See Sainte-Mere lEglise the German cemetary, the Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, the American and British cemetaries, Arromanches.
This day long tour is without a doubt the most complete tour offered to give you an idea of all of the aspects of the landings on D-Day. This excursion will take you out of the fiction of the films that have been made about the Battle of Normandy and will show you the true stories behind what happened here on June 6th in 1944.
POINTE DU HOC :
Re-live on this exceptional site the exploits of the 2nd Battalion of the US Rangers. After having scaled the 100-foot cliffs under heavy enemy fire the Rangers pushed on through this lunar landscape to capture and destroy the 6 heavy guns capable of firing their shells to a maximum range of nearly 15 miles. Colonel Rudder and his men only realised upon capturing the battery that the Germans under the orders of Rommel had moved the guns half a mile inland and hidden them while bunkers were being constructed to protect them. The taking of Pointe du Hoc was a long and laborious fight with the Rangers being left to fend for themselves two days longer than had been planned. The 2nd Battalion suffered very heavy casualties during the two and a half days they were at Pointe du Hoc only 90 of the original 225 still fighting when they were finally relieved.
OMAHA BEACH :
Approximately 34 000 soldiers of the famous 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions landed on this beach on D-Day. The beach was covered in anti-tank and anti-landing craft obstacles. Nearly all of the pre-invasion bombardment had missed the fortifications along the beach and the geography of the beach itself consisting of 80 to 100-foot bluffs rising up from the shore was very easily defendable terrain for the Germans. One of the only good quality front line Infantry Divisions available to the Germans was also present on the beach purely by coincidence. This made the assault the most difficult of all the beaches on D-Day earning the nickname “Bloody Omaha”. Only a few days after the landings the Americans had transformed nearly the entire beach into a vast artificial harbour code named “Mulberry A”. It was used for less than a week before it was destroyed in a very heavy storm between the 19th and 22nd of June 1944. There is only one piece of this harbour left to be seen today.
AMERICAN CEMETERY :
Overlooking the eastern end of Omaha Beach the American cemetery holds the bodies of 9 387 soldiers who came from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to liberate Western Europe from the Germans. This immense place of memory and reflexion will impress you with its calm and serenity. You can see the graves of some of the 307 unknown soldiers or visit the resting places of the more famous such as the Niland brothers the family who inspired the film “Saving Private Ryan” as well as the three Medals of Honor winners one of whom is General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Realising the difficulties of capturing intact an enemy held port the British under Churchill opted for the mammoth task of building two artificial harbours one for the American 1st Army at Omaha the other for the British 2nd Army at Gold. However following a very severe storm lasting from the 19th to the 22nd of June 1944 which completely destroyed the American Mulberry harbour the British artificial port at Arromanches was left alone as the main supplied channel for all of the equipment needed by the Allied soldiers fighting in Normandy.
After lunch (not included) you will visit the highlights of the British Sector.
The afternoon part of the tour retraces the main assaults undertaken by the British forces during the first few days of the Battle of Normandy on the eastern side of the Operation Overlord. In addition to the landing in Ouistreham on Sword Beach you will also visit the famous site of Pegasus Bridge captured just after midnight on D-Day by elements of the 6th Airborne Division and the Hillman Bunker complex located near Colleville-Montgomery the town named after the British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery in his honour. You will also honor some of those who lost their lives in Normandy visiting one of the too numerous Commonwealth Cemeteries. The tour will be completed by the visit of the Museum of the Battery of Merville true reconstitution of the German gun Battery which was neutralized by the men of Lieutenant Colonel Otway.
BATTERY OF MERVILLE MUSEUM :
The men of the 6th British Airborne Division under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Otway were tasked with the capture and destruction of the guns strategically situated to fire on the landings taking place three miles further west on Sword Beach. Unfortunately the British paratrooper drops were very scattered resulting in only 25% of Lt. Col. Otway’s men assembling before the attack. These men were missing equipment ammunition and lacked communications. Also despite the reinforcements that were meant to arrive during the attack not turning up this small group of determined British soldiers managed to succeed in their D-Day mission and this gun battery today remains as a museum to the testament of the courage of these men.
PEGASUS BRIDGE :
The capture of Pegasus Bridge and its sister bridge nearby by elements of the 6th Airborne Division was the most complete and successful operation carried out on D-Day. It was vital for these bridges to be captured intact in order to deny the Germans a crossing point over the Orne river and canal which together run parallel to the sea from Caen. This kept this important artery open to the British to ensure the successful securing of the eastern flank of the Allied landings in Normandy. The inhabitants of Bénouville the village that sits beside the bridge were the first French civilians to be liberated on the morning of the 6th of June. Just after midnight the gliders under the command of Major John Howard landed less than fifty yards from their targets allowing the men contained in them to take possession of the bridges with a minimum of casualties and destruction. The paratroopers held their position despite numerous enemy counter-attacks until they were joined by British troops advancing south from Sword Beach just after midday on D-Day.
SWORD BEACH OUISTREHAM :
Starting at half past seven in the morning the first of 28 000 soldiers to come ashore on this beach landed to start the liberation of Western Europe. With them were the 177 Free French soldiers serving under Commandant Philippe Kieffer. They were the only French soldiers to be involved in the assaults on D-Day. One of the first tasks allotted to the forces here was the destruction of a German artillery battery composed of five 155mm cannon and other associated German defences near the beach as well as the famous Casino which had been heavily fortified and to capture what is now called by the locals “Le Grand Bunker” a massive German fortification over 5 storeys high. After having achieved this the 3rd British Infantry Division was to push rapidly inland to surround the town of Caen from the east. Although the British forces had attained nearly all of their D-Day objectives by nightfall they had failed in their most important task which was the encirclement and capture of Caen in conjunction with the Canadians forces landed on Juno.
HILLMAN BUNKER :
Found a couple of miles inland from Sword Beach the fortifications that made up the Hillman complex are just outside the village of Colleville-Montgomery known prior to 1944 as Colleville-sur-Orne. On the 7th of June the Germans here finally gave up to the 1st Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. The different bunkers used as a German command post are now cared for by the Association of the Friends of the Suffolk Regiment.
BRITISH MILITARY CEMETERIES :
The Commonwealth Military Cemeteries are sadly present in numerous villages and towns in Normandy. They can be different in the size but the emotion stays the same each grave has flowers sometimes photographs and letters are laid down by relatives. You will also read the touching epitaphs chosen by parents brothers and sisters or children.
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