D-Day were under command of the British 21 Army Group, yet by the end of the campaign, the majority of the forces deployed were American, with both the U.S. 12 Army Group and U.S. 6 Army Group in operation. The increasing dominance of U.S. forces in Europe can be seen that on D-Day (6 June 1944), the assaulting forces comprised two British, two U.S. (plus elements of a third) and one Canadian infantry divisions, and two U.S. and one British airborne division. These were under a British Commander-in-Chief.
At the cessation of hostilties in May 1945, the U.S. Army had deployed in western Europe
- 15 armoured divisions,
- 42 infantry divisions,
- 4 airborne divisions.
The British had:
- 4 armoured divisions (1 of which was specialist),
- 8 infantry divisions,
- 2 airborne divisions.
The Canadians consolidated all their Army formations in north-west Europe early in 1945, so there were:
- 2 armoured divisions,
- 3 infantry divisions.
There was also one Polish armoured division with 21 Army Group (and an independent parachute brigade), and the French now had three armoured and eight infantry formations serving under U.S. Command. The Theatre was under the command of a U.S. Supreme Commander, with two U.S. and one British Army Groups under command.
The campaign in North West Europe from a British perspective can be broken down into seven phases, namely:
- Initial landings;
- Normandy operations;
- The breakout and drive across the River Seine and through Belgium;
- Operation Market Garden;
- The clearing of the Schedlt and operations in The Netherlands;
- Operation ‘Veritable’ – the Reichswald offensive;
- Operation ‘Plunder’ – the crossing of the River Rhine and final offensive.
A chronology of events is included as is a synopsis of the main British formations that participated in the campaign. These were the:
- 21 Army Group;
- 2 Army;
- I Corps;
- VIII Corps;
- XII Corps;
- XXX Corps.