Omaha Beach Landing
This is a beach like any other. It faintly comes up from the sea and it’s like one of those beaches where you have to walk through the water for a long time before it’s finally deep enough to swim. The first soldiers had to wade through this water for many yards under fire, before finally reaching the wide beach without any cover, they had to run for their lives to make it across.
It’s just a beach, but it tells us everything about the hardships at “Bloody Omaha” during Operation Overlord on June 6th 1944.On the sands of Saint-Laurent is the monument “Les Braves” (The Brave Ones) commemorating and honoring the soldiers that fought here.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial – Colleville-sur-Mer
With a view on the same beach, 9.387 white crosses and stars look out over the sea from this impressive American war cemetery. Everything is well cared for and white, green and light. A big contrast with the small black stones marking the graves of La Cambe. You can walk down to the beach or like us be in time to see the ceremony to raise or lower the flag.
Audinghen – Musee Batterie Todt
Musee Batterie Todt is privatly owned (like most WWII museums) and as lucky as we are we once again found a closed door (it’s a curse I tell you!!). Luckily this time it was only for lunch so we just had to be patient (TIP:Next to the museum is a campsite with a nice wooden bistro where you can eat something). Beside that there is enough stuff to look at on the museum grounds, so don’t worry getting bored.
Outside, the main attraction is without a doubt the Krupp K5 280mm railwaygun. Although not originally stationed at Batterie Todt, there were a few of these guns present around Calais, Normandy in 1944. There are also still a few of the so called “Dom bunkers
” in that area in which guns like these, including their locomotive, were hidden.
In the museum itself you can learn a lot about life in this battery. There are also lots of photo’s from that time, including pictures of the construction by Organisation Todt. Furthermore there is lots of stuff like uniforms, amunition, firearms and vehicles on display. Don’t flash while taking a picture, because an alarm will go off.
|Inside the 380mm Siegfried gun emplacement. This used to be one open space.|
|The Krupp K5 280mm railway gun (Notice the stack of stones to keep the barrel up)|
Batterie Todt (Stp.186 Saitenspeil) exsists out of a total of four very large bunkers (Turms I t/m IV). The museum is only settled in Turm I. All of these bunkers housed a 380mm Siegfried gun to fire across the Channel to England. Due to the enormous size of these guns de structures are of a massive scale, although the museum itself is the least of all to leave this impression.
Turm II lies more secluded in the foilage of a nearby forest and is in pretty bad shape. There’s a lot of water at the bottom and there are signs of recent decay. Scan this area closely because there are a lot more bunkers hidden in the green nearby, all part of the battery at the time. Some bunkers catch you by suprise, as you become aware of them while they are only a few yards away.
|Because it is sealed to house bats, Turm II is not littered with graffiti|
|The room for the gun turret|
|Lots of these types of bunkers are hidden in this area|
|Signs of decay|
is a ruïne. It seems to have been this way after an explosion, presumably killing three people, but it is unclear if this happened in August 1944 right after it’s capture or at the end of the war in 1945. The explosion must have had a terrible force since the massive thick concrete roof lies shifted on the ruïne walls. The backside of the Turm is gone completely. To us it seemed like there might have been an explosion in the ammunition chamber located at the back of the complex. If you have more information about this, please feel free to share it with us!
|Crashed down concrete rubble from the roof|
|From the back it still kinda looks okay|
|The turret opening is completely gone|
|At the back of the Turm|
|Concrete stairs hanging from steel bars|
|The force of the explosion must have been enormous|
shows a much better example of the enormous scale of the bunker. It is also in a suprisingly good condition, watching over the outstretched coastline towards the sea. On clear days you can see England, whitch guarantees beautifull pictures.
|The turret opening facing the Channel|
|Let’s cheer the place up with some grafitti|
|Water at the bottom of Turm IV|
|Notice the rings made to hoist the gun into the building|
|Like it was built yesterday|
|At the back of the turm|
|On top of the lower part of the complex|
|Turm IV in the green wilderness|
Apart from Turm I (Musee Batterie Todt) the other structures are left to their destiny. The monuments are littered with garbage, it’s walls are ideal for graffiti (without compassion for the original German ones put there during the war, shame on you!) and used as public toilet. Our hearts break seeing this. We expect no action will be taken to prevent this until the only option is to take them down. So, if you want to see Batterie Todt on it’s full scale, don’t wait too long.
Wissant beach – Atlantic Wall bunkers
The beach of Wissant is still full of WWII obstacles en bunkers. The sea is slowly pulling them in or digging away the sand from under them so the concrete structures seem to lie scattered all over the beach. Still, you can get a good picture of the thoroughness with which the German defence was prepared. And looking at this coastline, it doesn’t seem strange at all that they expected a landing at Wissant.
A little bit further inland there is a lake which was used as a second defenceline. Here you will find a few other bunkers. Regretfully, even though they are in excellent shape and undamaged, most of them are tilted forward and sinking slowly into the lake. You can make a beautiful walk down a trail around the lake and take a look at them.
|This bunker was put out of action|
|Bunker on the beach with pieces of the anti tankwall next to it|
|Find other pictures of this bunker on the net (12H59) and watch it sink into the sand|
Helfaut – La CoupoleV2 Musee
This is one of the “Sonderbauten” which was planned to be built by organisatie Todt between 1943 and 1944 in France. The underground complex was ment to be used for storing and launching large quantities of V2
(A4) rockets. A 5 metres thick concrete dome with a diameter of 71 metres had to protect the enormous rocket launching station against air attacks.
|Building equipment like the laberours can return any minute|
|One of the tunnels of a system of at least 7 kilometres|
The last thing you’d expect to find here in this remote area is this massive structure. It almost feels like driving up to a U.F.O. when you see the big round shape appear and while getting closer to the structure we have difficulty estimating it’s size. The only thing to base a guess on is the small bunker standing next to the dome, but that turns out not to be that small at all.
Starting at the parking lot you walk up to a modern visitor centre where you have to pay admission and get a headphone to guide you in four languages. From the ceiling hangs the manned V1 (the man is a doll) Fiesler Fi 104 Re4. Then you leave the visitor centre and you can walk up to the entrance of La Coupole. At least 7 kilometres of tunnel system was dug here mainly by forced labourers. There is an impressive exhibition about this, illustrated by several multimedia installations. Only part of this large complex of tunnels is open to the public. You can take the elevator to the dome above.
For those who like modern exhibitions with lots of media like video, lights, etc, this part is really nice. But if you expect to find more about the history of this structure you will be pretty disapointed. The exhibit is mainly about the Second World War in France in general and near the end more specific about the development of the rocket and later even the space age. There are some nice scaled models of other Organisation Todt projects (Sonderbauten), but the museum doesn’t seem to have the main focus on this specific subject or the structure itself. We found this somewhat dissapointing, although the big concrete dome hanging visible over our heads and took some of that disapointment away.
It’s probably because the building was never actually used by the Nazis and left abandoned in 1944.
You can make a walk around the dome. It starts from the parking lot near the entrance on the right. The path climbs up the hill towards the dome. Sometimes you get real close to the concrete, but unfortunately because of the thick foilage between the path and the dome, there isn’t a lot to see. Then you reach a side of the bunker where modern gates have been made and looks like a storage area. Again we were disapointed when we got there. Deciding not to leave without at least one decent picture we took matters in our own hand and climbed past the fence through the foilage to the roof. We found the ‘small’ bunker which we could photograph from the back (it’s not that small) and got a view on the top of the dome. We took our last pictures of the trip.