The forgotten beach (second part)

Mont Canisy, Wn Vill 013

Behind the coastal town of Bénerville lies a large hill, called ‘Mont-Canisy’. The Germans, who noticed the potential strategic importance of this hill, with the view over the whole bay of the Seine, began building here Widerstands Neste (Wn Vill 013). The complex was of the type 2./HKAA 1255. On top of the hill were six plateaus for 155mm cannons of French origin.

In December, 1941, four guns were operational and the final two in Februari, 1942. North of the hill, with the view over the Seine bay, there were two range finding bunkers (they are still there and open to visit). To defend the complex, the German placed almost a dozen ’tobruks’. These small bunkers contained machineguns and mortars. In Februari, 1942 Mont Canisy was official inserted in the Atlantic Wall.

The two range finding bunkers.

On the surface were interconnecting trenches, under ground, at 15 meters, were tunnels made in 1943. These tunnels were connected with 24 rooms for storage of ammunition and compartments for the German personal. On paper, the Monte Canisy complex was one of the most important between Le Havre and Cherbourg. From 1943 the Allies regularly bombed it. The guns were placed on open emplacements and therefor an easy target. In January, 1944 work started to built heavy fortifications for the guns. The same month a seventh 10.5 cm cannon was added.

A B-26 Marauder of the 397th Bomb Group, 596th Squadron.

On April 23, 1944, at least 40 German soldiers were insured when a 500 pound bomb, from a B-26 Marauder, hit a tunnel which resulted in the explosion of a storage room with ammo. During the same attack, the western H679 casemat, which was in its building stage, was hit as well. The foundation was cracked and therefore this bunker was never finished.

A bombcrater,... one of many on Mont Canisy

Another bombardment was on May 19th, 1944 when the first casemat was hit and the 155mm gun was damaged. A second casemat was still without her cannon, it was made ready for placement of it’s gun, but it would never come to that.

June 6th, 1944, just four 155mm are operational, two on the open platforms, two in the casemats.

D-Day at Mont Canisy

During D-Day the guns of Mont Canisy exchanged fire with HMS Warspite, HMS Ramillies and Roberst. Because the ships were in the reach of the guns of Canisy, the ship retreated behind a smokescreen but kept on firing. The two on open plateaus placed cannons were the first one that were brought to silence.

The HMS Warspite fires it guns towards Canisy

It is 16 guns of the Royal Navy (from a distance of 30 km), against just 4 of Mont Canisy (with the range of 20 km). If the guns were not put out of action, then in the night of June 6 and 7, one unit of British commando’s would attack the complex. But the Royal Navy did a good job, and the guns were destroyed, thus preventing a same bloodbath that took place at Point du Hoc.

A plateau with a 155mm cannon, Then and Now.

But the German troops stayed on the hill until the 21st of August, when the frontline reached Mont Canisy. The Germans pulled back behind the Seine. Not only left they behind a lot of equipment, but also a lot of landmines. The next day the Allied troops took the hill.

What is left on Mont Canisy?

Mont Canisy is easy to find. Follow the signs if you drive from Deauville to the west to Villers-sur-Mer. The place is also well marked from Bénerville. A lot more difficult is to find a place to park your car. When the barrier is down, there is little room left. The entrance is free of charge.

A Renault tankturret on top of a Tobruk near the entrance

After a short, but steep clime, you are greeted by a tobruk which has a Renault tank turret on top. A few meters further down the path are the two range finding bunkers. You can make a free choice now, follow the small path to the west, or take the large one. The latter one takes you directly to the H679 bunkers. The terrain is still peppered with bombcraters. A lot of constructions are overgrown with vegetation. Besides that, it is well maintained by 'L'Association des Amis du Mont Canisy'. This organization gives guided tours (in French) that lead you also into the tunnels.

One of the three H679 casemats, Then and Now.

Continue to the west on the next page;