Last updated: 9 June 2011
D-Day, 6 June 1944, marked the start of the Allied invasion of Normandy, the greatest amphibious operation in history. A fleet of over 5,000 ships and landing craft crossed the Channel. The Allies achieved complete surprise and heavy bombing together with a massive naval bombardment destroyed many of the German defences. The assault troops landed on five beach areas, supported by airborne landings on the flanks. Among the problems they encountered were the five million mines planted by the Germans along the Normandy section of the 'Atlantic Wall'. Mines of all types were scattered in belts of varying thickness on the beaches, across fields and on roads. The intention was to make landing so difficult that the Germans could counter-attack the Allies while they were trapped on the beaches.
To counter this threat, mine detectors were supplied to Field Companies of the Royal Engineers, Pioneer Corps, and Pioneer Battalions of the Infantry Divisions. When held about 10 cm above the ground, the detector plate created an electro-magnetic field. When this met a metallic object an impulse was created, and by means of the amplifier, made a sound in the headphones of the operator. To counter this the Germans later developed mines of non-metallic materials such as wood, bakelite, and even glass - making them ruthlessly efficient and responsible for many Allied casualties.