On the morning of 6th June 1944, the Normandy coastline was scattered with Allied landing ships amd warships were sitting further out, prepared for naval bombardment of the German guns. Hundreds more ships were in the English Channel throughout the day, bringing over 132,000 troops from England to Normandy on D-Day alone. A further 23,000 airborne troops were landed nearby the night before to capture and secure key positions including German gun batteries that could fire on the landing beaches.
Hitler's coastal defences, known as the Atlantic Wall, posed a serious problem for the Allied invasion of France and the beaches were sites of fierce fighting where many men made the ultimate sacrifice. Omaha Beach in the American sector is well-known as the bloodiest of all the beaches, with American losses numbering nearly 3,000, and was immortalised in the Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan. Along the coast the beaches were code-named by names they are still known as today: Utah, Omaha, Gold Juno and Sword. Stretching from the Carentan estuary to Ouistreham, the beaches were the site of the largest invasion in world history.
Today, there are many memorials at the beaches and along the Normandy coastline here. German bunkers, gun batteries and other evidence of the intense fighting that took place still litter the landscape. We can now enjoy these beautiful beaches for the peace and enjoyment they offer us today, but the incredible events that took place at these historic sites offer an entirely different aspect.
Go for a walk along these historic beaches and immerse yourself in imagining the incredible events that took place here on D-Day. Several companies in Normandy offer detailed tours of the beaches with well-informed guides to make the most of your visit.
Landing sites full of memory
The left-hand flank of the D-Day landings, Sword Beach was one of the British landing beaches and is close to our port in Ouistreham.
Around halfway between Gold Beach to the east and Sword Beach, which formed the left-hand flank of the D-Day Landing beaches, is Juno Beach where the Canadian 3rd Division came ashore.
From a British perspective, a good place to start your tour is the small village of Arromanches, just a few miles away from Bayeux. This is Gold Beach where the British 50th Division landed.
Forming the right-hand flank of the Allied invasion, the troops landing on Utah Beach encountered far less resistance than Omaha Beach just a few miles east.