On 5 May 1945 21 Army Group, in conjunction with the forces of the United States of AMERICA had, in the words of its Commander-in-Chief, “seen the thing through to the end".
With the capitulation on LUNEBURG Heath followed by the unconditional surrenders at RHEIMS and BERLIN victory at last became a reality for the Allies. This history has attempted to portray in outline the contribution made by 21 Army Group to the immense administrative achievements that were necessary to bring about this triumph.
This greatest combined operation of all time had involved problems and difficulties that far transcended any previously encountered. Apart from the ordinary hazards of a huge assault against a heavily defended enemy coast and the delicate adjustments that had to be made to ensure that the often conﬂicting demands of operational and administrative requirements were correctly balanced at every stage, there were many other problems to be overcome.
To compensate for the lack of an adequate port in the assault area an artiﬁcial port was pre-fabricated in the UNITED KINGDOM and successfully established in its allotted place on the NORMANDY coast.
To economise in tankershipping and to assist in meeting the enormous demands for petroleum products that the mechanised armies required, a system of pipelines was constructed and laid from ENGLAND to GERMANY under the English Channel.
In the wake of the advancing armies the liberated peoples of EUROPE had to be succoured and their interior economy and industry rehabilitated after the oppression of the GERMAN occupation. Every preparation had to be made for the import from overseas of stores of every description in immense quantities so that communications of all kinds could be restored quickly to working order after being devastated by the enemy.
To turn more particularly to 21 Army Grroup’s part in the operations it has to be remembered that the campaign was waged in the face of an acute shortage of manpower. The most careful planning was necessary to ensure that the strength of the force was always compatible with the task it was set and yet did not weaken the Empire effort at home and in other Theatres of War by its demands for reinforcements in particular of the many specialist categories.
The fact that despite the greater destructiveness of modern weapons and the bitter weather conditions experienced, the percentage of those who died from wounds and the rates of sickness were approximately half those of the last war was a valuable contribution to this end.
Morale is recognised as the most important single factor in War for without it no success can be achieved.
The spirit of the men at all times, the willingness with which they went into battle, their endurance and the low incidence of crime pay tribute to the work of the regimental officer and of those responsible for the arrangements for rest, recreation, good mail facilities and entertainment.
In 21 Army Group an average strength of approximately one million - equal to the population of BIRMINGHAM but spread out from NORMANDY to the BALTIC and constantly moving - had to be fed, paid, clothed, equipped, cared for and transported.
This fact alone will indicate the immensity of the administrative problem but it only forms part of the intricate pattern involved in the support of so great an undertaking.
Although recorded many years previously in his book “The River War”, about a very different type of conﬂict, how fully justiﬁed in the light of this campaign remain the words of Mr. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain at this time, when he wrote:
“Victory is the beautiful bright coloured ﬂower. Transport is the stem without which it would never have blossomed. Yet even the military student in his zeal to master the fascinating combinations of the actual conflict often forgets the far more intricate complications of supply.”
Back to Normandy will publish the efforts of the Support Troops in about 40 articles covering the period June 1944 - May 1945