The Royal Navy Beach Commandos controlled the arrival and departure of vessels that were landing their cargoes on the beaches. In each R.N. Beach Commando was a Principal Beachmaster (P.B.M.), an Assistant Principal Beachmaster and two or three beach parties each consisting of a Beachmaster, two Assistant Beachmasters and about 20 seamen.
The Army Beach Groups were the main units in a Beach Sub Area. The core of each Beach Group was an infantry battalion. The infantry battalion provided a fighting capability for mopping up elements of the enemy that were still active in the beach areas after the assault forces had moved inland and for defending the beaches against possible counter-attack. They also provided a large labour force for the tasks of beach organisation. For the specialist tasks in beach organisation, each Beach Group included units of the Royal Engineers, Royal Army Service Corps, Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Royal Army Medical Corps, Military Police and the Pioneer Corps. The commander of the infantry battalion (a Lieutenant Colonel) was the overall commander of the Beach Group.
The R.A.F. Beach Squadrons were each composed of a Headquarters and two Beach Flights so that the Headquarters could work with the Beach Sub Area Headquarters and a Beach Flight could be attached to each of two Army Beach Groups. The R.A.F. Beach Balloon Squadrons were organised in a similar way.
The operation of the Beach Sub Areas developed in stages, On D-Day a Beach Group (and attached R.N. and R.A.F. personnel) landed with each assault brigade and the rest of the Beach Sub Area units followed. The Beach Maintenance Areas became established and control of the Beach Sub Areas passed from the assault Divisions to their respective Army Corps. Eventually Second Army became responsible as the Lines of Communication organisation was established and the Beach Maintenance Areas became part of a large scale Rear Maintenance Area.
101, 102 and 104 Beach Sub Areas, along with H.Q. 4 Lines of Communication Sub Area (set up to control Arromanches Mulberry harbour and Port en Bessin harbour) all came under the control of H.Q. 11 Lines of Communication Area.
As far as the R.A.F. Beach Squadrons and Beach Balloon Squadrons were concerned, although they were attached to and working as part of the Beach Sub Areas, they were under the operational and technical control of Headquarters, 2nd Tactical Air Force. For administrative purposes they were to be under the command ofNo. 85 (Base) Group when it was sufficiently formed but, in Normandy, they were initially under the command of No. 83 Group.
As the first R.A.F. formation on French soil, No. 83 Group had greater than normal administrative responsibilities and its headquarters was in command of all R.A.F. units ashore throughout June and July. On 3rd August 1944, 2nd Tactical Air Force opened its main headquarters on the continent at Le Trouquay, and on 10th August it took over from No. 83 Group the general responsibility for all R.A.F. formations in Normandy.
1 Ellis, L.F., “Victory in the West Vol. 1, The Battle for Normandy”, H.M.S.O., 1962, p63
2 ibid p294