Operation Colour Scheme. The Fire Service’s Top Secret D-Day Mission.

2024 marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day. On 6th June 1944, the Allied Forces launched one of its biggest military operations – they came by land, sea and air and would eventually bring about the liberation of Europe and the end of World War II.

But as D-Day was being planned, more and more equipment was stockpiled in the South of England and needed to be protected, and that’s why the National Fire Service Commanders were tasked with a top secret mission of their ownOperation Colour Scheme.

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Operation Colour Scheme: Protecting the Overlord Invasion’s Infrastructure

Operation Colour Scheme, a little-known but vital aspect of the Fire Service’s activity in World War II, involved moving 11,000 firemen and women and over 1,200 fire fighting vehicles to the South of England to protect resources being stored in rural areas.

In 1943, the German bombing offensive was at a lower level and so it was decided that fire fighting resources could be moved from areas in the North and the Midlands to areas in the South to cover sites that now required a higher level of protection, including:

  • Logistical supply sites
  • Harbours linked to the D-Day invasion – most notably coastal areas of East Sussex and an armada of ships in the lower reaches of the Thames
  • Ammunition dumps
  • Petrol pipe lines

The Colour Scheme – and what each colour meant

And to aid planning, England and Wales were split into 12 regions – with each region given a colour to represent the level of risk each region faced:

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Image Credit: rob1713
War Relics Forum
  • Regions shaded Purple and Blue needed to be reinforced to above their maximum strength –  the Purple regions were most impacted
  • Regions shaded Green needed to be reinforced up to their maximum strength
  • Regions shaded Brown were areas from which resources could be drawn from to provide for Purple, Blue and Green regions

The crucial role of the Fire Service during World War II

The war years proved to be the busiest for our Fire Brigades with fire fighters on the front line protecting communities during Air Raids and as part of Operation Colour Scheme.

Fire fighters were issued with one basic uniform; a steel helmet, rubber boots, trousers and waterproof leggings – although shortages saw some stuck with just Post Office uniforms!

The first air raid on London took place on 7th September 1940 and this would mark the start of The Blitz – where London endured bombings for 57 nights in a row. Most of the air raids took place at night, meaning fire fighters spent long hours extinguishing fire or dealing with explosions.

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Fire fighters putting out a blaze in London during The Blitz
New York Times Paris Bureau Collection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the first 22 nights of air raids, fire fighters had fought nearly 10,000 fires – and for many, this was their first experience of fire fighting…

And by 1943, over 70,000 women had enrolled in the National Fire Service, many becoming fire watches and drivers and managing the communications network.

Britain’s Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill honoured these great efforts and once said that the fire service “were a grand lot and their work must never be forgotten”.

The BRAND NEW History of the Fire Brigade 50p Collection

Issued to mark 200 years since the establishment of Britain’s first Municipal Fire Service, The History of the Fire Brigade 50p Collection shares the story of two centuries of heroic service.

Included in the set is the 1934 London Fire Brigade 50p Coin which depicts a World War II Fire Engine – a Dennis Chassis with an extendable ladder – in front of a background representing the city during The Blitz.

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Each coin has been officially authorised by Buckingham Palace and King Charles III to pay tribute to the unsung heroes who have battled flames and saved lives for centuries.

A variety of specifications are available to order today from The Westminster Collection. Click here to view the COMPLETE range >>


2024 marks 80 years since brave allied forced landed on Normandy Beaches in one of the largest military operations in history.

D-Day turned the tide in the second world war, and today, its monumental 80th anniversary is being commemorated on a brand-new UK 50p coin.

Check out the coin below and use our interactive map to discover the intricate design…

Carefully curated by sculptor and artist, David Lawrence, in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum, the coin’s reverse design is the perfect tribute to time that will soon move beyond living memory.

In fact, it is likely one of the last anniversaries where veterans and their families can still honour an incredible moment in British history.

The landings themselves took place at five assault beaches along a 50 mile stretch of the Normandy Coast. They were given the codenames of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword – all of which are inscribed on the bottom of the design.

The coin is available in a range of specifications, including superior Brilliant Uncirculated and limited-edition Silver Proof and Piedfort.

However, some of the most special issues are without a doubt the postmarked coins.

Carefully paired alongside a 1st Class Royal Mail stamp, each cover and DateStamp™ will be postmarked on the 80th Anniversary date, 6th June 2024, and are available for pre-order today.

