Wn 83 and Wn 84

Early 2006 the press in Holland mentioned a new found bunker site near Grandcamp-Maisy. The British amateur archaeologist Gary Sterne had located the site when he studied some old maps. After the war it was covered with soil and used as farm ground. A tunnel system was excavated and a underground hospital found. According to Stern, the complex should be opened to the public in April 2006. It was not to be.

The exact location was unclear. Visitors to this website asked me when and where it was to be found. In October, 2006 we traveled to Normandy to search for the site ourselves. At the infocenter near the harbour of Grandcamp the friendly man behind the desk showed us the way to the complex. We did find the location but it was no more than a field filled with weeds and gras. But a year later the complex was opened for the public.

Wn 84 opened in 2007

At the roundabout on the west side of town, take the D 514 to Isigny-sur-Mer. After a few hundred meters, near the church, take the road straight ahead. A couple of hundred meters further on this road is the entrance, on the right, to a small road, Perruques, take this. On the left appears after a while the complex that is fenced of. You will see nothing of Wn 83, it is all below the surface of the topsoil.

A bunker H 622 for 20 men

The complex, Widerstandnest Wn 84 was, according to owner Stern, an important headquarters and was known as Maisy Batterie. It was a large complex which also had Wn 83 within the boundaries. In open emplacements stood six 15,5cm howitzers, a British 25pdr cannon, (war loot from Dunkirk) and two 50mm KwK cannons. For protection of the site, the complex had two Renault tank turrets on bunker Tobruks, machineguns and mortars. The complex was occupied by the Batteries 8, 9 (plus probably 10) from 1716 Artillerie.

A schematic view of the complex

Around Maisy twelve 88mm Flak guns were placed to counter the Allied airforce. By coincidence a 1000 men from Flak regiment No.1 were relocated to Maisy with their 88mm and 20mm guns on June 5, 1944, to defend this region. Near La Cambe some 1500 men were stationed there for the defence of that region. Flak Regiment No.1 was under the command of Colonel Werner Von Kistowski. Before the Allies landed on June 6th, 1944, they tried to bomb the complex. But unfortunately most of the bombs were dropped on Grandcamp-Maisy and 10 citizens were killed. Because the turning point for the Allied bombers were above Maisy Battery, they came within range of these Flak guns, and some twelve bombers were shot down. But the Flak regiment suffered some losses, and they were pulled back to La Cambe. Within a few hours the Germans lost a 100 men. The complex at Maisy itself was unharmed.

On June 9 the complex was attacked by the US 5th Rangers A, C and F Company. There was support from the 2nd Rangers with their heavy mortars and units from the 29th Infantry Division. After five hours the complex was in the hands of the American troops. The only damage was a small hospital which was completely destroyed. There is not much more damage to the complex, like the bunkers or the emplacements. Evidence that the place was not that well defended.

One of the short tunnels, left the office of the commander

When you enter the complex you will not find the mentioned tunnels, but trenches instead. There are some short galleries leading into bunkers, but they can hardly being called ‘tunnels’. The bunkers, among them two H 622 personal bunkers, are in great condition. The H 622 for 20 men is a common bunker in the Atlantic Wall, some 1722 were built by the Germans. During our visit we had to look out for booby traps,… a lot of dogshit in the trenches. By the way, when you visit the complex in the autumn, you won’t starve, because there are thousands of blackberries to be found in the trenches.

An open emplacement, this one still with it’s turntable

One of the emplacements still has it’s original turntable for the 15,5cm howitzer. This gun has a range of around 10 to 15 km. The discoverer of the complex, Gary Stern, claims that these howitzers were the killer-guns for Omaha Beach (A German staff map shows that Vierville-sur-Mer was just within the range of Maisy Battery). So Omaha is within reach, just, but I have my doubts about this claim. Was it possible to place accurate fire on this beach? More logical to me is to point the guns towards Utah Beach. From Wn 84 you got a free view on the estuary of the Vire river and the southern part of Utah. The guns in the backfields of Point du Hoc were also pointed towards Utah Beach.

The white circkel gives the outerline of the range of the guns

But, who am I to complain. There is another complex to visit in Normandy. Gary Stern, bless him, is till working to free more bunkers from the soil. Who knows what he may discover during the excavation.

Commandbunker H 502 with a Tobruk in the back (left)

During 2008 a couple of heavy German guns were placed in the complex. On three of the plateaus are well preserved 152mm sFH18/M howitzer to be found. These are of a later model with a muzzle break and are from Czech origin according to power sockets on these guns. Beside this gun are pieces of other guns to be found in this complex. Near the entrance is a 2cm Flak gun and a 40mm Bofors AA Gun and other types of ‘heavy metal’ and rusty items of guns.

