12 WW2 Locations to visit in Normandy

Visit Normandy & see where the events of D-Day took place leading to victory in Europe in WWII.  For further details on our Normandy Tours visit  http://www.schooltours.co.uk/school-trips/history-school-trips-to-normandy.html

 

  • The British Sector

1. The Merville Battery

Part of the Atlantic Wall, this gun emplacement with a command bunker, a building to accommodate the men, and ammunition magazines, was thought to threaten the British landing on Sword Beach. The British captured the Battery at heavy cost. They found that there was only one old French 75mm gun in place.

2. Pegasus Bridge

Gliders carrying men of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry under the command of Major John Howard landed near Benouville shortly after midnight on 6th June to capture the two strategically-important bridges crossing the Orne and Caen Canal. The British Airborne assault secured the eastern flank of the Landing Beaches. The Gondrée Cafe nearby was the first building in Europe to be liberated. The bridge across the canal was called "Pegasus Bridge" after the shoulder flash of the 6th Airborne Division. The original bridge was replaced in 1995.

3. Hermanville-la-Breche (Sword Beach)

Sword Beach was the most easterly of the five assault Beaches. Commandos landing here later captured Ouistreham and joined up with the airborne troops at Pegasus. Nearby there will also be the opportunity to see the Memorial to the early casualties and Montgomery's Statue at Colleville-Montgomery as well as visiting one of the main beach exits at Hermanville-la-Breche.

4. Courseulles (Juno Beach)

The landing here was delayed to allow the tide to carry the Tank Landing Craft over reefs offshore. This area had an impressive array of defences including blockhouses with field guns, machine-gun pill-boxes and “Hedgehogs” on the beach. The beach and all the coastal roads were mined. Poor visibility meant that the bombardment fell beyond the seafront defences. At Courseulles-sur-Mer the Canadians stormed the defences, supported by “funnies” from 26 Assault Squadron, Royal Engineers. Courseulles, cleared by 10.00 hours, was the first port captured by the Allies and played a key role in landing supplies after D-Day. General Charles de Gaulle landed here on 14th June, 1944. A DD tank found three miles out at sea in 1970 now stands as a Memorial to the 1st Canadian Hussars.

5. Arromanches & Gold Beach

The British 50th Division landed on Gold Beach at the western end of the British Sector. The town of Arromanches became the site for the Mulberry Harbour, the remains of which can still be seen offshore. The Invasion Museum at Arromanches explains the harbour's construction and use. On the cliffs above the town the 360 Degree Cinema offers an evocative audio-visual presentation of the landings.

6. Bayeux War Cemetery

Bayeux was the first town in Normandy to be liberated. The major British War Cemetery in Normandy is now located here along with the Memorial to the Missing. The cemetery is the venue for the annual Commemoration of the Landings. 

  • The American Sector

7. La Cambe German Cemetery

Originally an American Cemetery, La Cambe eventually became the site for the largest German cemetery in Normandy with over 40,000 casualties. Of particular note is the central communal burial mound. The graves of Michael Wittmann and his tank crew, whose attack at Tilly-sur-Seulles had earlier proved so destructive to the British, are also in La Cambe.

8. Ste Mère Église

Whilst the British were securing the eastern flank of the invasion area, the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were given the task of securing the western flank. The American paratroopers found themselves scattered over a wide area and many drowned in marshes. Nevertheless Ste Mère Église was captured. The American Airborne Museum now stands on the site of a house destroyed by fire during the fighting. There are numerous artefacts, weapons, armoured vehicles and a Dakota DC3 on the site. An effigy of Private Steele, who famously hung by his parachute from the tower of the church for many hours, serves as a reminder of this incident (see photo). It is also possible to see the water pump used by the villagers to put out the fires started in the air raid.

9. Utah Beach

Utah Beach near the village of Ste Marie du Monte was on the most westerly of the invasion beaches. The most senior American officer who came ashore on D-Day, Brigadier General Roosevelt, son of the former President and aged 57 when he landed on Utah, decided that although his troops had actually landed some distance from their scheduled landing place, they were now committed. As a result casualties were minimal and by nightfall 23,000 men supported by hundreds of vehicles had come ashore. Utah shares the claim along with Ste Mere Eglise to be the starting point of "Liberty Highway". The marker stone at Utah reads Kilometre 00 as opposed to Ste Mere Eglise's Kilometre 0.

10. Pointe du Hoc

The Pointe du Hoc is now the best-preserved battlefield site in Normandy. On 6th June, 2nd US Rangers under the command of Lt Col James E Rudder were given the task of capturing the gun positions which dominated this high ground and which could fire on both Utah and Omaha. Overcoming all obstacles the Rangers scaled the cliffs and captured their objective. The machine-gun positions, bunkers, dug-outs and casemates which comprised the German defences can still be seen as can the craters caused by the naval bombardment.

11. Omaha Beach

Overlooked by a high bluff and heavily defended with machine guns and 88 mm guns, Omaha Beach was the most critical and difficult part of "Operation Overlord". The US 1st & 29th Divisions landed on what later became known, due to the severity of the losses, as "Bloody Omaha". With his troops deprived of artillery or armoured support and out of radio contact having lost their equipment on the way in to land, Bradley considered evacuation before the Americans finally managed to break through the barriers blocking the beach exits. The men who advanced left behind more than 3,000 casualties.

12. Colleville US Cemetery

The photograph shows the graves of Theodore Roosevelt Jr (Medal of Honor) and Quentin Roosevelt his brother who was killed in the First World War. Colleville is the principal American Cemetery in Normandy and fittingly overlooks Omaha Beach. It contains over 9,000 casualties. Many other American casualties originally buried in the cemetery were subsequently repatriated to the United States. The American D-Day Remembrance Service is held here. On major Anniversaries, the Services is attended by the US President.

 

Merville Battery

Pegasus Bridge

arromanches

invasion museum arromanches

bayeux war cemetery

la cambe german cemetery

ste mere eglise

utah beach memorial

omaha beach memorial

colleville us cemetery

     

 

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