TOUR THE BATTLEFIELDS OF NORMANDY
THE BRITISH AND CANADIAN SECTOR

JUNE 6TH, 1944, 07.25 HOUR
THE BRITISH AND CANADIAN SECTORS:
'SWORD', 'JUNO' and 'GOLD'

SWORD BEACH, OUISTREHAM

In Ouistreham, there is not much to find that reminds us of the harsh battle that was fought here. But one thing that is well worth the visit is Musée Le Grand Bunker. This enormous fire control bunker had the duty to lead the gun battery's around the harbour of Ouistreham. Only on 9 June the tower was taken under the leadership of lieutenant Bob Orell of the Royal Engineers. With three men he attacked the heavy doors with explosives. This took five hours to complete. All the while they were hampered with machinegun fire and hand grenades that were thrown from the tower. Once inside, the garrison of 50 men surrendered and that was the last stand of the Germans in Ouistreham.

Musée Le Grand Bunker, worth a visit

The 17 meters high building is once again displayed as it was in June 1944. On the four floors you'll see places were the men had their bunks, first aid station and fresh air pumps. At the top you have a great view. A small note in a display reads "SIE KOMMEN!" and that they had observed thousands of ships.

The LCM used in the movie 'Saving Private Ryan'

Next to the tower are some vehicles and a V1 rocket. A nice edition is the LCM used in the movie 'Saving Private Ryan'.

The casino that played an important roll in 'The Longest Day' is not at the spot were you would expect it to be. There is a monument on the coast boulevard, 200 meters west of the present-day casino. The monument is placed atop of a German bunker 'cupola' to remember the Free French Commando's that attacked the casino.

Ouistreham, Kieffers Commandos monument

To preserve the memory on the landing of the commando’s at Sword beach, under the command of Philippe Kiefer, there is a museum at the Place Alfred Thomas, the ‘Musée “No4 Commando”, within in Musée du Debarqement ‘Sword’. The museum is at the moment out of date. Many yellow information, the well known pictures to fill the place, and cabinets full of ‘stuff’ donated by veterans or their families. But they give very little information, and the info that is there, is mostly in French.

“No4 Commando” Musée du Debarqement ‘Sword’ in need of refurbishing

Everywhere hang wrinkled A4 papers with the notice that it is prohibited to photograph, an unnecessary form of force, because there is little to take pictures of. Or it has to be two (!) models of Pegasus Bridge (with some rather great omissions), or a couple of not that great large models of the landing on Sword Beach and the attack on the casino in Ouistreham. Has the Pegasus Bridge Museum at least five stars, this museum ‘just’ two,…

QUEEN SECTOR

Coming from Ouistreham by the coastal road D 514, you follow Sword Beach to the west. In Queen sector, of Sword Beach, is the little town of Colleville-Montgomery-Plage. At the crossroads of Rue de Riva Bella, with the traffic lights, go left, and again left. Here is a statue to be found of Field marshal Bernard Montgomery. Park on the right of the statue. Cross the street towards the beach (plage), by Avenue de 4ème Commando.

Statue Montgomery in Colleville-Montgomery-Plage

On the left you see the monument for Captain Kieffer and his commando’s who took this route towards Ouistreham. On the other side of the street, in the corner stands a monument to remember the temporary burial place for fallen British soldiers.

Captain Kieffers Commandos monument

Move further towards the beach. Follow the beach to the left on the boulevard. You are now in Wn 18 which is dominated by a large casemat. On June 6 a 7,5cm gun was shooting in a western direction over Sword Beach. It was sideways protected by a slab of concrete, against fire from ships. But a tank, probably an AVRE tank with a Petard mortar, managed to put it out of action. Nowadays a house is built into the casemat and is the roof used as a terrace.

The heavy casemat of Wn 18

In the sector of Wn 18 Lord Lovat his brigade suffered his greatest losses (see below). Across this casemat is a huge monument to remember the sacrifices of the men who came ashore at this point and who lost their lives for the liberation of Europe.

The monument in de Queen Sector, Sword Beach

Walk further on the boulevard, and after 150 meters, you come at a large parking lot en notice a big statue, which was revealed in 2013, and depicts the bagpiper William ‘Bill’ Millin. Millin came ashore with Lord Lovat, while he was playing the bagpipes, and the world around him was exploding with grenades, mortars and whistling bullets. Around him men fell, others were full of fighting force by the whining of the bagpipe (or would move away from Millin as far is possible, because he must have been a rather peculiar sight for the Germans, and target.

A statue for Bill Millin

That Millin the war survived is a miracle). On the monument are to be found one of the lines Bill Millin once spoke: 'If they remember the bagpiper, then they won't forget those who served and fell on the beaches'.

Bill Millin play the pipes for the troops before they set sail,...

