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By Dan Sharpe

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As ‘Ruperts’. There were a variety of different types. Some were designed to land and then self-destruct, others had a bulky set of firecrackers attached to simulate rifle fire and still others had explosives fitted to simulate shellfire or grenades. The first 200 dummies simulated an airborne assault in the Yvetot, Yerville and Doudeville area north east of Le Havre. A further 50 were dropped in the Calvados region near to Maltot to the west of Caen and 200 more were deployed near Marigny west of Saint Lô.

In practice, the PIAT could be used to devastating effect. It was responsible for knocking out 7% of all German tanks destroyed in Normandy – a figure that would undoubtedly have been higher had the Germans not developed protective ‘skirts’ to detonate hollow charge rounds, such as the PIAT’s mortar bombs, before they could penetrate the tank’s own armoured skin. 2in. Bangalore torpedoes, explosive charges inside a long pole that could be poked through barbed wire or onto minefields, were also used extensively.

Rommel reasoned that a combination of defences and delaying tactics might just prevent the Allies from gaining a secure foothold long enough for reinforcements to arrive from their positions further inland. Another concern was the quality of the troops manning the defences. There were a few experienced and highly capable units, such as the 352nd Infantry Division posted between Bayeux and Carentan, but many were ‘static’ units established for the express purpose of simply manning defensive positions.

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