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Welcome to the HistoryExtra course on D-Day and the Normandy Campaign

In this four-week course, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the Normandy landings, guided by historian, author and broadcaster Taylor Downing.

Each part of the course features a video mini-lecture by Taylor Downing that gives an overview of the topic for that week, as well as a host of other content – features, podcasts, videos and more – to supplement your learning.

When you’ve finished the course, don’t forget to download your certificate of completion.

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Course syllabus

Week one: The Decision

Week two: The Planning

Week three: The Deception

Week four: The Day: 6 June 1944

Click here to download your end-of-course certificate

About the expert
Taylor Downing is a historian, writer and broadcaster. He has written several best-selling books and has produced more than 200 television documentaries. His forthcoming book, The Army That Never Was: D-Day and the Great Deception, is on sale from 23 May, published by Icon Books.

Week one: The decision to invade

Taylor Downing: D-Day, 6 June 1944, was known even at the time to be a historic day – the launch of the biggest amphibious invasion in history and the opening of a major second front in the war in Europe. If anything, its importance has grown in the 80 years since, and it's now seen as a real turning point in the Second World War. Join me as we explore first of all how the decision to invade Europe was made, and how the often bitter divisions between the British and American chiefs of staff nearly pulled the Anglo-American alliance apart.

Week two – Planning for D-Day

Taylor Downing: With the decision taken to launch an invasion of occupied Europe, the planning could begin. And what a mammoth task that would prove to be. A large team grew up in London to start thinking about the key military issues – when would the invasion be launched? Where would it take place? And how would it be organised? ‘When’ had largely been decided at the Casablanca Conference – the invasion would take place in the spring of 1944. ‘Where’ was an enormous decision to take – the planners had the choice to land anywhere on the whole coast of Occupied Europe from Norway to south-west France. ‘How’ depended upon the number of landing craft and men available for what would become the biggest and most complex amphibious operation of the war. Join me this week to see how decisions were reached that would change the shape of the Second World War.

Week three – Deceiving the Nazis

Taylor Downing: From the beginning of planning, it was decided that deception would be a key feature of Operation Overlord in an attempt to deceive the Germans about where and when the invasion would take place. In Operation Fortitude, a variety of tricks were played to convince the Germans that the invasion would take place over the shortest route across the Channel, against the Pas-de-Calais and not in Normandy. In this week's video lecture, I explain how a fake army group was created of about a quarter of a million men, complete with dummy tanks and landing craft in south-east England. A bullish and tough commander was put in charge, and double agents – turned by the secret services – fed the Germans with phoney information about this pretend army. Discover how the deception was set up and how the Allies succeeded in fooling the Germans as to what was going to happen...

Week four: Launching Operation Overlord

Taylor Downing: Tuesday 6 June 1944 was one of those great and memorable days that occasionally go down in history. After more than a year of planning, and following attempts to deceive the enemy as to what would happen, the Allies landed on five separate beaches across a 50-mile stretch of Normandy coastline. Some 155,000 men waded ashore or jumped behind enemy lines to seize key targets. A vast armada of more than 5,000 vessels supported the troops, along with thousands of aircraft to bomb enemy positions and protect the landing craft from the Luftwaffe. In this week's video lecture, which features archive footage of the D-Day landings, I tell the story of this remarkable day – from both the Allied side and from the German perspective.