The D-Day Sausage Camps

   The D-Day staging areas (or "marshalling areas") were known as "sausage camps" because they were indicated on some maps by sausage-shaped blobs. They were often situated in wooded areas that offered some concealment from aerial surveillance as hundreds of thousands of men and tons of materiél were pouring into Southern England 24 hours a day in advance of the Channel crossing. These wooded areas sometimes had temporary hutments erected in them, as well as quickly laid tarmac road systems to carry vehicular traffic and provide a handy conduit for inter-camp telephone cables. Most just had pyramidal tents.

   The sausages were apparently the brain-child of a Colonel Wyman. The key aspects of his "sausage plan" were as follows:

  • the assembly areas were to be built around secondary paved roads
  • the actual areas were to be as wooded as possible to prevent detection of the troop concentrations from the air
  • the roads were to be blocked off to all civilian traffic
  • the roads were to be used as hard standings to load and unload the men and supplies
  • tents were to be the main billets and were to be located along the edge of the roads to expedite loading and unloading

Men and equipment to be delivered to Normandy reported to sausage-shaped staging areas
from Cornwall to East Sussex beginning the second week in May 1944.
Each of the areas circled contained multitudes of smaller "sausages."

   In the Portsmouth area alone, the vast numbers of men arriving and their equipment were marshalled in 18 large camps north of the city. This concentration of sausages, originally expected to hold 16,000 troops, actually held nearly 30,000 by the end of May. North of the other major port in the East, Southampton, many camps sprung up in the New Forest area near Romsey. Other camps were actually established in the city itself, on Southampton Common, for example. The total number of sausages for this area was reportedly over 20.

A gate still in place for a former sausage camp
near Plymouth, England.
(Photo courtesy Stephen Johnson.)

   All units slated for embarkation to Normandy as part of Operation Neptune received orders to report to these camps throughout May and into early June. All communication was frozen when these orders came down; there were no more passes issued. Units all over England broke their regular camp in the dead of night and pulled out.

   Once in a sausage, the routine was pretty much the same everywhere. All vehicles were equipped with the water, gasoline, rations, and other supplies that would be necessary upon landing. Vehicles were also water-proofed and equipped with snorkel tubes that extended well over the tops of the vehicles. All motor and drive-train vents were sealed with this water-proofing material as well as the entire electrical ignition systems. The water-proofing was needed in the event that disembarkation would be directly into the water.

   The Allies were also concerned that the Germans would meet the opening of the Second Front with a chemical response. Consequently, before embarkation the U.S. Army re-issued every man with a new wool uniform, which had been heavily impregnated with chemicals. This thick anti-gas paste was designed to stop gas penetrating the clothing, but had the side effect of making the clothes foul smelling and unpleasantly greasy and stiff to the touch. Over the top of his wool pants and shirt, the GI wore a similarly treated M41 field jacket. No GI who landed at Normandy in June 1944 will ever forget these stiff, smelly outfits. Each man also was given an inflatable life belt to be worn under the armpits that could be inflated with a CO2 cartridge. If the cartridge failed they could be inflated by mouth through two tubes on the front of the belt. French invasion money was distributed along with a French phrase book. Briefings were held on what to expect on the beaches. Security was tight and mail pickup and delivery was suspended. Some men likened the sausages to giant livestock pens, "the kind they kept cows in before sending them off to the slaughter."

   By the end of May the roads around these areas were crammed with long columns of military vehicles of all shapes and sizes. The atmosphere was strange say the British civilians who lived in close proximity to the sausages. The troops' manner had changed; there was no usual banter between the local children and the soldiers. In previous months the military had developed a good rapport with the local people, especially the children, as many of the soldiers were not much older. By May 29/30, there was generally not a soldier or an army vehicle to be seen. Suddenly there were silentempty streets and green empty spaces after they had gone. Everyone could guess why they had departed but where to was the big mystery.

   The following description of the sausages comes to us from the 81st Tank Battalion (5th U.S. Armored Division) history:
The maintenance personnel had their hands full checking over every vehicle, painting, greasing, modifying the mortar platoon's guns, welding shields on the front of the drivers and bow gunner's hatches on the tanks, rebuilding the light tank engines, assembling trucks and trailers. The work progessed slowly, and long before it was completed the Battalion was ordered to move to Truro, in Cornwall, for the purpose of setting up and maintaining tent camps for use of the invading troops while they were marshalling for the invasion of France.

