The Normandy campaign began on 6th June 1944 with the biggest invasion armada ever assembled. The long coastline was split into ‘beaches’, the names of which have now become household names – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Simultaneously, both British and American airborne forces began the attack during the early hours of 6th June, liberating the first towns in France.
The fortunes of soldiers coming ashore that morning were mixed, with Omaha earning its nickname ‘Bloody Omaha’ with the withering fire on the American soldiers coming ashore. Elsewhere resistance was overcome relatively easily, but this was just the start of a long and bloody campaign which would see the deployment of the German SS troops and their panzers and difficult fighting through the ‘bocage’ – hedgerows ideally suited for defence and well used by the Germans.
On this tour we will consider the building of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, under the command of Field Marshal Rommel. Many of these fortifications still exist and one can easily appreciate how difficult it must have been to attack them. We will also outline the choice of Normandy as the invasion site and the deception involved in keeping the Germans guessing where invasion would come.
The amazing assault of the American Rangers under the command of Colonel Rudder, on the cliff-top fortifications of Pointe-du-Hoc will be recounted in the place where it actually happened, and the ground is still punctuated by deep shell holes and littered with damaged bunkers.
We will also visit Omaha beach and recount the tales of the places where the American forces struggled ashore against overwhelming odds. Above this beach lies the American National Cemetery which is the last resting place of so many of those men killed during the invasion and beyond.
Further along the coast we will visit the town of Arromanches where the remains of the Mulberry Harbour still remain. This was made of old ships and massive concrete blocks that were towed across the channel to ensure that the Allies would have a harbour when ashore, in the absence of a captured port to land supplies.
We will also visit the other invasion beaches to see where the British forces came ashore, such as CSM Stanley Hollis, who won the Victoria Cross for bravery on 6th June.
We will see the famous Pegasus Café, which was liberated by British Paratroops under the Command of Major Howard in the early hours of 6th June. Staying on the theme of airborne forces we will visit Ste Mere Eglise, again liberated in the early hours of the 6th June but here by American paratroops, where one unfortunate soldier’s parachute became tangled on the church spire as he descended.
The tale of the capture of Cherbourg will be recounted, alongside the attempts to take Caen by the British, and St. Lo by the Americans. We will appreciate the fighting conditions during the Summer of 1944, and the final breakout by the Americans during Operation Cobra. This operation marked the beginning of the end of the German resistance in France, and resulted in massive casualties for their forces as they attempted to evade encirclement at Falaise.
The Normandy campaign is not easily understood; nor was it assured of success from the beginning. Our Normandy battlefield tours will lead you through the scenes of the battles which began the liberation of Western Europe from the Nazis. Click here to book your Normandy tour today