|A Close Look at B.2|
|The maps we see always have north at the top. But with Normandy, that's the way the defending Germans saw the country -- the Allies saw it looking south. We should look at the coast the way the Allies saw it -- from the sea. The Normandy coast is 100 miles from southern England. The Allied landings stretched 50 miles from the American landing at UTAH Beach on the right through to the British landing at SWORD Beach on the left. To the left of centre is the twelve-mile section shown below where the Canadians and British forces landed -- JUNO Beach and GOLD Beach. There are 8-foot tides along the Calvados coast so the landings were made at high tide, to clear the rocks and the German defensive obstacles.|
|The 3rd Canadian Division landed at JUNO Beach, next to the 50th British Division at GOLD. The ground commandos for 127 Wing landed at Vers the next day, climbed the fifty metres (150 feet) and began to build Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) B.2 at Bazenville. (Please note that the vertical height in these diagrams is exaggerated by a factor of 10!).|
|This part of the coast is a plateau approximately 150 feet above the sea, cut by the valleys of small rivers and streams. The churches and some buildings date back to the days of William the Conqueror a thousand years ago. The land is fertile, although mixed with durable granite particles from the ancient shield to the west and south. In quieter, more peaceful times before and after the war, the Calvados country was known for its apples, its 'Calvados' liqueur and its Camembert cheese. Many farms are still enclosed with grey limestone walls for defense, and the surrounding fields are separated by hedgerows of tough entangled roots and material as strong as concrete, and as old as the churches. This is "bocage" country.|
|The airfield was bulldozed, to level it out (the south-west end to the right, was 20 feet higher than the north-east end to the left) and was covered with a Square Mesh Tracking (SMT) held to the ground with long staples. It was built by the Royal Engineers 16th Airfield Construction Group together with the RAF's 3207 and 3209 Servicing Commandos. These three groups built runways, dispersal areas, communications facilities, landing lights (and the power facilities to light them) plus the many other camp requirements. Construction was started just after midnight D-Day and would have been completed by 9 June, if a B-24 hadn't crash-landed and ripped up a lot of SMT tracking. B.2 Bazenville first serviced the 36 aircraft of 127 Wing on 11 June and the wing moved in fully on 16 June.|
|The SMT tracking was easier to manage than one might expect until some of the pilots acquired magnificent horses abandonned by the Germans and the pilots learned that horse-shoes slid precariously on this surface! The airstrips and adjacent fields were extremely dusty -- a particularly hard fine dust that played hell with engine parts. In addition to the dust, there were wasps -- millions of them.|
|Details of the layout of B.2 Bazenville are shown below. The landing surface was 5,000 feet long and 240 feet wide (while the tracked portion was 5,000 feet long but only 120 feet wide). Orientation of the strip was 246 degrees. Fuel and ammunition dumps were located to the south near present-day D12. Aircraft dispersal were distributed all around the strip. In the adjacent orchards to the south-east, rows of tents housed the 845 personnel of 127 Wing. Intelligence/operations trucks (shown on the map as "OPS") were on the north side in the middle of the strip. Not far were the trucks and tents for the Servicing Commandos and the Wing HQ personnel. Local Flying Control was also located here. A curious item identified as "AFQ" was also located there. In a field to the north-west of the strip (shown as "MT park") were parked the 200 trucks that were required to move the wing from one base to another. Beyond the south-western end of the field was the parish church, the current memorial, and we believe, the 83 Group Ground Control facility that directed all Second Tactical Air Force aircraft in Normandy. After extensive enquiry no one seems to know exactly where it was located. Control of US Ninth Tactical Air Force aircraft was effected from 70th Fighter Wing at A.2 Criqueville.|
The background map upon which notes and locations
are added, may be found at PRO AIR 24 1534.
For a large scale blow-up, click here.
|From the airfield, if anyone looked out across the valley to the hills on the other side (bottom right in the 3-D diagram up above, or top left in the map immediately above) one could see the barrage balloons flying over the ships unloading reinforcements, ammunition and supplies at the Mulberry at Arromanches. When 127 Wing moved to B.2, the 'bomb line' was a mere 9 kilometres (5 miles) away, and for the next month it moved only to 19 kilometres (11 miles) away.|
|While 127 Wing operated from B.2, thousands of injured soldiers, sailors and airmen were evacuated from the base, and a constant stream of aircraft from other squadrons landed for fuel, ammunition or repair. The base was used until 28 August 1944. Today, a monument in the shape of a Spitfire wing is located in front of the church in the town of Bazenville. The location of the monument is indicated on the maps. It commemorates their stay.|
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last updated 22 December 2006 in sunny Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.