The road to D-Day: getting ready for action

As their plans to liberate Europe gathered pace, the Allies knew that every stage of the invasion would have to be carried out with razor-like precision. Soon, thousands of troops were being put through rigorous training exercises – some of which turned out to be as deadly as the real thing | By Peter Caddick-Adams

Members of a British parachute regiment consult their maps during a training exercise just weeks before D-Day. Training was intensive – and dangerous. (Photo by Haywood Magee/Picture Post /Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Land: Before the troops could leave Britain’s 
shores, they would have to conquer Devon first

On the eve of the invasion, the build-up of troops in the British Isles was so large, servicemen joked that Britain was only being kept afloat by the number 
of barrage balloons attached to her. 
Indeed, a total of 2,876,600 soldiers, sailors and airmen were awaiting the call in southern England, and key to their success on D-Day would be the fact that each and every one of them had experienced far longer and more meaningful combat preparation than their opponents across the Channel.

However, as US infantry divisions underwent extensive training along the coast of Devon, accidents were not uncommon. Many of the exercises were necessarily dangerous, involving live artillery, mines and machine gun fire.

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