Thursday, 12 June 2014

WW2 Sites to visit in France

We have just passed the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy on 6th June 2014.  A historic anniversary. We have visited some of the sites along the Normandy coast and inland and also have visited the cemeteries. It is well worth a visit either from a purely historical point of view or you may well have family members who were involved and you would like to track down their history.

For the Second World War then Normandy is a good place to start.  Along the north coast of Normandy you will find wide sandy beaches. It was these beaches which were targetted on D-Day as a good place for the allied troops to land and take on the Germans who were occupying that area of France. The Germans had concrete gun emplacements along the coast. The Allied troops started that day by landing parachutists behind the line from gliders - one group aimed to destroy a key river crossing at Pegasus Bridge. And then there were bombings which took place along the coast, although apparently the weather did not help and many of these were dropped too far inland to be of much use. This was to avoid dropping them on the troop ships which had amassed in the English Channel, or La Manche as the French call it.  The troops landed from landing craft on five main beaches and unfortunately there were huge fatalities but also by the end of the day ? they had taken over the coastal defences (any historians can you please confirm or not ?)

You can visit these D-Day landing beaches along the North coast of Normandy, all situated on the stretch between Cherbourg and Deauville - they were named Utah (USA), Omaha (USA), Gold (UK), Juno (Canadian) and Sword (UK) beaches in the War. And also the Arromanches landing harbour which was historic and you can still see the remains of out at sea today. Then you can also visit Pegasus Bridge which was featured in the film The Longest Day. The family who run the cafe next to that are actually descended from those who owned the cafe on D-Day and who tended the wounded.
You can visit the Caen memorial museum (huge).
And the Bayeux Museum is interesting and has quite a few mementoes which are more personal which always brings it all home to you more.

Further north at St Omer near Calais, you can visit the dome of Helfaut at La Coupole, which was where the German army launched or built the V2 Rockets. it now houses a very interesting museum under the dome:

The blockhaus of Eperlecques - also near Calais and with lots of interesting things to find out about :

A first World War interesting place to visit is the Maginot line (a little bit left in Alsace):

Further down on the West coast you can visit some German defences in the form of the remains of their Atlantic Wall - we saw this at Coutances on West coast of Normandy but you can also visit near the Domaine d'Inly campsite in Brittany, Le Grand Blockhaus which is/was a large bunker and command centre for the Germans at Batz-sur-Mer :

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