COMBINED OPERATIONS: BEACH ORGANISATION [Main Title]
- Catalogue number
- ADM 1163
- Production date
- Place made
- Subject period
- whole: Number Of Items/reels/tapes 3
© IWMLicense Film
A British Army instructional film made prior to the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 describes with animated maps, graphics and live action sequences the role, structure and organisation of a Beach Maintenance Area during the initial stages of an amphibious landing on an enemy coast.
START 00:00:00.Opening titles and credits that inform its intended audience that this military training film has been supervised by the officers of Combined Operations Headquarters appointed by the General Staff. A roller caption "The purpose of this film is to show part of the organisation required to land and maintain a force over enemy beaches until a port can be captured and used. The earlier sequences would normally take place in the hours of darkness but for photographic purposes have been filmed in daylight".
00:00:49 The film shows how the planning a combined operation on an enemy coast begins with the gathering of intelligence on beaches where an amphibious force can land, firstly by aerial reconnaissance. This idea is illustrated with shots of an Royal Air Force Vickers Supermarine Spitfire Mk V in flight, a section of shoreline as seen from the air and an Army Captain at Combined Operations Headquarters examining an aerial reconnaissance photograph under a view-finder. Once a suitable section of coastline has been chosen, it is divided for operational planning purposes into sectors each three thousand yards long. Sectors considered suitable for amphibious operations are divided into anything up to three beaches, each of which carries a code-name, for example 'Amber', 'Red', 'Green' etc. The film proposes to examine the planning and operation of the establishment of a Beach Maintenance Area (BMA) in just one of these beach sectors, starting with the First Key Plan, the planning template for the oganisation of the BMA by the Beach Group, the unit responsible for the movement of troops, personnel and supplies onto the enemy coast in the first phase of the invasion. Animated graphics over an aerial reconnaissance photograph of a section of coastline are used to illustrate the multitude of specialist units - mechanical and combat engineers, medical services, supply corps, signals and military police - that will be crammed into this small area.
00:02:24 The film looks at just one six hundred-yard wide beach where an assault landing takes place. Detachments belonging to two Assistant Beach Masters and Unit Landing Officers from each assault battalion come ashore with the first wave of assault troops. The Assistant Beach Masters are in charge of reconnoitring the beaches from the high tide line to the water's edge. Their task is to select sites suitable for disembarkation of men, vehicles and stores from landing craft. Meanwhile, the Unit Landing Officer from each of the assault battalions survey the terrain from the high tide line to the top of the beach. Their mission is to locate beach exits through which men and vehicles can advance inland. Next in the Beach Organisation to arrive will be the Beach Master, together with Royal Navy Commandos and the Beach Company commander who will be accompanied by the commanding officer of the assault battalion currently advancing inland. They quickly establish contact with the Assistant Beach Masters and the Unit Landing Officers and then set up a joint headquarters in the sand dunes on top of the beach next to an Advance Beach Signals Station manned by Royal Navy and Army signallers. Each beach has its own Advance Beach Signals Station. Their task is to set up wireless communications with the army brigade and naval headquarters off-shore, incoming invasion craft, assault troops advancing inland and with neighbouring Beach Groups. Live action shots show the Beach Master and his headquarters detachment digging in in the sand dunes on top of a long shelving sandy beach and signallers in the Advance Beach Signals Station dug in nearby and using their W/T sets and Aldis lamp.
00:05:17 The next task for the Beach Organisation is the establishment of a Main Beach Signals Station several hundred yards inland, ready for use when the officer commanding the assault brigade. Its location near the sites intended for the various supply dumps in the BMA is convenient also for the Beach Group Commander who establishes his headquarters close by. The Beach Group Commander is next to disembark, accompanied by the Assault Brigade Commander. Through the Main Beach Signals Station, both commanders can communicate with divisional, brigade, naval and other Beach Group headquarters. To establish wireless and field telephone connections with the specialist detachments responsible for establishing the ammunition, petrol and stores dumps in the Beach Maintenance Area. Illustrated with live action shots, personnel at the Advanced Beach Signals Station are seen controlling the movement of men, vehicles and stores on the beach with the help of a loudhailer.
00:05:54 On sites chosen jointly by the Beach Master, Beach Company Commander and the commander of the Royal Engineers reconnaissance party, troops are seen erecting signs differently shaped and colour coded to indicate the beach sector limits and separate exits for wheeled and tracked vehicles to incoming landing craft. A graphics sequence illustrates the variety of beach markings and their meaning. For example, a red flag indicates that the beach is closed. At night, the signs are supplemented by lights.
