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As the dawn of June 6, 1944, broke over the Normandy coast, a monumental chapter in world history was being written. D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history, was about to commence. Included among the vast Allied fleet assembled for Operation Overlord, the HMS Warspite, an experienced British battleship. It was on this historic day that the Warspite became the first battleship to open fire, marking the beginning of a crucial chapter in the liberation of Europe.
The Pride of the Royal Navy: HMS Warspite
HMS Warspite, a Queen Elizabeth-class battleship, was launched in 1913, she had already earned her place in naval legend through her service in both World Wars. By the time of D-Day, Warspite had been in service for over three decades, witnessing the evolution of naval warfare from the dreadnought era to the age of aircraft carriers and submarines.
This design of HMS Warspite features on the brand new D-Day 80th Anniversary coin
Warspite’s Role on D-Day
As part of the bombardment force during the Normandy invasion, Warspite had a crucial role. She was tasked with softening the German defenses along the coast to aid the landing of Allied troops on the beaches. Positioned off Sword Beach, one of the five designated landing areas, Warspite’s guns were ideally situated to provide critical support.
The First Shot
In the early hours of June 6, Warspite made history as the first battleship to open fire against German fortifications. This act signified more than just a military manoeuvre; it was a symbol of the Allied determination to reclaim Europe from the clutches of Nazi occupation.
HMS Warspite shelling German positions
Equipped with eight 15-inch guns, Warspite was a formidable force. Her firepower was not just about brute force; it was precise. Warspite’s gunnery crew, seasoned by years of conflict, were experts at long-range bombardment. Their accuracy was critical in minimising collateral damage and ensuring the success of the landings. Despite being one of the oldest battleships in service, Warspite proved that she was still a force to be reckoned with.
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