Quite amazing how much you can cover today in just about three hours and a half! First stop: the German gun battery of Longues defending both British Gold and American Omaha sectors. You will look at and even enter the bunkers, still intact after all these years and also touch the only cannons in Normandy still in place in a coastal battery. Next, Gold beach where the brave British soldiers of the 50th Infantry Division landed. Even if it was difficult in Asnelles, the landings worked perfectly as planned in Ver! Their major objective was Bayeux, it was liberated intact the day after.
On that same second day started the construction of the artificial harbor at Arromanches, codenamed “Mulberry B”. Large remnants can still be seen. The tour could not end anywhere else but at the Bayeux cemetery, one of 16 … therefore and sadly where a small proportion of the Normandy casualties were buried.
Located on top of a 200-feet-high cliff, this site offers a magnificent view over the English Channel, toward both Gold and Omaha beaches. This battery (built in 1943-44) consisted in four 6-inch guns sheltered in bunkers, covering a range of 12 miles both east and west.
So it was declared a strategic target for the massive pre-D-day air bombardment, which resulted mostly incapable of destroying the fortifications. Even though the bomb craters have now been filled in, this coastal battery is the only one in France that has kept its big guns since 1944. The German battery was successfully attacked on the second day and captured by the British Devonshire Regiment.
Charming beach community and quiet fishing village before the war, things rapidly changed when the Germans started building many bunkers and defenses, due to its strategic location at the end of the cliff. A couple of miles away from Gold beach, it was spared of destruction and rapidly taken in order to start the construction of the Mulberry harbor.
First time in history, this most incredible feat of engineering was first inspired by Churchill with the vital task of replacing the enemy-held ports of Cherbourg and Le Havre in order to resupply our troops. Everything was constructed ahead of time in England, all different parts were towed across the Channel (Phoenix caissons, floating docks and pontoon bridges) … and put together in about 10 days!
Covering an area around St Come, Le Hamel, Asnelles and Ver/mer, the beach has retained German bunkers and is full of monuments honoring the heroic actions of the British soldiers of the 50th Division who landed here after 07:25 a.m on June 6 under command of General Graham.
In addition to connecting with Canadian Juno and American Omaha and taking nearby Arromanches, their vital task was to reach the N13 road and liberate Bayeux. One of the most famous heroes who fought around this area is Stanley Hollis (Green Howards)who was the only one awarded the Victoria Cross on D-Day!
Largest British WW2 cemetery in France, it was built in Bayeux, the first French townof importance to be liberated after D-day.
Beautifully laid out with planted flowers in front of each limestone headstone, the cemetery gives the opportunity to reflect on the story behind each of them by reading the very personal and touching epitaphs chosen by the relatives.
It now holds 4.648 graves, for over 4.000 British soldiers and over 400 Germans. The monument that stands across the street bears the names of 1.808 Commonwealth soldiers reported Missing in Action. Incidentally, the inscription on the top reminds the visitors of the other famous cross-Channel invasion of 1066!