Worshippers prayed in silence in St Anne’s Church as the first news of the Normandy landings reached Manchester on Tuesday June 6th 1944.

Others crowded round loudspeakers as allied troops made their way into Northern France to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny.

Operation Neptune or D-Day as it became known – the largest seaborne invasion in history – had arrived.

A remarkable set of pictures from the M.E.N. archive shows how Manchester reacted to the momentous event, the turning point of World War II.

Other photos capture Mancunians on the home front – some digging trenches, some rushing to get scraps of fish left over at the market and others taking comfort from the visit of the King and Queen.

Every picture brings back memories of torment and struggle and courage and companionship too. It was a time when community spirit shone more brightly than ever.

Prayers for the D-Day landings at St Anne’s Church, Manchester, June 1944

Prayers for the D-Day landings at St Anne’s Church, Manchester, June 1944

Loudspeakers in Manchester deliver news of the D-Day landings, June 1944

Loudspeakers in Manchester deliver news of the D-Day landings, June 1944

The scale of the D-Day invasion was immense. More than 24,000 British, American and Canadian airborne troops landed shortly after midnight.

Allied infantry and armoured divisions started coming ashore on a 50-mile stretch of the French coast at 6.30am.

The landing area was divided into five sectors – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Heavy fire came from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches and the whole shoreline was mined.

Women’s Land Army recruits dig riverside trenches in Manchester, March 1943

Women’s Land Army recruits dig riverside trenches in Manchester, March 1943

Heaviest casualties were sustained at Omaha where high cliffs hindered troops. Fortified towns were cleared at Gold, Juno and Sword, but the allies failed to achieve any of their goals on the first day.

As darkness fell, a precious foot-hold had been gained which gradually expanded into a full-scale invasion over the months to come.

The cost was great. There were more than 10,000 allied casualties on D-Day with 4,414 confirmed dead. The German losses were estimated at between 4,000 to 9,000 men.

Railway-station ham sandwiches were an early casualty of rationing in Manchester, September 1939

Railway-station ham sandwiches were an early casualty of rationing in Manchester, September 1939

Many of the wounded were shipped home and then put on hospital trains. One was Manchester-born Marine G. Sincock – we don’t know his first name – who was tended by a nursing sister as he returned from the front.

The picture is moving and poignant, concern etched on the sister’s face as she carefully holds a cup of tea for the injured soldier to drink.

News of the landings was patchy at first. Visitors to the Army Equipment Exhibition in Manchester craned their heads to a crackly loudspeaker while others read despatches on notice boards.

The King and Queen lifted spirits when they visited Salford, February 1941

The King and Queen lifted spirits when they visited Salford, February 1941

Short services were held in churches and places of worship across Manchester, including St Anne’s, as people came together to pray for the troops.

Mothers prayed for their sons in the Manchester Regiment, who were soon to see action. The Regiment landed in France on June 27th 1944 and engaged in bitter fighting around Caen and Falaise.

Back home, recruits from the Women’s Land Army were busy digging riverside trenches as the war effort rumbled on.

Women workers from the Fairey Aircraft company train for a football match, July 1944

Women workers from the Fairey Aircraft company train for a football match, July 1944

Traditional ham sandwiches at Manchester railway stations were one of the first casualties of rationing, although beef was promised as a replacement.

And early morning queues were common at Manchester fish market as housewives rushed to buy any surplus produce.

A visit from King George and his wife Queen Elizabeth raised spirits in Salford in February 1941. The royal couple chatted to policemen, air-raid wardens and service men and women as they toured the war-damaged city.

Early morning rush for surplus produce at Manchester fish market, November 1944

Early morning rush for surplus produce at Manchester fish market, November 1944

American soldiers stationed in Manchester kept up with the latest election news from the United States by reading press releases. Our photo shows them crowded round a notice board at their base in November 1944.

Perhaps the most unusual photo from July 1944 shows women from the Fairey Aircraft company in training for the new football season.

They were planning to trounce their rivals in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).

American soldiers catch up with election news at their Manchester base, November 1944

American soldiers catch up with election news at their Manchester base, November 1944

The Fairey women played a major role in World War II as the Manchester company produced large numbers of Fulmar fighters and Barracuda bombers. It had a large factory at Heaton Chapel, Stockport, and tested planes at Ringway Airport.

More than 660 Handley Page Halifax bombers and 498 Bristol Beaufighter aircraft were built at Fairey’s northern factories.

A nurse tends Manchester Marine G. Sincock on a hospital train after D-Day, June 1944

A nurse tends Manchester Marine G. Sincock on a hospital train after D-Day, June 1944