Your second day will be devoted to the historical events of D-Day. Preceded by air attacks along the French coast and paratroops landing behind enemy lines, the 6th June 1944, or D-Day, marked the start of the Allied Forces invasion of mainland Europe and its liberation from the Nazis.
A typical itinerary will start with a visit to one of the excellent local museums to give pupils an overview of the events of D-Day. The rest of the day will be spent visiting the scenes of those events, including the landing beaches themselves, preserved battlefields and war cemeteries.
Every student receives a dedicated workbook to support these visits.
The town of Arromanches played a vital role in the D-Day landing plans. After realizing the Channel ports were too fortified to be captured, Churchill came up with the idea to create floating harbours, known as Mulberry Harbour, that would enable troops to have enough supplies for an invasion. In a huge secret operation, concrete blocks were built to create the docks needed for the port and were transferred over to Arromanches as part of the D-Day offensive plans.
Built in the same place as the British artificial port, this museum relates the incredible history of the building and operation of the port, which was key to the Allied success. Beyond the story of the artificial harbour, 2,000 different objects also contribute to honour the soldiers from the various countries that took part in the Landings. Have a look at working models alongside films that explain this incredible technical feat.
The famous 360° cinema shows unreleased footage from war correspondents, filmed on D-Day. " The Price of Freedom," an outstanding film, is shown on 9 screens in the round showing a mixture of pictures of the D-Day Landings in 1944 and of Normandy as it is today.
The Normandy landing beaches are so peaceful it is hard to imagine the events that took place there. Six specific points were cleverly chosen as the launch sites of Operation Overlord, a synchronised operation that would overturn the German occupation. Our Landing beaches itinerary focuses on three main strategic points, and shows how different the landing day was for each troop. Immerse yourself in the mind of one of the soldiers.
Known for being the bloodiest and longest fight of D-Day, this 6-mile long beach was overlooked by cliffs, which made attacking the area very difficult. German machine gun fire tore into the American troops and many units were being carried off line, due to strong tides and winds ensuing confusion. However, by nightfall, the Americans had gained a hold on the beach and its immediate hinterland. The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties at Omaha.
Utah Beach was the most forgiving of the beaches, thanks to its sandy dunes and weak German fortifications. Due to strong water currents, the troops landed 2000 meters away from their main landing target, which ironically, was one of the lesser-defended areas. This little push from Mother Nature enabled 20,000 men and 1,700 military vehicles to land with minimal levels of casualty. Discover how General Roosevelt (son of previous US president) helped the troops throughout the operation, making it the smoothest landing despite the conditions.
Not as famous as the landing beaches, but as crucial, this cliff-top casemate remains an important part of the D-Day operation. It was a strategic point for the German army due to its direct views over Omaha and Utah and was also the location of six powerful and damaging guns. It was vital to the allied cause that Pointe du Hoc was invaded. Despite a very tedious fight, this particular mission was accomplished the fastest.
Come and visit the beautiful town of Bayeux, where you will find more information on the events following the landings, but also pay tribute to the British troops.
With over 4600 graves, Bayeux is the largest British WWII cemetery in France. It not only holds the remains of 3,935 British soldiers but also those of Commonwealth countrymen such as Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans, as well as one unidentified body. On the other side of the ring road, a memorial bears the names of 1,808 Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave.
The Musee Memorial de la Bataille de Normandie covers the military events immediately following the Landings. After a brief presentation of the strategic position prior to the Landings, you will see how the battle unfolded (from 7th June to 29th August 1944), and follow the Allies progress through a series of illustrated texts, original maps and 3D relief models. There is also a large collection of heavy equipment, arms, uniforms and various other items including archive film footage.
Located between Caen and Ouistreham, the Pegasus Bridge known as Beranville Bridge is a bascule bridge, which was vital to the Allied cause. A gliderborne unit was to land, take the bridge intact and hold it until relieved to limit the effectiveness of a German counter-attack during the invasion. Relive it all at the Pegasus Memorial where, using a relief map and archive film, the guide will explain how the operation unfolded. In the grounds of the museum stands the original Pegasus Bridge as well as a unique full scale replica Horsa glider.
Probably the most impressive and therefore tragic war cemetery, the American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer honors U.S soldiers who died in Europe during WW II. Overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel, the cemetery contains the remains of 9,387 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy and ensuing military operations in World War II. This is a real opportunity to measure the extent of the tragedy of WW2 and honour its victims.
This little village was the witness of heavy casualties for the paratroopers on D-Day. Many hanging from trees and utility poles were shot before they could cut loose or were easily spotted by Germans due to local house on fire. A famous incident involved paratrooper John Steele who, caught on the spire of the town church pretended to be dead. Visit the Airborne Museum where you will relive that tragic night and discover amazing stories.
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"Above all, the whole French experience was very much enjoyed by our children. After ten previous French trips this was the one the children have gained most in terms of language and confidence - and I think the one they have enjoyed most."