The Normandy Landings were a pivotal part of Operation Overlord, the allied invasion of Europe from the UK which took place on 6th June 1944.
The most famous part of Operation Overlord was codenamed Operation Neptune and involved a huge flotilla of small ships and troops crossing the Channel to land on the French coastline in Normandy. The main beaches used for the operation were Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, Pointe du Hoc and Utah. These names were code for stretches of the coastline - before the landings the beaches themselves did not have recognised names, or were simply named after the nearest town. Today the beaches are generally referred to by their WWII code names.
More about Normandy Landing Beaches
On 6th June 1944, the Allied Forces made significant progress in 'Operation Neptune', the procedure to liberate Vichy France from German occupation. Now known as D-Day, the operation was successful, and marked a major turning point in the Second World War. There are a number of sites involved in the landings that can still be seen today.
A large battery was built here by the Germans in 1943-4, as part of their Atlantic Wall fortifications. On the evening of 5th June 1944, the battery was heavily bombed by Allied Forces. This carried on throughout the following day, making it the scene of one of the longest conflicts of the operation. The 184-strong crew in the battery finally surrendered in the evening of the 6th June. The remains of the battery are still intact.
It was here that one of the artificial harbours assembled in England was sited. After being towed across the Channel, the harbour was able to provide the port facilities necessary for the Allied Forces to offload thousands of men and vehicles without coming under immediate attack. The evocative remains of this significant structure can still be seen from the shore today.
Gold, Juno and Sword beaches
Even today, the stretches of coastline where the Allied forces landed and launched their offensive are still referred to by their code names. The shore was divided into sections, and troops were assigned to different parts - with the aim that each section would be secured, before the troops from each section linked up and advanced further forward. For the most part these were successful; the only one that saw a true conflict with the Germans was Sword beach, and this was eventually overcome.
Ranville was the first village to be liberated in the D-Day landings, after the bridge over the Caen Canal was captured. Due to its significance in the operation, Ranville was chosen as a fitting final resting place for some of the heroic men who gave their lives. There are more than 2,200 Allied graves here, and about 330 graves of German soldiers.
Originally known as Bénouville bridge after its neighbouring village, this was one of the most significant early targets for the Allies. Its capture resulted in the liberation of the first French house in the early morning of 6th June. In honour of the operation, the bridge was renamed Pegasus Bridge by the Allied forces - after the flying horse on the British Airborne forces' emblem.
The bridge was replaced by a newer model in 1994, but the original was removed and preserved in the nearby museum, so that its story would be preserved for future generations.