Remembering D-Day in Caen la Mer



Remembering D-Day in Caen la Mer

This year is the 80th anniversary of D-Day, and if you are looking to pay your respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, head to Caen la Mer, at the heart of the landing beaches in Normandy.

This area is rich in Second World War history and sites of remembrance, from Sword Beach and Pegasus Bridge to the many cemeteries where the Fallen are honoured. 

1. The Caen Memorial Museum 

Dedicated to the history of the 20th century and built on a bunker used as a German command post, the Caen Memorial Museum is a must-see. As you follow the route around the museum, you will retrace the history of the D-Day landings and gain a greater understanding of this momentous feat. You can also visit General Richter’s bunker and the underground tunnels, where you will learn more about the history of the Second World War and the Battle of Normandy. 

The Caen Memorial Museum, © Caen_la_mer_Tourisme___Les_Conteurs_(Droits_reserves_OTC)

2. The Atlantic Wall Museum 

Le Grand Bunker, housed in a former German fire direction post on the Atlantic Wall in Ouistreham, recreates the site just as it was in 1944. Explore the faithfully reconstructed infirmary, ammunition depot and barracks and learn all about the daily life of the German soldiers. At the top of the 17m tower, the rangefinder post looks out over the mouth of the River Orne. From here you can take in the view across the D-Day landing beaches. 

Le Grand Bunker, © Caen_la_mer_Tourisme___Les_Conteurs_(Droits_reserves_OTC)

3. The N°4 Commando Museum 

The N°4 Commando Museum is dedicated to the Franco-British soldiers of the Kieffer, the landings on Sword Beach, and in particular, and the capture of Ouistreham casino by the French commandos led by Kieffer. The many authentic objects on display here have been donated by British and French veterans and their families. 

The No 4 Commando Museum, ©Caen_la_mer_Tourisme___Les_Conteurs_(Droits_reserves_OTC)

4. Pegasus Bridge 

Pegasus Bridge is the name given to the bridge at Bénouville to honour the British paratroopers whose emblem was Pegasus, a winged horse. It was on the night of June 5 to 6, 1944, that the military operation Pegasus Bridge, then known as Operation Coup de main, was launched. The mission was to land in gliders near the bridges in order to recover them, as the Germans had seized them. The Bénouville bridge was the first to be liberated in a mission which led to the liberation of Caen. The bridge was replaced and the original can be seen in the Pegasus Memorial Park, which tells the story of the 6th British Airborne Division who parachuted here. 

Pegasus Bridge, © Caen_la_mer_Tourisme___Les_Conteurs_(Droits_reserves_OTC)

5. The Hillman Fortress 

Built by the Germans between 1942 and 1944 in order to defend their positions, this bunker complex and command post near Colleville-Montgomery is one of the biggest, with 18 bunkers across a 24-hectare site, complete with underground structures. The site is also the memorial of the 1st Batallion of the Suffolk Regiment, which took the site on June 6, 1944. The Hillman Fortress is also rich in history, with many period objects and clothing on display. 

The Hillman Fortress, © Caen_la_mer Tourisme_Fabien MAHAUT

6. D-Day landing beaches 

Sword Beach is one of the five D-Day landing beaches and is the beach where the French landed on June 6, 1944  in the form of Commando Kieffer and its 177 soldiers. Here you can take a quiet moment and contemplate what unfolded here and the liberation of Ouistreham by the Franco-British which followed. There are a number of tour operators offering day trips from Caen to discover the D-Day landing beaches. 

A map showing the D-Day landings, ©Caen_la_mer_Tourisme___Les_Conteurs_(Droits_reserves_OTC)

7. Military cemeteries 

Caen la Mer has four Commonwealth war cemeteries. The one at Hermanville-sur-Mer is a stone’s throw from Sword Beach. Those at Saint-Manvieu-Norrey, Cambes en Plaine and Rots are not far from Caen. They are all places of calm and peace which invite you to reflect and remember. 

The British milirary cemetery at Hermanville-sur-Mer, ©Caen_la_mer_Tourisme___Les_Conteurs

8. The incredible story of Bill Millin 

Piper Bill Millin was a British bagpipe player who was personal piper to Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, commander of the British 1 Special Service Brigade. To help give his fellow soldiers strength and courage, he played bagpipes on the beach on June 6, 1944. He is featured in the film The Longest Day and there is a statue of Millin near Sword Beach, while his bagpipes are on display at the Pegasus Memorial Museum. 

The statue of Bill Millin at Colleville-Montgomery © Caen_la_mer_Tourisme___Les_Conteurs_(Droits_reserves_OTC)

9. D-Day Wings Museum 

The only museum in Normandy dedicated to the aircraft and air operations of D-Day, the D-Day Wings Museum in Bretteville-sur-Odon offers visitors the chance to climb aboard machines such as bomber turrets, fighter cockpits and C-47s. You can also visit the D-Day aircraft restoration workshop. 

The D-Day Wings Museum, © Caen la mer Tourisme _Alix Jonet

10. ‘La Délicate’, an immersive walk 0f Remembrance 

This is an audio-guided visit made possible with the aid of a geolocalised umbrella, which you can pick up from Ouistreham Riva-Bella Tourist Information Office. Travel back in time as you walk along, listening to the voices of the past and the stories of the people who lived through the Occupation and the D-Day landings in Ouistreham and Colleville-Montgomery. It’s an unforgettable experience.

For more information, visit

Take an audio-guided walk of remembrance, © Caen_la_mer_Tourisme___Alix_JONET

Lead photo credit : The Caen Memorial is one of many World War II sites to visit in Caen la Mer, © Caen_la_mer_Tourisme/ Alix_JONET

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