The D-Day Landings and Paris
The D-Day Landings and Paris
Breaching the Atlantic Wall 1944
Day One: London to Caen.
We travel from London to Paris by Eurostar and then to Caen via French rail and check into our hotel for four nights. This tour deals with the human story of D-Day on 6 June 1944 and the Paris insurrection and liberation the following August. It explores what it was like to parachute in the night skies over Normandy, land by glider behind enemy lines, climb the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc and wade ashore on the British and American beaches under fire. Likewise, what was the experience for the German defenders manning bunkers at Omaha or at the huge coastal defense battery at Longues sur Mer? In Paris we cover the experience of French insurgents fighting the German occupiers and street fighting during the liberation around some of her most famous landmarks.
Day Two: The British airborne landings and Sword Beach.
The first visit is the precision glider coup de main assault by Major John Howard on the bridges spanning the Orne River and Canal; a walk through talk through investigation, and a tour around the excellent museum on site. We then drive to the north-east to cover the 9th Parachute Battalion’s assault on the German battery at Merville, before re-crossing the Orne to explore the British landings at Sword beach. On Sword we explore the route taken by the 1st Suffolk Battalion from wading ashore from landing craft under fire at Hermanville, to its fight for the Hillman strongpoint position on the heights beyond the beach, which housed the German 736 Infantry Regiment Headquarters. Our discussions concentrate on the differing characteristics and similarities of parachute and amphibious insertions.
Day Three: The Canadians at Juno and the British at Gold Beach.
At Juno we follow Sergeant Major Charlie Martin’s Queens Own Rifles of Canada costly assault at Bernières sur Mer at Juno Beach, following the fight from the beach into the village. After driving further west to Gold beach we cover the landing by Sergeant Major Stan Hollis VC, landing with the Green Howards under fire at King Beach near Vers sur Mer. Re-tracing the footsteps of his company, we move up onto the high ground where they assault the German battery and bunker positions at Mont Fleury, short of Crepon Village.
There is generally time to spend a relaxed lunch in the pretty seaside town of Arromanches nearby, view the excellent museum and the remains of the massive Mulberry harbor caissons visible offshore. Afterwards we drive further west to explore the German battery at Longues sur Mer, one of the few surviving examples of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. It remains in pristine condition, and from the top of one of the gun positions we are able describe the offshore duels that occurred on D-Day. This site has the command bunker that was used in Darryl F Zanuck’s 1962 epic movie The Longest Day. Time permitting, there is an opportunity to visit Bayeux and see the famous Tapestry or Cathedral.
Day Four: The American Sector.
Starting with the fighting around La Fière along the Merderet River, we move back to Ste Mere Église to cover the night parachute landings by the US 82nd and 101st Divisions. As we move towards Utah beach we stop off to investigate the heroic action by Lieutenant Winter’s platoon at Brécourt Manor, vividly portrayed in the American TV Series Band of Brothers.
The highlight of the day is ‘Bloody Omaha’ where we investigate a near catastrophe from the perspective of both sides. The former strongpoint at WN 62 is where the celebrated war photographer Robert Capa landed to take his iconic D-Day pictures and where we take up the story of the German machine gunner, who probably fired at him in the water.
Time permitting, we take the same path up the bluffs where Lieutenant John Spalding first penetrated the German defenses, bringing us onto the plateau with a forest of brilliant white crosses, the American National Cemetery. This is a fitting emotional climax for our investigation of D-Day.
Day Five: The Liberation of Paris and back to London.
We travel by train to the center of Paris where we disembark to view the arrival points of General Léclerc’s Free French Division tanks and the US 4th Infantry division, that liberated the city in August 1944. We walk through dramatic actions that occurred around the Les Tuileries gardens (near the Louvre), the German headquarters at the Hotel Meurice and describe how the German Panther tank was knocked out at the Place de la Concord. This leaves a little time to investigate the German siege of the Préfecture de Police, defended by the French Resistance, next to the Notre Dame Cathedral. There will be time for a brief tourist walkabout before later in the day we board the Eurostar for our return to London.
See Bob’s battlefield tours via Alan Rooney’s Cultural Experience
Read Robert’s Books
This book covers the near abortive American landings at Omaha Beach on D-Day 6th June 1944, utilizing the ’24 Hours’ format of the experience through sight, sound and smell of the American and German adversaries with helpless French civilians caught up in between. This is perhaps the first time all three perspectives have been juxtaposed together. Tracking individuals from midnight to midnight exposes new ground and disentangles many previously held myths about what happened on that fateful day.
There is enormous interest in the Second World War generation, primarily from their families, who look for insights about a conflict that is unsurpassed in scale, length and bitterness since. This is not a story of battles and campaigns, rather selected vignettes from defining moments that happened during the War, described through interviews, letters, diaries and personal accounts. What was it like to witness the fall of France and wait anxiously to be taken off the beaches at Dunkirk or struggle ashore through obstacle-strewn surf on D-Day?