Each company loaded what impediments it needed for housekeeping, along with some of its personnel, on trucks borrowed from Service Company and the movement started. As the trucks were unable to carry all of the personel, the remaining men rode a train to Truro, with the exception of a small detachment left at the camp. By the 16th of April CWO Isadore Napoliello and a few maintenance men from each company were the only members of the Battalion left at the Ogborne camp. They still had a very big job ahead of them to get the vehicles completely checked and serviceable.

In Cornwall it was to be the mission of the entire division, and many other troops, to set up small well camouflaged and dispersed camps to house the invasion troops just prior to their loading on vessels to cross the English Channel. Although it was a little warmer along the Cornish coast, the weather was still chilly. Pyramidal tents had been set up before the arrival of the tankers, but they had to be repitched. The tents were pitched along hedgerows, stone fences, and tree rows. Pierced planks had to be laid so that paths would not be worn in the fields to give evidence of occupancy. Slit trenches were dug for use in case of enemy air attacks. The earth that was removed had to be painted to match the rest of the scenery.

Colonel Anderson was placed in command of two "sausages" — a series of fourteen camps each, built along two main roads. Major McNamara commanded "C" sausage and Major Lord commanded "F". Each camp was built to accomodate about 200 transient troops in addition to the static personnel. Each company operated five of the camps, except "D" and Service companies. They each had four, as they had less men than the other companies. Food was prepared at each camp for the personnel within the camp. The tankers soon became very good cooks, as well as general housekeepers.

The days became warmer, so that life in the open became very pleasant. The housekeeping duties were fairly light with the camps empty. In the evenings passes were available to Truro and Redruth. The people of Chacewater opened their small clubroom so that the soldiers off duty in the evenings might have a place to go and get a "snack".

Early in June the 5th and 6th Engineer Special Brigades moved into "C" sausage with their equipment, and a part to the 29th Infantry Division moved into "F" sausage. These were to be invasion troops and final preparations were made for their departure. Last minute changes in equipment were made and then, two days prior to D-Day, they moved down to the "hards" at the water's edge in Falmouth, under the cover of night.

When the radio announced 6 June 1944 as D-Day, the sausages were empty again, as they had been when the Battalion arrived. Within less than a week the camps were closed down and the Battalion, with a feeling of regret, moved overland by motor convoy to Tilshead in Wiltshire. By leaving Cornwall at 0400 on the 12th of June, the trip of 175 miles was made in one day. At 1550 the Battalion arrived at the West Downs camp at Tilshead. The few buildings that were available to the division were used by Division service troops, so that the artillery, infantry and tank battalions bivouaced in their shelter-halves in the field. A constant wind blew across the Salisbury Plains, where the Battalion camped, and at times it was most uncomfortable.

The maintenance detachment that had remained at Ogbourne St. George packed up their equipment and rejoined the Battalion. Several large tents were erected for the use of the Battalion maintenance platoon and the modifications on the vehicles continued. Every vehicle had extra racks for gasoline and water cans that had to be welded on, peeps needed machine gun mounts fastened, the tanks had to have their fenders removed, ration boxes were fastened on the half-tracks, radios were installed, tuned and tested. The equipment that had been waterproofed and packeaged had to be cleaned and properly stowed, and many other details attended to.

A tarmac road inside a former sausage
camp near Plymouth, England.
(Photo courtesy Stephen Johnson.)

A sausage camp Nissen hut completely overgrow
by creepers and ivy near Plymouth, England.
(Photo courtesy Stephen Johnson.)

GI tree carvings in the woods near Plymouth, England.
(Photo courtesy Stephen Johnson). This carving reads:



Earl R. Lawton


More GI tree carvings in the woods near Plymouth, England.
(Photo courtesy Stephen Johnson). This carving reads:




Sausage Camp Directory
[work in progress]
Locale Designation Units
& Notes
Romsey, Hants C-14 86th (Hertfordshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery Source
Saltern Park L 14th Chemical Maintenance Co. Source
Chasewater N/A 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion (U.S.) Source
Antony Park, Plymouth N/A N/A Source
Saltram Park, Plymouth N/A N/A Source
Mount Edgecumbe Park, Plymouth N/A N/A Source
Lupton Camp, Dartmouth N/A 4th Cavalry Reconaissance Troop (U.S.) Source
Used for Force "U" (Utah Beach)
Swansea Area N/A 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion (U.S.) Source
Bournemouth Area N/A 467th AAA AW Battalion (SP) (U.S.) Source
Truro, Cornwall N/A 81st Tank Battalion, 5th Armored Division (U.S.) Source