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Andreas Säger wrote
All this conversion from strings to numbers is unrelated to the date
acceptance patterns that determines how Calc turns your keyboard input
into day numbers.

No, it is not just for keyboard entry!  And, it is certainly applicable for
format conversion of non-local date formats entered as text strings.

The OP says his data is already entered in the sheet as text strings:

"Column A has *text* strings that are DD/MM/YYYY format.
I want to make them real dates..."

So, needs an efficient way for those text strings to be converted to dates
(in interger value).

When the column selection is cell formatted as Date,  these existing text
strings will show with a single quote preceding on the formula bar. 

The existing text stings are forcibly recast, easily done with a Selction,
then an Edit -> Find-Replace using Regular expression of "^[0-9]" and
replaced with  "&" for the Selection--which will cast text strings to
numbers-- which now within a date field, as controlled by "date acceptance
pattern", become valid dates.


So,  for the example of existing text strings, enter the matching "Date
acceptance pattern" of D/M/Y (and suppress any others if needed)--and then
recast the text strings 'DD/MM/YYY as dates.

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