Tag Archives: the battle of normandy

Longues-sur-Mer battery

Last year, Kate and I visited Longues-sur-Mer with an American tour group. Just outside of Arromanches enroute to Bayeux, if you’re in the area, stop off to take a look for the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

I’d done some research about the battery and so I was excited to be going. Longues-sur-Mer battery was built as part of the German Atlantic Wall and boasts four massive navy guns – a very impressive sight. The scale of the guns really brought home the terror and destruction that they could cause. Each of the guns are protected by a 3-metre thick concrete casemate and has its own command post, shelters for personnel and ammunition storage.

This battery was a coastal fortification that had hardly been damaged by the allied bombing prior to D-Day. Looking at the thick concrete, it’s not hard to understand why. Being still intact when D-Day arrived, Longues-sur-Mer wrecked havoc on Omaha and Gold beach.

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Mémorial de Caen: The Battle for Caen

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On 9th July 1944, the Canadian and British troops finally entered Caen a month after D-Day. However the Germans restructured their defense lines in the south of the city and continued to block the road to Falaise. The right side of Caen would fall 10 days after the 9th July.

Operation Cobra – a U.S operation developed by General Bradley – began on 25th July with a overwhelming aerial bombardment west of Saint-Lô. This effectively opened up a passage through the enemy lines and troops flooded into the breach. The Germans were weak and exhausted by weeks of combat and didn’t have deep enough defences to prevent the assault. German defences shattered like glass and the Americans entered Avranches on 30th July 1944.

In mid-August, after the success of Operation Cobra, General Bradley decided on an encircling maneuver that would later be named the battle of the Falaise Pocket. Troops would force the German armies to retreat north into the paths of the Anglo-Canadians and south Americans who would close in and isolate them. The relentless artillery and aviation reduced the pocket each day until it closed on 21st August near the small village of Chambois. The German troops were not destroyed, but irreparably damaged. They retreated towards the Seine and towards the borders of the Reich.

The Battle of Normandy and Battle for Caen lasted longer than expected because German resistance was severely underestimated. 37,000 Allied and 55,000 German soldiers lost their lives, in addition to 20,000 civilians. The landscape was devastated and the history of Normandy forever scarred.

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Le Mémorial Pegasus: Pegasus Bridge

 

The successful capture of the River Orne Bridge at Ranville and the bridge across the Caen Canal at Bénouville is unarguably the most well-known mission of the Airborne Division.
In 1961, film producer Darryl Zanuck gave the mission a celebrity status after realeasing the D-Day film, The Longest Day.
On the night of 5th June 1944, 180 troops of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, led by Major John Howard, captured the two bridges in less than ten minutes after landing in Horsa gliders merely metres away.
In less than ten minutes both bridges had been captured intact and the sea borne reinforcements, commanded by Brigadier Lord Lovat, were able to cross the waterways and reinforce the 6th Airborne Division on the eastern flank. The division was also joined and supported by 177 French Commandos, led by Philip Kieffer.
The Caen Canal bridge – also known as Bénouville Bridge – was baptised Pegasus Bridge as a tribute to the British Airborne Division because the men wore the winged horse, Pegasus, as an emblem on the sleeves of their uniform. The bridge was replaced in 1994 with a new structure and the original is now on display in the park of Le Mémorial Pegasus.
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