Lying on the extreme eastern flanks of the Normandy battlefield is the area assaulted by British & Commonwealth troops on June 6th 1944.
This area of the battlefield is perhaps the easiest to visit from the UK, with Ferries from Britain offloading at Ouistreham and Caen. This gives visitors a great opportunity to see the beaches from the sea.
From Ouistreham, the coast road (D514) takes you through the sector and past many of the memorials. The D514 can be followed right along the Normandy coast.
For visitors with a short stay in the British sector, the Pegusus Bridge area is a must.
A leisurely hours drive along the D514 will take you to Arromanches, where you can see the remains of the Mulberry Harbour. The town of Bayeux is only a further 20 minute drive, and is host to not only the famous Tapestry, but a good WW2 museum and the largest Commonwealth Cemetery in Normandy
In the darkness of the early hours of D-Day, British Glider Troops landed almost upon the iron bridge across the River Orne, and after a short battle captured it.
This bridge was forever after to be refered to as ‘Pegasus Bridge’ ( after the Pegasus on the paratroopers unit badge). The lightly armed troops held the bridge until relieved by Lord Lovat and his Commandos, who had marched inland from Sword Beach.
Meanwhile, troops of the 9th Parachute Battalion dropped on Merville Battery, to neutralise the guns there.
Just after dawn thousands of British and Commonwealth troops came ashore on the beaches of Normandy, which were to become known as Sword, Juno and Gold. Despite intense opposition, the troops forged on and established a beachhead.
What to see
The British & Canadian sector has many interesting museums and memorials. Highlights include:
Arromanches: Home to the British Mulberry harbour. See the Mulberry Harbour Museum and ‘Normandy 360’ cinema.
Bayeux: Famous for its Norman tapestry, this medium sized town is also home to a large cemetary with a WW2 museum opposite.
Pegasus Bridge: Captured by British Glider troops. See also the Airborne museum and Cafe Gondree, itself almost a museum to the ‘Paras’.
Juno Beach Centre: A modern looking museum dedicated to the Canadian forces on the beachfront.
Ouistreham: The most easterly D-Day beach, this vibrant tourist centre is home to the ‘Grand Bunker Museum’ and the Commando Museum.
Port en Bessin: A picturesque fishing port that was home to one of the ‘Pipelines Under the Sea’ (PLUTO) pumping stations. See the outside of the ‘Museum of Normandy Wrecks’ (pictures aren`t allowed inside, and all the best stuff is outside anyway.)
By car the British & Canadian Sector of Normandy is relatively simple to find. Once you come off of the ferry at Ouistreham you are right on one of the beaches. Simply follow the D514 coast road. See the ‘Getting about in Normandy section’ for details of bus routes.
Where to Stay
Gold Beach is a popular tourist area with much holiday accomodation available. However, my preferred campsite is located right in the middle of Arromanches, within minutes of the beach.