Robin's Website

World War II Normandy

Gold Beach

Normandy is a geographical region in northern France which today corresponds to the former Duchy of Normandy. The region has a great deal to offer the visitor from the historic city of Rouen with its cathedral, to the Bayeux Tapestry and the magnificent island commune of Mont Saint-Michel (webpage here). Normandy has easy access to and from the UK via the ports of Cherbourg, Caen (Ouistreham), Dieppe and Le Havre. During World War II, the D-Day landings famously occurred on the beaches here. As part of a visit to the region in the 00s, I was fortunate in having the opportunity to see some of the sites pertaining to the events of the Normandy Landings and these are described on this webpage.

In brief, The Normandy Landings were a series of World War II Allied beach landings which took place in June 1944. Five beaches with the codenames (west to east) 'Utah', 'Omaha', 'Gold', 'Juno' and 'Sword' had been designated for the invasion under the supreme command of General Eisenhower. The invasion, codenamed 'Operation Overlord', took place on 6th June 1944 (D-Day) when five separate groups landed on the beaches over a front of 65 miles along the bay of the river Seine in Normandy. In addition to the five seaborne divisions, three airborne divisions were also involved in the assault. US forces fought across the western beaches, British and Canadian the eastern. Four beaches were taken relatively easily, but Omaha Beach encountered fierce resistance from the Germans. Allied airforces were responsible for destroying a large number of bridges, preventing the Germans from providing reinforcements to their forward units. On D-Day plus 14 (14 days later after the landings), two enormous artificial harbours made of steel and concrete were towed across the English Channel. Codenamed 'Mulberry A' and 'Mulberry B', one was sunk by a storm, whilst the other one (B) was put in place at Arromanches by Gold Beach. The temporary 'Mulberry B' provided the main harbour for the campaign against the Germans. In addition to the harbour, a series of oil pipelines, codenamed 'Pluto', were laid across the English Channel to supply the much needed fuel for thousands of vehicles which were subsequently being landed. Following the Normandy Landings, the largest amphibious landing in history, the Battle of Normandy began, ultimately resulting in the Liberation of Paris and the restoration of the French Republic.

During my visit, the single most important memory taken from the beaches was a conversation with a British veteran of D-Day whom, the day before our encounter, had been attending nearby memorial events. He pointed out where he had landed on 6th June 1944 and described the journey from England which had involved his ship passing through the Straights of Dover.  He spoke of his school friend whom was shot dead moments after landing. A once-in-a-lifetime conversation. Humbling, privileged, so special and too difficult to describe in words. Of course, this webpage provides an extremely brief description of the events that took place here and so I have included a few links at the end for further reading. Some text follows the photos below, describing them and referencing them by number.

[1-17] D-Day, and the following Battle of Normandy in subsequent weeks resulted in the loss of many lives on both sides of the war. It is thought 2,500 to 4,000 Allied troops were killed on D-Day itself, with losses on the German side also numbering into the 1000's. The number of casualties that followed during the Battle of Normandy is put at over 425,000 killed, wounded or missing in action on both sides. In Normandy there are a large number of war cemeteries representing American, British, Canadian, German and Polish burials and these are maintained by organisations, such as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the American Battle Monuments Commission, and the German War Graves Commission. Shown here is The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, which is located in Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. The cemetery honours American troops who died in Europe during World War II and contains 9,387 burials, 307 of whom are unknown.

[18-20] Omaha Beach. This was the most intensely fought-after beach on D-Day. The beach is 5 miles long, making it the largest of all five designated assault beaches. The landing took place by the Americans and was very difficult because the whole of the beach is overlooked by cliffs. Landings here were necessary in order to provide a continuous lodgement along the coast between the American landings to the west at Utah Beach and the British landings to the east at Gold Beach. In photos 18 and 19, it is possible to see some flagpoles. It is here the National Guard Monument sits on the spot where the 29th Infantry Division broke through German defences on D-Day. The monument stands atop an original bunker.

[31-37] Pointe du Hoc. This 100ft high cliff was the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. It was heavily fortified by the German Army with concrete casements and gun pits. On D-Day, the United States Army Ranger Assault Group captured this strategically important location after scaling the cliffs.

[38-46] The D-Day Museum (Musée du Débarquement) and Gold Beach at Arromanches. The Musée du Débarquement was the first museum built to commemorate D-Day and the Normandy Campaign. It overlooks the remains of the artificial Mulberry B Harbour. Amphibious landings at the beach at Arromanches (Gold Beach) were undertaken by the British. In the photos, it is possible to see the portable temporary Mulberry B Harbour, which was used to facilitate rapid offloading of cargo onto the beaches during the Allied invasion. Assembled for use by the British and Canadian invasion forces, It was finally decommissioned 6 months after D-Day when the Allied Forces were eventually able to use the captured port of Antwerp to ship further troops, supplies and equipment.

[47-48] The Juno Beach Centre. This museum is located in Courseulles-sur-Mer and is situated immediately behind Juno Beach, the section of the Allied beachhead on which 14,000 Canadian troops landed on D-Day.

Some References and Further Reading

1. Normandy landings - D-Day on here

2. Wikipedia Articles for each of the five beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword

3. The D-Day Museum (Musée du Débarquement) official page here

4. D-Day on here

5. Normandy war cemeteries localization and addresses (also on can be found here

6. The Juno Beach Centre here

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