My tour around the D-Day beaches

I was lucky enough to visit Normandy a little over 2 years ago and spent a great deal of the time visiting the WW2 related areas.  I thought people might be a little interested in some of the photos which I took.

Azzaville Battery

Posing in one of the gun emplacements at Azzaville, Normandy.

One of the most interesting places we visited was the Azzaville battery.  It was one of countless reinforced bunker/artillery batteries which the Germans used to shell Allied troops and naval vessels.  If we had been standing here 70 years ago we would have seen a shell from an American battleship get a lucky shot through the narrow “window” and ricochet off the wall and ceiling, killing everyone in the gun nest and the room behind it.

The Azzaville battery was commanded by an apparently reasonable Nazi officer who protected the locals from the German soldiers and tried to make the best of things for all involved.  Once his command was seriously damaged and having suffered casualties, he surrendered.  This is a big difference from the neighbouring post just a mile or so away where the commanding officer was an enthusiastic Nazi and when his gun battery was being overrun by American soldiers ordered a nearby German artillery post to shell his own position, sacrificing many of his own men to kill many more Americans.

What a battleship can do

Evidence of what a shell from a Battleship can do.

Utah Beach

Utah Beach

We visited all of the D-Day beaches including this one which if my hazy memory is correct is Utah beach.

All roads in Normandy seem to pass through St. Mere Eglise.  Anyone who has seen the old “The Longest Day” movie will remember the unfortunate soldier whose parachute got caught on the church steeple.  The town is entirely unchanged and when we visited the museum we saw that precisely where we had parked our car next to a row of trees was the scene of the deaths of several soldiers.

St. Mere Eglise

St. Mere Eglise

In several of the American areas of Normandy there are references and statues of Iron Mike.  Not having a similar concept in Britain, at the time I thought that Iron Mike must have been some outstanding soldier until I got home and found out that Iron Mike was an idealised heroic American soldier.  We passed the statue below almost every day.

Iron Mike

Statue of Iron Mike not far from the road west out of St. Mere Eglise

 

Next to the statue on the far side from the photo above is a plaque which says:

Iron Mike Dedication

Iron Mike Dedication

80th Airborne Commemoration

80th Airborne Commemoration

Further east from the American beaches are the British ones and at the town of Arromanches there are the remains of the Mulberry Harbour which you can still see quite a lot of.  At low tide I managed to go along the beach to the nearest section though I don’t necessarily advise anyone else to do so.

Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

Myself standing next to part of the 70 year old Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches at Gold Beach

Arromanches is a must-see location for many reasons, it houses an excellent little museum and now a state of the art 360 degree cinema which had us holding onto the rails as a Spitfire approached the beaches and climbed steeply over a cliff.

The town is full of memorials including this one.

Royal Marines

Commemoration to Royal Marines to manned the landing craft which lies next to memorials to the RAF and Army.

There are also lots of gift shops and tea-shops throughout the little town which seems permanently decked in Union Flags.

Arromanches

Arromanches

You don’t have to drive far around Normandy to find WW2 related cemeteries.  We visited British, American, Canadian cemeteries, each with a slightly different feel to match their country.  The one below is a British one that opened on D-Day.

British War Cemetery

The Ryes War cemetery at Bazenville

By chance, I went to the log book which contains the details of all those buried and the first name I found was of a man who lived just 2 streets from me which was quite a co-incidence.  It contains soldiers who died on the beaches below as well as a number of sailors of ships that had been torpedoed by German submarines.   There is a small section at the back with German dead too.

The Ryes War cemetery at Bazenville

The Ryes War cemetery at Bazenville

If you know how and where to look you can find all sorts of ammunition shells and various bunkers.  This is another German one which is literally falling into the sea and not visited by tourists.

German Atlantic Wall

Following in the footsteps of heroes.

Another of the highlights along the coast is Point du Hoc which was the scene of a famous American storming of a German held 98 foot tall cliff all the while under fire.

Point Du Hoc

Point Du Hoc with the memorial on the cliff edge.

There are still lots of German bunkers and artillery complexes to explore here and it can get very busy.  Alternatively if you don’t like clambering around tunnels you can just look at the craters.

Looking out of a gun post

Looking out of a gun post

Shell crater

Pity the poor Germans who were hit by this.

Of course Normandy is a beautiful quiet place now full of little villages and beautiful countryside.  Bayeux is a nice day out with its cathedral, famous tapestry, narrow lanes and water wheel.  There are also great beaches and country walks to enjoy but with the added bonus that you might find something really interesting.

A quiet lane near La Cresperie

A quiet lane near La Cresperie

A deserted Normandy beach

A deserted Normandy beach, perfect for a swim, sunbathing or just a quiet read.

Bricquebec

Bricquebec

My favourite little find on an exploratory walk was this memorial to General Patton with its great caption.

Do not take counsel of your fears

Do not take counsel of your fears – General Patton

 

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and a traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. I can freelance write for you and run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with guided tours run by myself!
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10 Responses to My tour around the D-Day beaches

  1. Boyer Writes says:

    Stephen, my husband and I visited Normandy a few years ago. It is an amazing place and the rows of graves really help one to understand the sacrifice there. We took a taxi out to the grave site and the driver did not speak English (only French), but he made a jester of tears when we got back into his cab. Yes, many tears were shed here…then and since.
    Thanks for sharing the fine pictures. I am assuming the girl with you is your wife. Pretty lady. Nancy

    • It is such an amazing place, I’m very much looking forward to visiting the WW1 sites in September. I’m glad you liked the punctures, I took several hundred there so it was hard to narrow down the selection. Yes that is my lovely wife, Emilia. She doesn’t have an online profile so to speak so I rarely mention her on my blog but she kindly said yes to this photo.

  2. Malla Duncan says:

    Great post! Feel as though I’ve been there with you. Looks so peaceful now. A beautiful place to remember an ugly past. Wish its message could get to those who still feel their designs must be forced on others through the violence of war.

  3. Tim says:

    Nicely done, Stephen! My father (Regina Rifles Infantry from Canada) was fighting in Italy during D-Day. He told me when I was very young that he lost many dear friends on that fateful day in history.

    • Thank-you Tim. One of my Grandfathers fought in Italy too. Yes,I can imagine that there are still many people around without their fathers and grandfathers due to D-Day. If you’re interested in Canadian military history and ever in the area, I’d also recommend visiting Vimy Ridge which has very interesting WW1 memorials particularly for Canada.

  4. Francis says:

    Loved is post – really got me into it!You might be interested in mine at http://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/republic-or-monarchy-day/

  5. This post has taken over the top spot as my favorite post that I have read in June 2014. Thanks for taking the time to put it together!

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