A World War II historic guide to discover the D-Day Landing Beaches in Normandy

Travel Normandy guide François Gauthron offers tours of the Normandy landing beaches, World War II battlefield. Come and discover the most famous part of Normandy where took place the Landing and the battle of Normandy in June 1944 to liberate France and Europe. You will be escorted by a qualified bilingual guide who will show you round the major sites of the beaches. Visit the highlights of World War II sites in Normandy with an expert license guide, first the most important sites of the landing beaches.

Normandy Travel

Travel in Normandy with Francois Gauthron


A city too far...

By the middle of the morning the South Lancashire had taken Hermanville, the East Yorkshire were clearing the defences south of Ouistreham and the Suffolks, having taken Colleville, were attacking two strong-points a mile or so to the south, known to the Allies as «Morris» and «Hillman». The former, containing four field guns, was taken easily since the area had suffered heavily bombing and shelling, its garrison of 67 came out with their hands up as soon as the attack opened. But Hillman was another story as you now know. The 185th Brigade Group had landed nearly up to time and the infantry was assembled in woods half a mile inland by about eleven o'clock. The brigade was to be the spearhead of the division's attack inland; it was to advance with all speed and if possible capture Caen and the ground immediately south of it that day. The advance was to be led by a mobile column of the 2nd King's Shropshire Light Infantry, riding on tanks of the Staffordshire Yeomanry and supported by the 7th Field Regiment, R.A.; but at noon the infantry's heavy weapons and vehicles were still not clear of the congestion on the shore and the tanks that had succeeded in getting through were being held up by a minefield. Leaving these to overtake them as quickly as possible, the infantry started marching south «en route» to Caen at about 0.30 pm and by 2.00 pm they had climbed the Périers rise. The leading Yeomanry had overtaken them but enemy guns in woods to their right knocked out five tanks of the Staffordshire and four flails of the Westminster Dragoons and a company of the infantry were sent off to join the Yeomanry in taking the position. The rest of the column moved on towards Beuville and Biéville while a squadron of the Staffordshire occupied a commanding position at Point 61.

The main body of the 185th Brigade (the 2nd Royal Warwickshire and the 1st Royal Norfolk) did not advance till some hours had elapsed. At 03.00 pm the Norfolks were ordered to secure high ground on the left of the Shropshire Light Infantry and, believing that Saint-Aubin-d'Arquenay was occupied by the enemy (though in fact the 1st Special Service Brigade had passed through it at noon), they struck across country between it and the still uncaptured Hillman. Moving through a large field which the strong-point could command, about half the battalion lost direction in the high standing corn covered by the Hillman machine guns; in a very short time they had some 150 casualties. The rest of the battalion pressed on and overcoming the few enemies in front of them they were established on high ground between Beuville and Bénouville by 07.00 pm. There they were halted for the night. The 2nd Warwickshire was not ordered forward until later in the afternoon and did not reach Saint-Aubin till about 06.00 pm. By then events were beginning to inevitably alter the plan and the ultimate objectives for the day would remain beyond reach for agonizing days or weeks.

At intervals throughout the morning air reconnaissance indicated that the 21st Panzer Division was moving up on Caen and as early as 11.00 am General Dempsey had asked the air forces to attack troop movements into Caen from the south and south-east. From then on German movement towards Caen was attacked from the air almost continuously. Early in the afternoon it was learnt that the 21st Panzer Division's reconnaissance unit was probing foward and other reports pointed to the fact that the division would be committed north and north-west of Caen that evening. The divisional commander, Major-General Feuchtinger, has since stated that once over the Orne his armoured regiment with 90 tanks and two battalions of infantry attacked northwards.

The situation of the 3rd Division at about 04.00 pm was as follows: The 8th Brigade was well established in Hermanville, Colleville and Ouistreham, with one of its battalions, the 2nd East Yorkshire, closing on the battery position known as «Daimler», south of Ouistreham, and the 1st Suffolk about to renew its attack on Hillman strong-point. Just clear of the beach the 9th Brigade was assembling but was not yet ready to debouch into the 4 mile gap of country between Hermanville and the Canadian sector. The 185th Brigade's main body (the Norfolk and Warwickshire battalions) was moving in the direction of Caen along the west bank of the canal. Ahead of them the Shropshire Light Infantry and accompanying troops had reached Beuville and Biéville on the direct road to Caen; the infantry's 6-pounder anti-tank guns had caught up and were disposed to cover the advance and they had near them some 17-pounder self-propelled guns of the 20th Anti-tank Regiment. One squadron of the Staffordshire Yeomanry was with them, another was supporting the Suffolk attack on Hillman, and a third was disposed on the Périers Ridge commanding the brigade's right flank.

Soon after four o'clock

Soon after four o'clock a troop of the Staffordshire Yeomanry scouting ahead reported enemy tanks advancing from Caen. The squadron with the Suffolk at Hillman strong-point was hastily moved to Biéville and had just taken up position to the west when about 40 enemy tanks, moving very fast, attacked. Two were knocked out by the Yeomanry and two by the Shropshire anti-tank guns and the enemy turned away into the woods. They were pursued by the Yeomanry and by field-gun fire, and when they showed again some more were destroyed. They swung off again and were joined by others, and making a wide detour they came in towards the Périers Ridge. There they met the squadron of the Staffordshire posted at Point 61 for just such an occasion. 3 more were knocked out and again they pulled off. Approximately, 13 were knocked out (the other loss was a self-propelled gun), but they had already been persistently harassed by aircraft while they were south of Caen. On the western outskirts of the town 8 Typhoons of the Second Tactical Air Force had dive-bombed tanks moving up to join the fight and had left 2 in flames and 4 others smoking. Feuchtinger has since said that his division started the day with 124 tanks and by nightfall had only 70 left. In view of his figures, British records were modest.

Once the enemy's attacks near Biéville were driven off a company of the Shropshire led off again down the road to Caen, but their way was blocked by enemy holding strongly the Lebisey woods athwart the road. Dusk was encroaching and with the necessity to guard their right flank against renewed attack by the German armour it was decided to halt for the night, holding Biéville and Beuville. Caen was about 3 miles away.
Of the 185th Brigade the Warwickshire had found that le Port just north of the Bénouville bridge still contained a few of the enemy. Shortly before 09.00 am as they prepared to attack, two columns of transport aircraft of 38 and 46 Groups, towing gliders, came in low from the Channel, strongly escorted by fighters. One column of about 100 released their gliders over Colleville to land near the canal north of Bénouville; the other column of about 140 went on to Ranville for the gliders to land on the nearby zone N. This mass fly-in, which was seen by both sides, greatly cheered British troops but had an opposite effect on the German commanders. Their 7th Army telephone log records a statement that «Attack by 21st Panzer Division rendered useless by heavily concentrated airborne troops», and their report to Rommel said that it had «been halted by renewed air landings». According to other German statements, a few forward tanks had reached the coast near Lion by seven o'clock and others were trying to slip past the British guns on Périers Ridge when the sight of large airborne reinforcements to their rear led the panzer division to call off its counter-attack, and to withdraw to a line running eastwards from Cambes to the canal, that is between the Shropshire positions and Caen.