For the 21st Panzer Division it had been a deeply frustrating day. As the only significant German armoured formation close to the invasion area they had expected to be thrown into the battle at the earliest opportunity. Instead they spent the entire night constrained by orders from Hitler’s High Command.
When they eventually got going after 10am they had to run the gauntlet of Allied aircraft bombing the bridges in Caen.
Lieutenant General Edgar Feuchtinger commanded the 21st Panzer Division:
Once over the Orne River, I drove north toward the coast. By this time the enemy, consisting of three British and three Canadian infantry divisions, had made astonishing progress and had already occupied a strip of high ground about ten kilometers from the sea.
From here the excellent anti-tank gunfire of the Allies knocked out eleven of my tanks before I had barely started. However, one battle group did manage to bypass these guns and actually reached the coast at Lion-sur-Mer, at about seven o’clock in the evening.
I now expected that some reinforcements would be forthcoming to help me hold my position, but nothing came. Another Allied parachute landing on both sides of the Orne, together with a sharp attack by English tanks, forced me to give up my hold on the coast.
I retired to take up my line just north of Caen. By the end of that first day my division had lost almost 25 percent of its tanks.
Although 21st Panzer were isolated and under counter-attack themselves the final decision to abandon the position on the coast was prompted by the arrival of Operation Mallard. The parachute and glider borne troops that had been seen over the English coast an hour before had arrived. This was the second major drop of the day by the 6th Airborne.
BBC radio correspondent Alan Melville watched them come in:
Hello everyone, this is Alan Melville speaking from the beach just west of the little village of Ouistreham. The paratroops are landing, they are landing all round me as I speak.
They have come in from the sea and they are ﬂuttering down, red, white, and blue parachutes, ﬂuttering down, and they are just about the best thing we have seen for a good many hours.
They are showering in, there is no other word for it, pouring in, in threes and fours. They are ﬂuttering down in perfect formation, just the way we’ve seen it on the newsreels, the way we’ve seen it done in exercises, and here they are doing it, the real thing, and believe me, they haven’t come any too late.
They’ll be a very unpleasant surprise to the enemy, whose ﬁghting I can still see, the signs of a typical panzer battle. You can hear the aircraft roaring over me, I expect, as I speak.
I can still see the signs of a typical panzer battle being raged on the slightly high ground just about three or four miles ahead of me. And these paratroops are coming down between where I am speaking, which is just above the sand dunes.
Down they come . . . they’re being attacked pretty harshly, as you can hear, but they are landing in great force, between the sand dunes, between the beach area and the battle, and they may have a very decisive effect on that battle.
Jerry is putting up to try and stave this surprise eventuality off, but he isn’t able to cope.
The aircraft are sweeping inland, letting go their valuable cargo, sweeping round as if nothing mattered, and turning again out to sea. They are still coming in. I am just turning round to look out to sea and I can see, way out to the very horizon, they are coming in in flood after flood.
BBC Sound Archives SR 1626/E/B