On 6 June 1944 at 7.25 a.m. the 4th commando with 177 soldiers led by Major Kieffer landed on French soil at Sword Beach… To find out what happened on D-Day, head for Ouistreham and Sword Beach. With the Great Bunker, the Hillman Fortress, the vestiges and commemorations, relive 6 June 1944…
A realistic visit to the Great Bunker
Head for Avenue du 6 Juin in Ouistreham, to visit the Atlantic Wall Museum. This large Bunker was 17 metres high and covered 5 levels. It was the main German command post. On 9 June 1944, Lieutenant Bob Orrell changed the destiny of Ouistreham. Together with just 3 men, he placed explosives at the doors of the Bunker. And it took 4 hours to enter the iron giant ! In the end, the 51 German soldiers surrendered, believing themselves to be surrounded by hundreds of British soldiers. When they came out, they found only 4 British soldiers waiting for them ! Today, the Great Bunker is a museum providing a real immersion in a German bunker with a very realistic atmosphere. You can visit the ventilation room, the armoury, the map room and first-aid room all reconstructed identically ! At the top of the bunker, the range-finding position has an impressive view over the Normandy beaches. Before you leave, don’t miss the landing craft used in Steven Spielberg’s film, « Saving Private Ryan », outside the museum.
The impregnable Hillman Fortress !
« Achtung Minen » (Beware of the mines) ! This warning sign was placed at the entrance to the Hillman Fortress. One of the biggest German command posts in the Second World War was at Colleville-Montgomery. In 1942, the German army built 18 underground bunkers covering 24 hectares. Imagine an impregnable fort protected by mines, barbed wire and trenches ! On 6 June 1944, the 1st battalion of the Suffolk Regiment was given the tough mission of capturing the Hillman Fortress ! The Germans held out until 7 June 1944. Today the site is managed by an association, « The Friends of the Suffolk Regiment ». They are passionate about the subject and can tell you real-life stories during your visit to the bunkers and the museum, every Tuesday from July to September. The outside of the site is open every day of the year. A visit to immerse you in history through objects and clothes from the period !
Sword Beach and its vestiges
70 years later, there are still a few vestiges of D-Day on Sword Beach. When you are walking near the beach cabins, you will see the « dragon’s teeth », blocks of reinforced concrete that were set up as obstacles to Allied tanks. In the sand dunes, keep your eyes peeled and you will make out the old bunkers and casemates covered with grass and sand, as nature gradually reasserts itself.
Sword Beach : un lieu de commémorations
At Sword Beach, it is impossible to forget 6 June 1944. On Boulevard Aristide Briand, above Sword Beach, stands the memorial known as « The Flame ». To get to the monument, you go up 7 steps symbolising the 7 soldiers who fell between the beach and casino… At the Memorial to the French Commandos, you can see the names of the 177 French soldiers who landed on that day. Next to the monument, 10 memorial stones pay homage to the French soldiers who died on 6 June 1944. Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, a brigadier in the 1st Special Service Brigade, is also represented in a stone statue. To the east of Sword Beach, you can see the stone memorial stone inaugurated for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Lastly, don’t miss the Tree of Liberty, the true symbol of memory, peace and freedom ! The words « Ni haine, ni oubli » (« Neither hatred, nor forgetting ») (said by Claude Doktor, an eyewitness to the war) are written on one of the leaves.