D-Day in colour: Rare photographs capture the full anticipation, horror and chaos of Allied troops storming Normandy beaches 80 years ago

D-Day in colour: Rare photographs capture the full anticipation, horror and chaos of Allied troops storming Normandy beaches 80 years ago

The anticipation, horror and chaos of the D-Day landings has been captured in rare colour images shot throughout the day that changed the course of European history.

On June 6, 1944, hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from the UK, the US, Canada, and France landed on Normandy beaches and attacked German forces.

It marks the largest military naval, air and land operation in history and was the start of the campaign to liberate Nazi-occupied parts of Europe. 

Most photographs taken during the Second World War were black and white, in line with the predominant technology at the time.

However, a small number were snapped with early colour cameras. They were later painstakingly restored to show the battlefields of 1944 in their full, vivid horror. 

The extraordinary images show British troops preparing to set sail for France and landing on five Normandy beaches before fighting their way through enemy lines to a heroes’ welcome from liberated civilians in the north of France.

Other photos document German prisoners of war, towns bombed to ruins, wrecked planes and equipment, and Allied commanders celebrating the successful invasion.

Allied ships, boats and barrage balloons off Omaha Beach after the successful D-Day invasion. The bloody landing cost up to 5,000 Allied soldiers their lives, more than a tenth of the invasion force, but was a key beachhead that led the later victories. With the beach taken, ships move close to shore to unload reinforcements and vehicles

Soldiers from the US 1st Engineer Special Brigade board their landing craft at Weymouth, United Kingdom, as they get ready to launch on their way to France to begin the invasion

Boats full of United States troops waiting to leave Weymouth, southern England, to take part in Operation Overlord in Normandy. This location was used as a launching place for Allied troops participating in the invasion of Nazi-occupied France on D-Day, with troops spending weeks or months preparing

United States Army troops train for bomb squad and safety proceedings in preparation of the invasion, with an instructor using a wooden stick as a teaching aid and a sign propped up against a pile of logs to signal use use of live explosives in practice

Sherman tanks and troops have been loaded into a Landing Craft Tank (LCT) in southern England to land on the beaches after they are taken by infantry and used to push forward into the enemy lines ahead

DUKWs, amphibious trucks useful for beach landings (left) and American trucks (right) are loaded on to heavy landing craft ready to sail to France and transport troops in their advance

A U.S. Landing Craft Infantry filled with invasion troops is approaching the French coast from the sea. The GIs are wearing their life vests in preparation for the landing

Boats and ships are waiting in a port in southern England with United States Army troops having arrived to embark. They will leave from here to participate in the invasion of Normandy after crossing the English Channel from various ports, meeting up near the Isle of Wight before splitting up and heading for the five landing beaches

United States Rangers have boarded a Landing Craft Assault in a port in southern England the day before D-Day, holding a 60mm mortar, a Bazooka, a Garand rifle and a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes. The ship and will depart for Omaha Beach

An American Sherman Tank M4A1(76)W is rolling out of the Landing Ship Tank (LST) as a reinforcement in July, 1944. The invasion of France is underway and Wehrmacht positions along the coast of Normandy have been destroyed. Wet ammunition storage is incorporated in this tank

Operation Overlord Normandy, Soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division have set up anti-aircraft guns on Juno Beach. They began a push south the next day, beating off a determined German counter attack and joining up with Gold Beach to form a continuous front

American soldiers form the 4th Infantry Division firing a 105mm HM3 Howitzer in the days after the D-Day landings in Carentan, a French town close to both Utah and Omaha beaches. The Battle of Carentan was mostly fought by the 101st Airborne and armoured troops on June 10-14, but other engagements occurred later on. The 4th Infantry were earlier part of the troops who landed at Utah Beach

During D-Day, the first man to obtain invasion day photos is cameraman Capt. Dale E. Elkins, shown with his specially constructed camera

United States Rangers from E Company, 5th Ranger Battalion, on board a landing craft assault vessel in Weymouth harbour, Dorset. The ship is bound for the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Clockwise, from far left: First Sergeant Sandy Martin, who was killed during the landing, Technician Fifth Grade Joseph Markovich, Corporal John Loshiavo and Private First Class Frank E. Lockwood. They are holding a 60mm mortar, a Bazooka, a Garand rifle and a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes

United States Signal Corps photographer B. Bacon is inside a German pillbox with his PH47-F Speed Graphic

Soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division have set up a mortar on Juno Beach where they landed on D-Day on the outskirts of Bernieres-sur-Mer. 14,000 Canadians were put ashore and 340 lost their live in the battles for the beachhead, which was a low number by the standards of the landings

Two American soldiers are watching two United States Army jeeps driving through the ruins of the center of Saint-Lo in August 1944, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the early campaign

U.S. soldiers Sargeant R.A. Forbis, Private John Krisa, and Corporal V.E. Holtz from the Army Corps of Engineers read letters on an unidentified beach captured during Operation Overlord on D-Day

The Notre Dame church has been heavily damaged during the attacks on Saint-Lo in August 1944. The town was almost totally destroyed by 2,000 Allied bombers when they attacked German troops stationed there

Cherbourg was a vital fortified port in the early stages of the invasion and U.S. troops spent a month besieging it before it was finally captured

British Chief of the Imperial General Staff Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke (left), British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (centre) and commander of the 21st Army Group, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (right) in Normandy, 12th June 1944, six days after the D-Day landings

A street in Cherbourg, which has recently been liberated by the United States Army in July 1944. On the right side is the Maison du Prisonnier. More than 10,000 German prisoners have been taken. 2,800 American soldiers died in the battle

German Prisoners of War put behind barbed wire in Normandy in June 1944. More than 200,000 German soldiers were captured during the Battle of Normandy


Matthew Cox

Leave a Reply