Royal Air Force at Omaha Beach

One of the little know stories of D-Day is the fact that a British Royal Air Force early warning radar unit — the 1st Echelon of 21 Base Defence Sector — landed at the Les Moulins Draw, on Omaha Beach, Normandy about 5:30pm on 6 June 1944.

The 21st BDS’s mission was to operate British ground control intercept (GCI) radar truck convoy the first night of the invasion so British night fighters could cover the Normandy beach head from Luftwaffee “night heckler” bombers with German SD 2 Schmetterling (butterfly) cluster bombs.

German SD2 Butterfly Bomb

Of the 180 men of the 21st BDS that landed there, eleven men were killed and 37 wounded. That is a 26.7% casualty rate for the assault. When actor Tom Hanks says Obamha Beach was “an all American affair,” these are some of our British Allies he is slighting.

You can find their story at this link —

6 thoughts on “Royal Air Force at Omaha Beach”

  1. Well, to cut Tom some slack, when it comes to the history of WWII (and WWI, the American Civil War, maybe big wars in general), there’s always something new you never heard about before. Until right now, I had never heard of this outfit’s deployment at Omaha.

  2. True!! But I wouldn’t have known to look for it, because I thought Omaha was “an all-American affair”, at least insofar as the landings went.

  3. You point about what popular culture says about Omaha Beach versus the actual history is the reason for my Pacific War “History Friday” column.

  4. Pop culture never touches on the half of what really happened in an historical event or at a certain period. When you go back and start looking closely at it – that’s when all the good and unexpected stuff begins to bubble up.
    When I went back to research the Republic of Texas era, I was just boggled to find out how Mexico officially waged an unrelenting cold border war on Texas during that time. Gee, maybe there really was a good reason for all that hate and mistrust of Mexico…

  5. Thanks for seeking out The RAF at Omaha Beach website and for posting the link, Trent!

    The website was set up by Peter Best, the son of one of the RAF team: I co-edit the site, and my father was also a member of the team.

    There are still some survivors of 21st BDS, and they are supported by several enthusiasts, many of whom are children of other, now-deceased members of the team.

    We’ve adopted a “nothing is too trivial” approach to memories and memorabilia from 21st BDS, so we have eye-witness accounts of the D-Day landings, we have a photo of the football match played only a few days after the invasion, we have copies of letters home to loved ones, and so on. The Medical Officer and the Padre both share their accounts.

    There is now a stone memorial to 21st BDS above the beach at Vierville-Sur-Mer in Normandy, near to where they landed, but our electronic memorial is accessible from all over the world. We hope it will be of interest – maybe someone could draw it to Mr Hanks’ attention!

    It would cause particular pleasure if we were to make contact with any American servicemen, or their families, who remember the “RAF guys” on Omaha (there were Canadians and New Zealanders as well as Brits in the team). There was certainly interaction between the different nations – the Americans issued the RAF with US uniforms, which arguably saved a few lives. Go to the website to find out why! is the website’s email address: we look forward to hearing from you.

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