As early as July 1942, Eastern Command had held a series of reconnaissance’s with the War Office and Combined Operations Headquarters to find suitable ‘hards’ to supplement embarkation facilities offered by certain East Coast ports. These initial reconnaissances were included in a table issued by the War Office on 21 May 1943 in which details of the estimated loading capacity of ports and hards for build-up were set out. The first formal meeting involving Eastern Command to discuss the planned invasion of Europe was held on 27 May 1943 where Eastern Command was instructed to plan on the basis of movement from the following East Coast ports:
Eastern Command submitted its ‘First Key Plan’ for the various areas to the War Office 22 Sept 1943. It was planned for Yarmouth / Lowestoft (‘Q’ Area) to be used for build-up movements, Ipswich / Felixstowe (‘S’ Area) and Tilbury (‘R’ Area) as build-up and follow-up areas.
During a meeting at the War Office on 15 Nov 1943, Chiefs Of Staff to Supreme Allied Commander (CCOSAC) stated that planning for Tilbury area was to be completed by December 1943 and all works by 1 April 1944. It was also stated that the Ipswich and Yarmouth Areas would probably be no longer required except for training and deception purposes.
As well as the CCOSAC instruction, GHQ Home Forces had instructed that Eastern Command was to be an area of display – i.e. to deceive the enemy. As the scale of enemy air attack was considered to be small, it was planned to achieve this by omitting technical camouflage considerations, by carrying out military road movements by day and arranging halts in areas where concealment was difficult. All this was to be carried out with a high degree of secrecy, only a few key officers knowing the true purpose. Furthermore Eastern Command considered that works to prepare Yarmouth/Lowestoft for embarkation should continue otherwise subordinate formations and the civil authorities would become aware of the deception. As a result Eastern Command requested that the labour and finance should be provided to carry out the cover works without delay.
CCOSAC considered Eastern Command’s request and announced the following decisions on 23 Nov 1943:
At no stage in the planned operation would Yarmouth/Lowestoft be required.
Ipswich / Harwich may be required to embark one Brigade Group in LST or LCT on the follow up stage but neither would be required in the initial landings.
The cover plan requirements were to be given a lower priority than work required for the actual areas of embarkation.
Eastern Command revised the First Key Plan, and submitted Second Key Plans for the various areas as follows:
Tilbury (‘S ‘Area) – 14 Dec 1943
Ipswich / Felixstowe (‘R ‘Area) – 6 Jan 1944
Yarmouth / Lowestoft (‘Q’ Area) – 18 Jan 1944
Operation Overlord - Eastern Command 1944 - TNA