Click here to view the full range and secure yours >>

🎖️ Honouring Heroes: The Enduring Legacy of D-Day Veterans

As we near the 80th anniversary of D-Day, it’s a poignant moment to reflect on the courage and sacrifice of those who played a pivotal role in one of the most significant military operations in history. The Westminster Collection, in partnership with the Royal British Legion, brings to light the stories of four veterans whose bravery exemplifies the spirit of that day. Their personal accounts offer us a window into the past, ensuring that the lessons and legacies of 6th June, 1944, are never forgotten.

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Bernard Morgan – The Young Visionary of Gold Beach

Bernard Morgan was only 19 when he landed on Gold Beach as an RAF sergeant, making him one of the youngest sergeants to participate in the Normandy invasion. His task began perilously as he manned a Bren gun aboard his landing craft at 3 AM, ready to fend off any aerial attacks. The harsh reality of war struck him deeply as he witnessed the bodies of Allied troops upon his landing—a sight that profoundly affected him and stayed with him for the rest of his life. Bernard still possesses a significant piece of history: the original telex announcing the German surrender, a document he kept secret for over 50 years. His reflections on the importance of remembrance, particularly through the symbol of the poppy, resonate with his belief in acknowledging the sacrifices made by his fallen comrades.

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Albert Price – From Operation Smash to Normandy Shores

Albert Price’s wartime journey began with the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards in 1942, two years before he would set foot on Gold Beach as an 18-year-old gunner. His experience in Operation Smash at Studland Bay, a rehearsal that tragically cost lives, foreshadowed the brutal realities of war he would face. On D-Day, Albert landed amid a storm of artillery, a memory etched in his mind for its intensity and the pride he felt in being part of such a monumental event. The personal losses he endured, and his skirmish with the 12th Panzer division, where he witnessed the severe injury of his driver, underscore the brutal costs of war.

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Jack Mortimer – The Reluctant Hero of Sword Beach

Jack Mortimer vividly recounts the daunting scenario as he landed on Sword Beach, surrounded by a massive assembly of ships, vehicles, tanks, and artillery. His role as a driver and dispatch rider for the 12th Ordnance Beach detachment thrust him directly into the line of fire, navigating through a storm of shells to advance towards Caen. The threat of snipers and the sight of numerous casualties painted a stark picture of the day’s grim realities. Despite the heroism he displayed, Jack humbly remembers the fallen as the true heroes and shares the emotional burden of returning to the beaches where he saw so much loss.

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Joe Mines – The Unseen Bravery of Mine Clearing

Joe Mines’ story of being thrust into the role of mine clearer due to his surname is both ironic and tragic. Tasked with clearing mines from Ver-sur-Mer using only bayonets, Joe faced the terrifying prospect of triggering mines intended to cause maximum damage, like the wooden Schu-mines or the deadly S-mines, which projected ball bearings at waist height. The vivid memories of his comrades falling shortly after landing highlight the random and brutal nature of war. His later years spent promoting the Poppy Appeal helped him find a sense of pride and healing, recognising the value of his survival and contributions.

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Reflecting on Their Legacy

The personal stories of Bernard, Albert, Jack, and Joe not only provide a human perspective to the historical event of D-Day but also emphasise the broader themes of bravery, sacrifice, and the enduring impact of their actions. As we commemorate the 80th anniversary, these personal accounts remind us of the high price of freedom and the importance of peace.

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These veterans represent a generation whose courage and resilience shaped the course of history. Let us honour their memory and ensure that their stories inspire future generations to value peace, remember the past, and uphold the virtues of bravery and sacrifice.

An exclusive new release for the 80th Anniversary of D-Day

You can directly support veterans while collecting with the brand-new RBL D-Day Anniversary Commemorative. With each purchase of the commemorative we will ensure a 10% donation is made to The Royal British Legion on your behalf.

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Produced in partnership with The Royal British Legion, your commemorative features a dynamic cut-out silhouette of a soldier, stepping forward, rifle aimed – this impressive feature has been created with an innovative minting technique, perfectly capturing the importance of the theme.

All those who fought bravely on the beaches of Normandy are represented by the silhouette, providing a window into the past. A past filled with incredible bravery that deserves to be honoured with a fitting tribute. 

Click here to receive early access and pre-order yours >>