D-Day Landings Tour Normandy
Those who would go forward
With only gloom a'fore
Would real life's true heroes be
Whose deeds we ought recall
As a retired Lieutenant Colonel himself, Edward is passionate about military history.
He frequently liaises and scrupulously verifies facts with military historians, authors and educators.
Small wonder then that our battlefield tours are, quite simply, unique.
The D-Day landings on the Normandy coastline on 6th June 1944 were the turning point of the Second World War in the west.
D-Day remains an inspiring and moving story over 70 years later.
The following sample itinerary was used for our D-Day Landings Tour in October 2016
Day 1 - Coach pick up and overnight ferry to St Malo
Sainte Mère Église Many people of all nationalities have been moved to come to this small village in Normandy.
Just as the British landing beaches at SWORD & GOLD needed to secure strategic crossings through paratrooper action during the night, American Airborne forces landed in the hinterland of OMAHA & UTAH beaches.
The daring but ill-fated landing in the town square of Sainte Mère Eglise was carried out by the US 82nd Airborne Division. However, despite all set-backs, by 04:30 on the morning of 6th June 1944 the Stars & Stripes flag was flying proudly over Sainte Mère Église, which became the first town in France to be liberated. Fighting continued around the town until 7th June, by which time tanks and supporting troops from UTAH Beach had arrived in sufficient strength to properly secure the area.
The tour often stays for luncheon in this quaint little Normandy village.
There are vivid scenes of this D-Day action in the 1962 film, ‘The Longest Day’. Back to top
Sainte Mère Église was made more famous by John Steele, (an effigy today) playing dead hanging on the side of the church tower whilst witnessing the fighting below
UTAH Beach The airborne drop worked well. The seaborne landing did not go to plan – though ironically, a battle against Nature was to be of great value to the Allies. Strong currents meant that the landing craft were taken off of their intended targets on the beach. They landed on the beach, but 2000 meters away from their main landing target. Ironically, this was one of the lesser-defended areas along the entire beach front and the casualties as the Americans came ashore were minimal when compared to Omaha. By midday, the men of the US 4th Infantry had met up with the men from the 101st Airborne unit. German opposition was swiftly dealt with. By the end of the day, the Americans had advanced about four miles inland and they were about one mile from the 82nd at St. Mère-Eglise, some six miles north of Carentan.
On the first full day of the landing at Utah, 20,000 men had been landed and 1,700 military vehicles. Casualties were less than 300 men. Though the war in the Cotentin Peninsula was not yet over, the achievements at Utah were immense, even if Nature had given a helping hand. Back to top
Landing of the reinforcements on Utah Beach: men, material and vehicles. The problem with this improvised landing area is that there is only one small road going out from the dunes
Omaha Beach Here the Americans faced more difficult conditions since a coastal plateau allowed the defenders a clear view across the beaches below. Even before they reached the beaches the heavy seas had already taken their toll as landing craft and amphibious tanks were swamped and capsized. When the main landing force came ashore they found what remained of their vanguard still at the water's edge and the beaches uncleared. As they remained at the water's edge or made desperate searches for cover they were mown down. US and British destroyers came close in shore to engage the enemy positions; some brave men then struggled forward and within two hours were on the plateau and beginning to advance inland. By midnight, some 33,000 men were ashore but the 3,000 casualties of 'Bloody Omaha' made it the most costly of the D-Day landings. Back to top
Part of the coastal plateau overlooking Omaha Beach (recent photograph)
US Cemetary The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of US military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.
On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names of bodies that were never found. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
In the cemetery, at Colleville-sur-Mer, white marble gravestones are perfectly lined up on the field that overlooks Omaha beach.
Normandy is ABMC's most visited cemetery, receiving approximately one million visitors each year. Back to top
Part of the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach
Pointe du Hoc In the weeks leading up to the invasion, the entire Normandy coastline was aerially bombarded. Pointe du Hoc was specially targeted. Altogether, Pointe-du-Hoc got hit by more than ten kilotons of high explosives, the equivalent of the explosive power of the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima. With the lives of thousands of soldiers, and the outcome of the war itself at stake, a decision was made to attack the position by sending a team of commandoes on foot, who would have to scale the cliffs using ropes and ladders in the early hours of dawn. The task fell upon the 2nd Ranger Battalion, under the command of Colonel James E. Rudder. After a perilous landing on the beach, the Rangers fought the slippery rock face, sodden ropes and enemy fire, and finally struggled to the top only to discover, to their astonishment, that Germans had already moved the guns and replaced them with huge timber beams. Without reinforcement and food running low, the Rangers managed to hold off repeated attempts by the Germans to recapture the site. By the time the troops coming from Omaha Beach had broken through to their positions, less than 40 men of the original 225 had survived. Back to top
Heavily bombed by the Americans and the British, Pointe du Hoc resembles a lunar surface
La Cambe German Cemetary There are 21,222 burials at La Cambe, with 207 belonging to unknown soldiers. It is a very different place to the American and Commonwealth cemeteries. The crosses here are made from grey schist and do not mark individuals graves. Instead, burial locations are marked by plaques on the ground. The majority of the German war dead buried at La Cambe fell between 6th June and 20th August 1944, and their ages range from 16 to 72. Two notable burials at La Cambe are Adolf Diekmann, the most senior officer at the massacre in Oradour-sur-Glane, killed in Normandy on 29th June 1944; and Michael Wittmann the tank commander who, along with his crew, was killed on 8th August 1944. The remains of Wittman and his crew were discovered in 1983 and was reinterred together at La Cambe. Back to top
The crosses here do not mark individuals graves. Instead, burial locations are marked by plaques on the ground