History Trips to the WWII Battlefields
The Great War was to be followed by the Second World War just two decades later and is undoubtedly the deadliest conflict in modern human history. However, the legacy WWII left on the world has benefited mankind like the development of air travel and mass production of certain medicines.
Visits to the D-Day Landing Beaches of Normandy and many of the local museums and information centres help to increase awareness and knowledge of the period and will give your school trip to the World War II Battlefields great educational value.
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Reasons to Visit
Caen Memorial - Centre for History and Peace
The Caen Memorial is a war museum dedicated to conflict in the 20th century and stands above the headquarters used by the German army during June and July 1944. An area is devoted to the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy showing the true extent of the fierce fighting and mass bomb attacks that decimated the area in what was a key episode in the liberation of Europe.
NEW - The Caen Memorial is even more spectacular and immersive, with the opening of a brand new 360-degree cinema room. Comprising previously unseen archive footage it will screen a film about the transition between WWII and the Cold War, and tells the story of the origins of Europe, from the turn of the 20th century to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The over-riding theme of the exhibition is to raise awareness of how fragile Peace is.
Pegasus Bridge Museum
Dedicated to the men of 6th Airborne Division the museum exhibits tell the story of the capture of the bridge over the Caen Canal which was vital to the success of the British airborne assault on D-Day. The original Bénouville Bridge, renamed Pegasus Bridge after the liberation, is on display in the park of the museum along with a Bailey bridge and a full size copy of a wartime Horsa glider.
The Merville-Franceville Battery
The Merville-Franceville Battery and Museum are the entry point to the historic battle of Normandy, an unavoidable site for those who wish to understand and appreciate what actually happened as dawn broke on the longest day.
This former coastal fortification was built as part of the Germans' Atlantic Wall to defend continental Europe from Allied invasion. The site is totally preserved and extends over several hectares, with an educational trail explaining the way the Battery worked, the role of each bunker and the dawn attack on the 6th June.
The casemates were constructed and camouflaged by covering them in soil so as to blend in with its environment and were followed by the construction of command bunker, a personnel bunker, magazines, platform for the anti-aircraft gun, tobruks for machine guns, various outbuildings and shelters and a substantial anti-tank ditch in front of the casemates (which was never finished because it was planned to encircle the whole site). Minefields and barbed wire entanglements complemented the protective works.
The museum plays tribute to the units that took part in capturing the Battery and the liberation of Merville-Franceville. The 300 sq. metres visitor area has a new hangar to house the famous Douglas C-47 which took part in the biggest airborne operations from June 6th to late 1945.
Opposite the church where John Steele was famously caught hanging from the bell tower, is the fitting location for the Airborne Museum; the largest museum in Europe dedicated to the American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions who rained down on the area during the night of the 5 to 6th of June during the Normandy invasion in 1944. During a visit to the museum immersive and hyper-realistic exhibitions will transport you aboard a glider and a C-47 aircraft with sound and light effects, a glider landing site, a field hospital and the church square during the German occupation. As you accompany the soldiers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division in the decisive battles of the Normandy Landings you will live through and understand D-Day from the invasion preparations in England, through to the battles for liberation.
Arromanches Invasion Museum
The D-day Museum overlooks the very spot where one of the Mulberry Harbours was constructed and where its remains can still be seen today, just a few hundred metres from the shore. The museum recounts the whole story of this remarkable logistical feet by means of models, machinery and movies.
Arromanches 360 Cinema
High up on the cliffs above the invasion site lies Arromanches 360. A 360 cinema experience plunges viewers into the heart of the fighting. The film is a tribute to soldiers from all countries and to the 20,000 civilians who were killed during this battle for the liberation of Europe, battle which gave rise to so much hope.
Juno Beach Centre
Built on the site where the Canadians landed in June 1944 alongside allied forces, the Juno Beach Centre presents Canada’s role in military operations and the war effort on the home front on the Second World War. A place of remembrance and education, the Juno Beach Centre also provides visitors with the opportunity to discover the many facets of contemporary Canadian society and to better understand Canada’s people, culture and values.
