General Dwight Eisenhower was chosen as Supreme Commander for Overlord because of his success with other landings in other theatres. He had commanded the Anglo-American seaborne assault on North Africa in 1942; led the landings in Sicily and commanded the Allied invasion of Italy in 1943. By the end of that year he had become the most famous and the most important general in the world. His successes were not as a direct result of his attributes as a battlefield commander, for he relied heavily on the advice of his subordinates regarding strategy and other matters, but as a result of his ability as an organiser and his noted diplomatic skills.
With Eisenhower appointed as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces for the invasion, it was thought proper to have British commanders for the land, sea and air components of the landings: Gen Sir Bernard Montgomery was given the task of leading the 21st Army Group which contained British, Canadian and American land forces; Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory was made Allied Expeditionary Air Force Commander and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay was appointed as the Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief.
Maj Gen Keller, Commander Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, receives the CBE from King George VI in Normandy. Keller had taken over the division in September 1943 and trained it especially for the invasion. On his sleeve, below his Canada shoulder title, is his divisional insignia, a patch of French grey cloth.
The Deputy Supreme Commander, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, was also British. British and Canadian forces for the landings were combined in British Second Army, commanded by Lt Gen Sir Miles Dempsey. It contained two corps: British XXX Corps (Lt Gen Bucknall) and British I Corps (Lt Gen Crocker). The landings on Gold Beach were the responsibility of XXX Corps who chose to use an enlarged British 50th Division for the attack. Canadian 3rd Division made those on Juno Beach under the command of British I Corps, which also controlled British 3rd Division on Sword Beach. The American beaches Utah and Omaha were assaulted by US 1st Army commanded by Gen Omar Bradley.
Lt Gen Miles Dempsey was 48 years old and had previously served with Gen Montgomery on a number of occasions. In the Great War he was awarded a Military Cross as a young subaltern and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel between the wars. In 1939 he took his battalion to France and later commanded a brigade at Dunkirk. Back in England he was promoted to major-general and commanded both the 46th Infantry and 42nd Armoured Divisions before joining Eighth Army as a corps commander in 1942.
General Montgomery, Commander Allied 21st Army Group, in conversation with Maj Gen Graham, Commander British 50th Infantry Division.
He planned and executed the British assaults in the invasions of both Sicily and Italy where his XIII Corps fought with great distinction. At Montgomery's insistence he was brought back from Italy to take command of British 2nd Army for Operation Overlord. Dempsey's two corps commanders, Bucknall and Crocker, were also men who had worked closely with Montgomery in the Mediterranean. Lt Gen Gerard Bucknall was two years older than Dempsey and had served throughout the First War. Between the wars he was appointed to a number of staff posts before being given British 5th Division in Sicily in 1943.
Lt Gen Gerard Bucknall, Commander British XXX Corps. Bucknall had commanded British 5th Division in Sicily and Italy and was brought home to England by Monty to command XXX Corps for the invasion. His performance in Normandy was not without criticism and he was replaced by Lt Gen Horrocks in August 1944.
He fought with the division in Italy and impressed Montgomery so much that he was brought home to command XXX Corps for the invasion, even though the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Gen Sir Alan Brooke, thought Bucknall was not suited for higher command. Lt Gen John Crocker enlisted as a private in World War I, was later commissioned into the Machine Gun Corps and won both a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Military Cross (MC) on the Western Front. He left the Army in 1919, but later joined the Royal Tank Regiment and rose to become the highest-ranking World War 11 commander to have come from that regiment. Crocker was a great trainer of men and rose rapidly to become lieutenant-general and took command of IX Corps in Tunisia. In August 1943 he was given I Corps with the express purpose of training it for Overlord.
Lt Gen Miles Dempsey (left), Commander British Second Army, talks to Maj Gen Percy Hobart, Commander British 79th Armoured Division, during an exercise in England. Hobart's division was composed of specialised tanks and armoured vehicles designed to tackle enemy fortifications and obstacles. The division contributed units to all of the British and Canadian assaults during D-Day.