In the movie 'The Longest Day' the figure Bill Millin has a couple of scènes. In the movie the part of Millin is played by Leslie de Laspee (very annoying to Private Flanagan (Sean Connery) and his mate Pvt. Clough (Norman Rossington) how puts at last some cotton into his ears). Because of this portrayel a legend was born and is now underlined by the statue. Bill Millin (14 July 1922 – 17 August 2010) his bagpipes can be found in the Pegasus Bridge Museum.

Bill Millin (right) goes ashore at the Queen Sector, Sword Beach

Return the same way as you came, and turn right at the casemat, back into town. After 150 meters you come across an old fort from the 18th century. It was once part of the fortifications that protected Ouistreham. The Germans made good use of it by rearming this place. It can not be visited but is good to see from the street. Head back towards your vehicle.

The 18th century fort

Wn 16, 'MORRIS' Battery

From the D 514, called here the Rue de Riva Bella, take at the traffic lights, the left road, the D 60A (Grande Rue). After a couple of kilometres you’ll reach the centre of Colleville-Montgomery. Drive ahead towards the Rue de Caen and keep right and go into the new complex of houses to the Rue Sapin Blue.

Here you find a complex which was known to the British as 'Morris'. It was till a short while ago difficult to find, because it was located on private grounds. But nowadays it is partly preserved into this part of Colleville-Montgomery, on the Rue de Sapin Blue, and to be visited.

An preserved casemat of Morris on the Rue de Sapin Blue

After the village was cleared of Germans, B Company of the 1st Suffolk moved towards this complex, Wn 16. The artillery gave off a couple of shots to control the fire into the complex, before they would send in the barrage. But these few shots were enough for the 67 Germans, who quickly surrenders. The heavy guns of the marine vessels earlier that day had them make very jumpy. Morris was taken without any losses on the British side.

An open gun plateau of Battery Morris

WN 17, HILLMAN COMPLEX

Follow the coastal road, the D 514 westwards leaving Ouistreham. At the crossroads to Colleville-Montgomery, take D 60A, left. After a few kilometres you’ll reach this little town. Drive trough it until you almost reach the end of it. Now you come across a Y-dividing, and hold the left one (there is a small sign ‘Hillman, follow this), this is the Rue du régiment Suffolk. When you leave Colleville, you see on your right Widerstandnest Wn 17, the complex ‘Hillman’.

It consisted of twelve bunkers which housed 150 Germans of 736 Grenadier Regiment under command of Colonel Krug. The complex looks small, but was a tough nut to crack for the British troops heading for Caen. This city was planned to be captured on D-Day, but two roads leading towards it, from Colleville and Hermanville, were covered by Wn 17. The attack was opened by the 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment around 13.00 hours. In the hours before they were landed at Sword Beach and had taken the four casemats at Morris. But now the strong opposition held the British away from taking Wn 17. Around 16.00 hours, after an artillery bombardment, a new attack was launched with help from tanks. The complex could not be taken on June 6th, but the opposition was almost gone by then. The next day Krug and his men surrendered. This battle had taken the lives of 10 British soldiers and 25 were wounded.

Because of this delay, the Germans could reinforce and hold the British troops out of Caen for the time being.

One of two H 608M bunkers of 'Hillman'

With the help of madame Suzanne Lenauld, a local from Colleville, the complex was donated on June 6th, 1989 as a monument to The Suffolk Regiment Association. ‘Hillman’ is restored and maintained by the Les Amis du Suffolk Régiment.

Head now for Hermanville-sur-Mer, back to the coast.

LA BRECHE D'HERMANVILLE SECTOR ' SWORD', 07.25

On the eastside of Hermanville stands a Centaur with a 95mm howitser

This is still the sector 'Queen' in the middle of 'Sword Beach'. Thanks to the 21 DD tanks that made it to shore (2 got lost) and the 'Funnies' the landing of the troops went pretty good. Around 08.20 hours No 4 and No 6 Commando landed under Bill Millin's bagpipe sound (Highland Laddie).

SWORD BEACH, QUEEN SECTOR, LA BRECHE D'HERMANVILLE, THEN AND NOW

There were German minefields , but thanks to the 'Deutsche Gründlichkeit' these were nicely marked! During the landing there was a terrible drama when German fire hit the debarking commando's. There were shouts for medics but these were not heard in the noise of explosions and chaos. A CRAB tank drove with rotating mine sweepers from the landingcraft. The driver did not see the wounded and dying men and swept through the helpless men. At least twelve men were smashed to pulp. As a monument you'll find here a Churchill AVRE tank. Lord Lovat's No 6 Commando moved fast inland to relief the para's at Pegasus Bridge (see 'Pegasus Bridge') . Lord Lovat's Brigade brought some confusion to the French people. The badges on their uniforms had the letters 'SS' (Special Service) in them. This was later changed.

West of the village is a Churchill AVRE tank preserved as monument.
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