Utah Beach Museum
Built on the beach where the first American troops landed on June 6, 1944, the Utah Beach Museum recounts the story of D-Day in 10 sequences, from the preparation of the landing, to the final outcome and success. This comprehensive chronological journey immerses visitors in the history of the landing through a rich collection of objects, vehicles, materials, and oral histories.
Omaha Beach Museum
Driving west of Arromanches lies Port-En-Bessin which is a small town with a thriving fishing industry. Omaha Beach can be found to the West with the clifftop village of Colleville-Sur-Mer marking the start of the approach road to the larger of the two American cemeteries. This is the cemetery in the opening sequence of ‘Saving Private Ryan’. Here you will find rows of crosses covering the clifftop lawns. Operation Overlord is explained n the Visitors centre, and the Pointe Du Hoc monument is close by on the way to Utah Beach. St Laurent is 2.5 KM further on and holds the Omaha Beach Museum.
This German artillery battery is located on the cliff overlooking the sea and forms part of the Atlantic Wall and is the only one inside the D-Day landing beaches area to have been listed a historical monument.
A guided walking tour at Port-en-Bessin-Huppain will retrace the steps of the 47 Royal Marine Commando who liberated Port-en-Bessin on 8 June 1944, in order to establish the first oil terminal. PLUTO (pipeline under the ocean) played a strategic role in the supply of the Allies until the capture of Cherbourg at the end of July 1944.
The Musée Des Épaves Sous-Marine, located a couple of kilometres from the port, displays what twenty-five years of undersea exploration have brought up with some impressive remains from the sea bed including personal items found in the great warships sunk on or around 6 June 1944.
Musée du Débarquement
At the seafront the Musée du Débarquement recounts the whole story by means of models, machinery and movies. Built on the very spot where the American troops landed on June 6, 1944 and exhibits include an authentic B26 bomber aircraft. A huge picture window runs the length of the museum staring straight out onto the harbour which was the largest port in the world for three months after D Day.
Located a short distance from the famous "Omaha beach", Overlord Museum chronicles the period of the Allied landing until the liberation of Paris. The museum holds 10,000 pieces from the personal items of individual soldiers to tanks, armoured vehicles and guns from the six armies in Normandy.
NEW - A new extension opened in June 2019 and now houses an exhibition devoted to the air forces' contribution to the Battle of Normandy. There is also a teaching room, shop and gallery with 65 portraits paying tribut to veterans.
Featuring William the Conqueror’s tomb and the award winning Peace museum, this popular town should not be overlooked. In spite of severe destruction during WWII bombings, a number of ancient houses and buildings have remained, some of them going back to the 11th century. Caen has some great museums; the Museum for Peace, Museum of Normandy and the Museum of Fine Arts.
The Mulberry harbours were an engineering feat of World War II. These floating artificial harbours were designed and constructed by British military engineers in order to facilitate the rapid off-loading of cargo, vehicles and men needed for the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Remains of these enormous harbours can be seen on the beaches of the Arromanches les Bains.
Mont St Michel
The island is at the very frontier of Normandy and Brittany, which for over a millennium has housed the abbey of Mont St Michel. Since the eleventh century new buildings have been added and the whole monument now forms probably most recognisable silhouettes in France after the Eiffel Tower. Access to the island is free and unrestricted.
Bayeux is most famous for its tapestry. A unique masterpiece in the world, the Bayeux Tapestry is actually embroidery, done in wool on linen canvas during the 11th century. 70m long and 50cm high, it recounts, simply but with a wealth of detail, how and why William the Conqueror achieved the conquest of England on 14 October 1066.
Cite de la Mer
Visit the deepest aquarium in Europe, the largest submarine open to visitors in the world, sea depths exploration exhibition, virtual walking in to the depths adventure and the gallery of men and machines. Also the Titanic exhibition including photos, interactive videos and reconstruction of parts of the ship
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