70th Anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy
Nowhere is the memory of the Second World War more alive than along Normandy’s northern coastline. It was here on the wide sandy beaches that, on 6th June 1944, the Allied forces launched the largest amphibian attack in history, broke through Nazi defences and made the first steps in the liberation of Europe.
Marked by the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and the ensuing 100 day Battle of Normandy, 2014 is a momentous year for peace and reconciliation. This might possibly be the last time that so many veterans gather in Normandy to attend the official ceremonies, and with them, the last opportunity for younger generations to touch ‘living history.’ As first-hand accounts of the immeasurable courage and heroism of these men are recounted, this important anniversary will be accented by celebration as well as commemoration.
Throughout the summer and throughout Normandy, there will be an exceptional programme of events including historical re-enactments, firework displays, military processions, a giant picnic on Omaha Beach, a commemorative football match, concerts, film screenings, exhibitions, themed tours, walks and much more. A full programme of events is available on the Normandy Tourist Board’s website.
The official international commemoration ceremony of 6th June, attended by veterans and heads of State will take place at Sword beach in Ouistreham. Only holders of invitations will be able to gain access to the sites of these official commemorations - to stay abreast of the latest news about conditions of access to the sites, please consult the following site regularly: www.the70th-normandy.com
Visiting the D-Day sites and museums
There are dozens of sites and museums in Normandy that recount the story of this fascinating moment in history and in preparation for this important year - new museums have opened, existing museums have installed new exhibition spaces and GPS tours and downloadable apps have been developed to enhance the visitor experience.
The Caen Memorial is a good place to start for a very comprehensive guide to World War II and the build-up to D-Day. As well as the moving experience of the the war cemeteries, a visit to one of the five landing beaches (Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah) is also a must.
If you head to the town of Arromanches on Sword Beach, you will be able to see the impressive remains of the Mulberry Harbours. By using the new smart-phone app with augmented reality, Arromanches 1944, you can see how the port would have operated during the landings. Overlooking the harbour, just outside the town, you’ll find the 360° circular cinema that is now showing the new film, ‘Normandy’s 100 days.’ Featuring archive footage, the film retells the story of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy on nine screens simultaneously. Another site of strong emotional interest to British visitors is the Pegasus Bridge Memorial close to the Ouistreham ferry port. The museum tells the story of the British glider planes that took the bridge early on the morning of the 6th June.
After the 6th June, the Battle of Normandy lasted for a further 100 days moving inland to the heart of the Normandy countryside. A visit to the Memorial at Mont-Ormel, overlooking the Falaise-Chambois pocket where the decisive battle was fought, is well worth while. From mid-May a new GPS smart-phone app, ‘Août 1944 Remembrance Road,’ will be available to accompany the 12-mile driving tour that takes you round key sites of the last battle of Normandy.
Normandy Tourist Board’s student blogger, Annie Darling will return this year to report on the 70th anniversary commemorations and celebrations – follow her blog to find out more!
Please take a look at the Normandy Tourist Board’s website
for more information.