During 2008 a couple of guns were placed in the complex,
such as this 15cm sFH18/M howitzer

During the excavations in 2008, a shocking reminder of the battle fought here, was discovered, when the remains of a German soldier, probably an officer, was found. On the skeleton his name badge (dog tag) and other personal items were found. There was not a weapon found, but he had some pistol ammo on him. One foot was missing and from the other foot some parts.

The remains of a young German officer?

The remains were handed over to the German Grave Organisation to exeman the body and his past. Even there was a name tag, and in which unit he served, his remains are resting in a nameless grave, because not an positive identification could be made. The remains were buried at La Cambe, France, in the present of the German ambassador on June 5 2009.

In June 2009 Nico Blockx mailed me that I was confusing Wn 83 with Wn 84 (this has been corrected). I found on a German staffmap that both Wn 83 and Wn 84 were in the same boundaries (it is shown below). If you have other information, please let me know.

On this German Staffmap the whole region of Grandcamp-Maisy is shown
(Mf.95 staat voor 'Minenfeld')

Wn 83 and Wn 84 lie in the same boundary
The large yellow square is the excavated complex, the small one has three H 669 casemats
(Google Earth)

Detail of Wn 84 with in the red circles the three H 669's
(Google Earth)

In October 2013 we visited Maisy Battery again. Beside the heavy guns, not much was changed in my opinion. There is a promise thet a new part of trenches will be opened to the public (near the spot where the remains of the dead German were found). Despite there is drainage (which are broken in may places) in the trenches, I advice to wear boots or ‘wellies’ after rainfall, because of the puddles and the slippery ground. The promise of a museum for the rangers has yet to be fulfilled and the ticket sale is still in small wooden shed. What is a very nice thing, there are a few items for sale for reasonable prices, like German a helmet, you can purchase one for around 80 €.

Museum pieces stand forlorn in the field adjacent the complex

There is also an LCVP landing craft, beside the ticket sale shed, but it is the victim of the weather, and is deteriorating fast. Also the gun collection at the entrance are in a bad shape, and if they not get a protective coating, or go inside, they will be a pile of rust in a few years.

A hundred yards further up the road, on the north side of it, is a complex that can be visited. It is on private property, please respect this. They are used by a local farmer to store some goods. This battery consists of three Type H 669 casemats that belonged to Wn 84, but not to the excavated complex of Gary Stern. The field of fire of these casemats is towards Utah Beach.

One of the H 669 casemats of Wn 84

This is a coastal battery and therefore placed more inland. They had their guns pointed towards Utah Beach and the Vire river estuary. They have little damage, except for some holes on the inside,... from a heavy machine gun?

A H 669 casemat of Wn 84

The small road Perruques, where you are now, becomes very bad, so head back to the D 514 and turn right. After two kilometers turn right again on the D 199a and head for Géfosse-Fontenay. At the church, go right and drive to the coast.

Wn 90

The 'Doppelschartenstand' of Wn 90 (looking west),
below; looking east

Wiederstandsnest Wn 90 had as most important casemat a so called 'Doppelschartenstand' for a 5cm KwK L/42. cannon. Distinctive about this kind of casemat is that it has two slits to fire from, it covered both sides of the beaches. The 5cm cannon could therefor rotate 360°. Next to this emplacement was an open emplacement for a 5cm anti-aircraftgun.

Wn 90 with in front the open emplacement for a 5cm AA gun

Wn 88

Head now back to Géfosse-Fontenay and go left on the D 199a. After a few hundred meters, go left, this road leads to Wn 88. Here are some bunkers hidden in the high grass of the dunes. But they are only of interest for the diehard bunker fan.

The VF6a/b observation/directionfinderpost of Battery Maisy

Advanced Landing Ground

Return to the D 199a once again and cross the D 514 over. After a few kilometers you'll see on the left, in the corner of the road a small monument. This is the spot where Advanced Landing Ground A-3 was situated. Soon after the landing at Normandy on June 6th, engineers of 816th Battalion AAF Engineers started to work on a temporary airfield. It was operational on June 18, 1944 and was known as ALG A-3 Cardonville. The runway had a length of 1500 meters and was constructed out of Square Mesh Track (SMT). More on the construction of ALG's and the used materials; 'click here'

The shield of 368th FG and the monument for ALG A-3

The runway was extended and ready for use again on July 24. The first planes arrived on June 18. These were Thunderbolts of the 368th Fighter Group, 395, 396 and 397 Fighter Squadron. Later the 370th FG also came to A-3 with 401, 402 en 485 FS.

A P-47 Thunderbolt takes to the sky from A-3

With the visit to the Advanced Landing Ground A-3
everything is more or less covered around Grandcamp-Maisy.

You may continue the tour and head for the
German cemetery at La Cambe and on to Utah Beach
click on the picture below;...