On 31 May 1941, a joint army and air force memorandum was approved by the Chiefs-of-Staff and Winston Churchill; it recommended that the British airborne forces should consist of two parachute brigades, one based in England and the other in the Middle East, and that a glider force of 10,000 men should be created. On 23 April 1943 the War Office authorised the formation of a second British airborne division.
This second formation was numbered the 6th Airborne Division, and commanded by Major General Richard Nelson (Windy) Gale, who had previously raised the 1st Parachute Brigade. Under his command would be the existing 3rd Parachute Brigade, along with two battalions transferred from the 1st Airborne Division, to form the nucleus of the new 6th Airlanding Brigade. The airlanding brigade was an important part of the airborne division, its strength being almost equal to that of the two parachute brigades combined, and the glider infantry battalions were the heaviest armed infantry units in the British Army. At the same time several officers who were all combat veterans from the 1st Airborne Division, were posted to the division as brigade and battalion commanders. Between May and September, the remainder of the divisional units were formed, including the 5th Parachute Brigade, the 6th Airborne Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, the 53rd (Worcester Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery and the division's pathfinders the 21st Independent Parachute Company.
From June to December 1943, the division prepared for operations, training at every level from section up to division by day and night. Airborne soldiers were expected to fight against superior numbers of the enemy, who would be equipped with artillery and tanks. Training was therefore designed to encourage a spirit of self-discipline, self-reliance and aggressiveness, with emphasis given to physical fitness, marksmanship and fieldcraft. A large part of the training consisted of assault courses and route marching. Military exercises included capturing and holding airborne bridgeheads, road or rail bridges and coastal fortifications. At the end of most exercises, the troops would march back to their barracks, usually a distance of around 20 miles (32 km). An ability to cover long distances at speed was expected; airborne platoons were required to cover a distance of 50 miles (80 km) in 24 hours, and battalions 32 miles (51 km).
On 23 December 1943, the division was told to be prepared for active service from 1 February 1944. Training intensified and in April 1944, under the command of 1st Airborne Corps, the division took part in Exercise Mush. Held in the counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire, this was an airborne military exercise spread over three days involving the 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions. Unknown to the 6th Airborne, the exercise was a full scale rehearsal for the division's involvement in the imminent Normandy invasion. During which, the division's two parachute brigades would land just after midnight on 6 June, while the airlanding brigade arrived later in the day at 21:00. The division's objective was to secure the left flank of the invasion area, by dominating the high ground, in the area between the rivers Orne and Dives. Capture two bridges crossing the river Orne (Which became known as Pegasus Bridge) and canal, destroy the Merville Gun Battery, which was in a position to engage troops landing at the nearby Sword beach and destroy bridges crossing the Dives, to prevent German reinforcements approaching the landing beaches from the north.