Vital lessons for Operation Overlord were learnt the hard way, through tragedies at Dieppe and during Exercises Smash and Tiger, as Neil Huband explores

The last Valentine DD tank, as would have been seen taking part in Exercise Smash. They were ultimately canned in favour of Sherman DD tanks
The historic South Sands Hotel destroyed during Exercise Tiger

On January 7, 1943, President Franklin D Roosevelt met with his joint chiefs of staff, a week before the planned Allied conference at Casablanca. The mood in Washington was positive, confident and, as some observers noted at the time, even a little ‘gung-ho’.

There seemed to be a growing consensus in Washington that Operation Round-up – a full-scale cross-Channel invasion of France – should go ahead during 1943.

However, a week later in Casablanca, the reality dawned on those present that, despite their confidence, the Allies weren’t anywhere near prepared enough to mount a massive and successful invasion of continental Europe. Operation Round-up was canned and Operation Overlord, as it was to become known, was pencilled in for a year later. The Allies would only have one chance to succeed, and there were too many lessons to be learnt from past failures.

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