The Allied landings on the Normandy coast on 6th June, 1944 were a pivotal moment in the fight against Nazi Germany. This full-day tour of the British landing sites in Sword sector and some of the key Canadian sites in Juno sector sheds light on the realities of the invasion, its tragic consequences and how those events changed the course of world history.
With a private driver-guide you’ll gain an insight into the conflict and its significance by visiting strategic battlegrounds, memorials, cemeteries and the chateaux requisitioned by both sides for use as tactical headquarters.
Your driver-guide will pick you up from your hotel on the morning of the tour. Your first stop is Pegasus Memorial, where you’ll visit the original bridge that the British were tasked with capturing shortly after midnight on the 6th June, 1944.
The bridge held strategic importance because it was the gateway to the city of Caen, which was occupied by German forces. The mission was a success; RAF troops slipped in under the cover of darkness on flimsy gliders and took the bridge. You’ll see a reproduction of one of these wooden planes and watch a short film using original footage about the events.
It was here that the first Allied soldier was killed, Lieutenant Brotheridge, who is buried at nearby Ranville British Cemetery, along with more than 2,000 of his fellow countrymen as well as a few Canadian and Australian soldiers. This peaceful cemetery is the next stop on your tour, located in a quiet village close to Pegasus.
At Merville Battery, you’ll visit four Nazi casemates, fortified cement shelters known as pillboxes that are dug into the earth. You can also see an original Douglas C-47 transport plane, used to drop 17 paratroopers onto Utah Beach during the battle.
After a break for lunch, you continue on to the Canadian sites on Juno Beach. You start with the main museum dedicated to Canada’s involvement during World War II as a whole, the Juno Beach Centre.
Run largely by Canadian volunteers, many of whom had relatives that landed here on 6th June, this museum also covers the civilian war effort. From here, you can stroll the short distance to Juno Beach and walk along the sand.
Though it’s near the Canadian beachhead, the Château de Creully was the tactical HQ for Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery and BBC war correspondents. The Canadian RAF built the Allies’ first airfield here on the sweeping plains that overlook the beaches.
A 30-minute drive from the beach, you find the Château d'Audrieu. This 11th-century manor was a gift from William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England, to his cook after the Battle of Hastings.
Nine centuries later, during the occupation, it was a Nazi headquarters and site of the tragic execution of 50 Canadian and 50 British soldiers ambushed on 7th June by the SS. Once you’ve had time to explore the chateau, your driver will take you back to your hotel.