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D-Day: The Tide Turns – Absorbing account of meticulously orchestrated military gamble

Podcast review: The seaborne invasion, involving more than 130,000 troops, created a path to victory in Europe during the second World War

D-Day: US soldiers wade on to Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944. Digitally colorised photograph: Robert F Sargent/Smith/Gado/Getty

It was the largest seaborne invasion in military history, involving eight Allied countries and more than 130,000 troops, and it turned the tide of a brutal war, creating a path to victory in Europe. D-Day, June 6th, 1944, when forces landed on the beaches of Normandy to open up a new front in the second World War, rings in the collective memory as the ideal of daring and risk, but also of terror and sacrifice. It was a meticulously orchestrated gamble, cost tens of thousands of lives and involved everyone from Mayo meteorologists to French farmers and a Spanish chicken farmer with a host of imaginary friends.

Eighty years on, the history-podcast network Noiser has put together an absorbing 12-part series on this epic undertaking called D-Day: The Tide Turns, with each episode taking up different narratives within the whole. It begins with extraordinary tales of elaborate spycraft designed to make the Germans believe the Allied invasion was aimed elsewhere. We’re talking fake tanks, fake harbours, actors hired to play real-life generals and a detailed network of entirely fictitious spies owed in large part owed to a Spaniard named Juan Pujol, who under the codename Garbo became one of the Allies’ most valuable double agents, conjuring into being pro-German assets across Britain, including a waiter from Gibraltar known as Fred, a Welsh fascist called Stanley, and an Indian poet living in Brighton know as Rags.

In an episode devoted to, of all things, the weather, we meet 21-year-old Maureen Flavin, whose reports from Blacksod Bay, in Co Mayo, ensure the invasion is delayed by a day to avoid the kind of stormy weather that would have scuppered the mission, and the tall and willowy Capt James Stag, tasked with delivering reports on the inclement weather to a room of antsy generals. Another episode is devoted to the French Resistance and their extraordinary efforts to sabotage their German occupiers; there’s one about the gliders and parachutists sent to blow up bridges and capture locks ahead of the landings; another focuses on the 500 journalists who arrived with the armed forces to broadcast directly from the front lines; another on the German troops tasked with defending the beaches as the Allied forces invaded.

All but one of the episodes is narrated in measured tones by Paul McGann, an actor first introduced to many of us as “I” in Withnail and I, and he brings the right mix of solemnity and storytelling, enlivening events from the pages of history books and threading together interviews with experts including Max Hastings and Anthony Beevor, as well as resistance fighters, soldiers and survivors of the invasions and their aftermath.


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Paul’s brother Stephen narrates episode eight, zooming down through logistics and geographies to one man’s story: that of the brothers’ father, Joe, who survived the Gold Beach landing but lived with the trauma of that experience for the rest of his life.

The team at Noiser are expert at this kind of historical storytelling, and they give each component of D-Day its due in lyrically scripted and tightly produced segments, coming together to create a complex collage of a weighted, consequential military mission. Looking back from our 80-year distance, this deeply sourced audio document furthers our understanding of a past from which we are still emerging.

Fiona McCann

Fiona McCann, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer, journalist and cohost of the We Can’t Print This podcast