00:06:55 Invasion craft carrying vehicles are requested to land their vehicles as close to the sign for the appropriate beach exit as possible. The first LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanised) on the beach will land a bulldozer and armoured sledges carrying engineers stores and Pioneer Corps and Royal Engineers personnel. Their task will be to clear exits off the beach for vehicles and to lay a temporary road surface on the sand to prevent wheeled vehicles getting bogged down in the sand. Live action shots show a bulldozer towing an armoured sledge carrying engineering equipment up the beach, the bulldozer clearing away sand at a beach exit, a column of Universal carriers heading inland along the tracked vehicles beach exit and sappers assembling a Sommerfeld track consisting of wire mesh and steel reinforcing rods on the sand.
00:09:18 Once the beach is secure, reinforcements arrive with the first tank landing craft (Landing Craft, Tank or LCT), including the Beach Group commander, the Military Landing Officer, the OC (Officer Commanding) Beach Signals, the OC Military Police Provost Company, and the OC Field Company RE (Royal Engineers). Once ashore, these officers jointly reconnoitre the BMA to see whether the First Key Plan is feasible under active service conditions or whether it needs adjustment. He first checks the sites selected for the various stores and supply dumps manned by specialist Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) and Royal Army Supply Corps (RASC) detachments. An Advanced Surgical Centre to handle all major injuries has also been established in the BMA. Once they have delivered their cargoes from the LCTs, all RASC trucks are sent to the Beach Group Transport Park for further orders. All sites are checked by the Beach Group commander; he has to make sure that the dump for engineer stores is near the beach because these are heavy items. The BMA's traffic circuit is tested and any necessary improvements are handled by the Beach Group Field Company RE. A traffic control point and all road junctions are the responsibility of the Provost Company.
00:11:00 At an Order Group attended by all of his sub-unit commanders, the Beach Group commander informs them of his first changes to the Key First Plan. One top priority job consists of sign posting the routes by the Provost Company. Live action scenes show the Order Group and a mobile Military Police detachment setting up road signs pointing to Petrol, Oil and Lubricants (POL) and ammunition dumps.
00:11:44 The traffic circuit in the Beach Maintenance Area (BMA) is one of the most important features of Beach Organisation. The Provost Company, with the assistance of an RAF Beach Sub-unit, is in charge of the complex network of one-way routes that is in constant use by wheeled and tracked vehicles belonging to assault and follow-up forces, internal traffic within the BMA and frontline supply units.
00:12:58 Once his reconnaissance of the BMA is complete, the Beach Group commander is seen in live action shots ordering the establishment of an ammunition dump manned by RAOC and Beach Group infantry. The dump, located in a wood, is prepared to receive stores and anti-aircraft positions are dug.
00:13:34 In scenes illustrated by live action shots, more troops and wheeled vehicles disembark from an LCT-III (LCT-163), including Bedford QL 3-ton 4x4 lorries belonging to an RASC General Transport company and a Canadian military-pattern (CMP) gun tractor with a Ordnance QF 6-pounder Mk II anti-tank gun in tow. They have all been waterproofed to wade through two to three feet of water but, in case any of them should be swamped (like the Austin K2 ambulance seen here), a Scammel SV/2S heavy breakdown vehicle is on stand-by at all wheeled vehicle beach exits to pull them clear. A Beach Dressing Station is established to deal with light injuries among the Beach Group troops. An RAMC Corporal checks all of his first aid kit he has spread out on a stretcher.
00:15:04 RASC Bedford QL lorries loaded with priority stores head inland to the various supply and ammunition dumps. One of the vehicles carrying 25-pounder artillery ammunition arrives at the site chosen for the ammunition dump and has its cargo removed from the back and safely stored on logs or 'dunnage' just above ground level in the woods. The empty Bedford QL three-tonner then heads off to the Beach Group Transport Park to await further assignments.
00:16:16 A small coastal freighter operated by the RASC arrives at high tide offshore to unload fresh supplies. Troops serving with an RASC Dock Operating company assemble folding boats and lower them over the side of the freighter. One of the folding boats is rowed towards the beach with a warping line and a holdfast line. These are then made secure, allowing the freighter to remain safely at anchor until all the supplies it is carrying are unloaded. The two folding boats are then used to ferry 25-pounder ammunition crates from the ship's hold to shore. Bedford QL lorries are reversed into shallow water onto the beach to collect the crates directly from the folding boats. Duckboards brought ashore on the folding boats prevent the lorries from getting bogged down in the sand.
00:19:55 At low tide the RASC lorries can drive out all the way to the beached coaster and collect their high priority cargoes - POL and ammunition. A Bedford QL lorry heads up the beach with a cargo of ammunition crates. The truck arrives at the ammunition dump where the crates, each containg four 25-pounder projectiles, are quickly unloaded and hidden under camouflage netting. POL containers and other stores are dropped off at other locations in the BMA.
00:22:12 A Fordson 30-cwt truck from a field artillery unit arrives at the ammunition dump to collect 25-pounder ammunition. It is driven at speed to a field gun battery whose crews are busy bombarding enemy positions with their Ordnance QF 25-pounder Mk II gun-howitzers. Crates of ammunition are quickly rushed from the back of the truck to the gun crews.
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