Page 1

The Battle of Normandy, 1944 Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy – the offensive that started the invasion of Germanoccupied western Europe by Allied forces during the Second World War. Operation Overlord began on 6 June 1944, known as D-Day, with the Normandy landings – the most ambitious opposed invasion (“amphibious assault”) seen up to that time. The landings themselves – codenamed Operation Neptune – were preceded by an intense bombardment from sea and air. Over 130,000 British, Canadian and American troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, from the east side of the Cotentin Peninsula to the mouth of the River Orne, below Caen. A further 23,000 men of three airborne divisions had already landed by parachute and glider to secure the east and west flanks of the invading force.

To supply the armies, two artificial harbours were towed across from England and assembled off Arromanches. The harbours were codenamed ‘Mulberry’. Their remnants can still be seen today.

The Battle of Normandy, 1944

Supporting the invasion were more than 7,000 ships and smaller vessels and 11,000 aircraft – provided by all countries of the Commonwealth as well as France, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland.

In the lead up to the landings, the Allies led German intelligence to believe that the invasion would take place in the Pas de Calais and not Normandy, and consequently their defending forces were dispersed accordingly. Poor weather over the invasion period added a final element of surprise. Despite determined German opposition, initial progress was promising. By mid-June, the Americans had advanced up the

Cotentin Peninsula almost to Valognes, while the British and Canadian forces had pushed inland, south of Bayeux, and were only six kilometres from Caen. However, the German forces fought back with great tenacity and skill, and with the advantage of the close-broken Normandy countryside favouring defence, they were able to largely cancel out Allied superiority in numbers and airpower. On 19 June, a violent storm lasting four days struck the Channel. Convoys at sea were dispersed and the unloading of supplies virtually stopped. This setback further slowed the advance and allowed the Germans to reinforce around Caen, the pivot of their defence. The British and Canadian troops were predominantly engaged against this heavy concentration of German forces and the city was not totally captured until 18 July. Meanwhile, the Americans cleared the Cotentin Peninsula and pushed south, taking St Lo on 18 July. The Allied foothold was now secure, but a further deterioration in the weather delayed the breakout until 25 July. The Americans drove

south and west into Brittany, while covering the flank of the British and Canadian forces (now joined by a Polish division) that moved south and east towards the Seine. The Germans launched a counter-offensive on 7 August that provided a temporary check to the advance. This ultimately left a substantial German force encircled by the Allies from Mortain to Falaise and Argentan. The Germans fought desperately to withdraw, but half of their 15 divisions were trapped when the gap was closed by the Canadians and Poles on 20 August, near Chambois. Thereafter, the Germans concentrated on evacuating their remaining forces across the Seine and withdrew north-east. The Americans advanced on the right – the French Armoured Division taking the surrender of Paris on 25 August – while the British Second Army moved up the centre to liberate Brussels on 3 September. On the left flank, the Canadians fought their way up the coast, taking the Channel ports, and crossed into Belgium on 7 September.

The Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day came from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Free French and Polish forces also participated in the battle after the assault, with additional contingents from Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands and Norway. Naval and air support was provided by all countries of the Commonwealth as well as France, the former Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland.

Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery

Bayeux Memorial

Cemeteries and Memorials The position of the 18 Commonwealth war cemeteries in Normandy gives an indication of the progress of the fighting, as well as the human cost of the operation. While there are more than 22,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women buried in these cemeteries, many more graves can be found in churchyards and village cemeteries throughout the region. Additionally, some cemeteries contain large numbers of German graves, as well as war graves of other nationalities. The cemeteries described below are listed in alphabetical order. Their locations are shown on the map within this leaflet. Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery Situated ten kilometres east of Caen on the D675, Banneville-laCampagne War Cemetery is the final resting place for over 2,000 Commonwealth war dead. Most of the burials here date from the second week of July through to the last week of August 1944 and coincide with the battle to capture Caen, the closing of the Falaise Gap and the Allied advance beyond the Seine.

Bayeux War Cemetery

Bayeux Memorial and Bayeux War Cemetery The Bayeux Memorial is situated on the south-western outskirts of Bayeux on the D5/Boulevard Fabian Ware (named after the CWGC’s founder). The memorial bears the names of more than 1,800 Commonwealth war dead who died in the Battle of Normandy and who have no known grave. The inscription on the frieze of the memorial recalls the Norman conquest of England 900 years before: ‘NOS A GULIELMO VICTI VICTORIS PATRIAM LIBERAVIMUS’ (‘We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land’) Bayeux War Cemetery is situated opposite the Bayeux Memorial. Though there was little fighting in the town of Bayeux, it was the first French town of importance to be liberated by the Allies. Containing over 4,000 war burials, Bayeux is the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France. It contains burials brought in from surrounding districts and hospitals located nearby.

Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, Reviers Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery is located near the village of Reviers, 18 kilometres east of Bayeux, on the D35. More than 2,000 men are buried within this cemetery and many are of the 3rd Canadian Division, which saw heavy action on D-Day itself and in the early advance toward Caen. Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery lies 14 kilometres south of Caen, just off the N158. The cemetery contains the graves of nearly 3,000 war dead, the majority of which are Canadian. Many of these men died during the later stages of the Battle of Normandy, the capture of Caen and the thrust southwards to close the Seine Gap. Brouay War Cemetery Located off the N13 midway between Bayeux and Caen, Brouay War Cemetery is the final resting place for nearly 400 Commonwealth war dead. The burials here mainly coincided with the heavy fighting that took place in the region in June and July of 1944, when Allied forces attempted to encircle Caen to the south.

Cambes-en-Plaine War Cemetery

Fontenay-Le-Pesnel War Cemetery

Cambes-en-Plaine War Cemetery Situated 7 kilometres north-west of Caen on Rue du Mesnil Ricard, there are over 200 Commonwealth war dead buried here. More than half of those buried here are men of the South Staffordshire and North Staffordshire Regiments, killed on 8 and 9 July, during the final attack on Caen. The greater part of that city was captured on 10 July. La Delivrande War Cemetery, Douvres Located north of Caen on the D7, La Delivrande War Cemetery, Douvres is the final resting place of nearly 1,000 war dead. The burials in this cemetery date from D-Day and the landings on Sword Beach, particularly Oboe and Peter sectors. Others were brought in later from the battlefields between the coast and Caen. Fontenay-le-Pesnel War Cemetery,Tessel This cemetery – located 16 kilometres west of Caen just off the D139 – contains over 400 Commonwealth burials. Many of those buried here died in the fighting to the west of Caen in June and July of 1944, and there are large numbers of graves of men of the South Staffordshire, East Lancashire, Royal Warwickshire Regiments, and the Durham Light Infantry. Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, Reviers

Hermanville War Cemetery Containing over 1,000 burials, Hermanville War Cemetery lies north of Caen on the D60. The nearby village of Hermanville lay behind Sword Beach and was occupied on 6 June by men of the 1st Battalion South Lancashire Regiment. Later that day, the Shropshire Light Infantry, supported by the armour of the Staffordshire Yeomanry, managed to reach and hold Bieville-Benville, a town four kilometres to the south of Hermanville. Many of the men buried in this cemetery died during this action and in the first few days of the drive towards Caen. Hottot-les-Bagues War Cemetery Hottot-les-Bagues War Cemetery lies 14 kilometres southeast of Bayeux on the D6. The final resting place for over 1,000 Commonwealth war dead, many of those who lie here were brought in from the surrounding district, where there was much heavy fighting during June and early July of 1944.

Hottot-les-Bagues War Cemetery

Right: Hermanville War Cemetery

Jerusalem War Cemetery, Chouain

Jerusalem War Cemetery, Chouain Situated nine kilometres south-east of Bayeux on the D6, Jerusalem War Cemetery, Chouain is one of the smallest Commonwealth war cemeteries in the world. Many of the 47 graves within this cemetery date from 10 June 1944, when the area was the scene of bitter fighting shortly after the liberation of Bayeux. Ranville War Cemetery and Churchyard Ranville will always be linked with the 6th Airborne Division, which captured the bridge over the Caen Canal in the early hours of D-Day. Nearly 2,300 Commonwealth war dead are buried in Ranville War Cemetery and its adjoining churchyard. The cemetery and adjacent churchyard are best reached by taking the D513 out of Caen, taking a left at Herouvillette. The cemetery is one kilometre outside Ranville, on the Rue des Airbornes. The famous Pegasus Bridge, with its museum, lies just west of the village. Ryes War Cemetery, Bazenville Situated just off the D87 east of Bayeux, Ryes War Cemetery,

Ranville War Cemetery and Churchyard

Ryes War Cemetery, Bazenville

Bazenville contains over 600 Commonwealth burials. The first burials here were made just two days after the Allied landings at Arromanches. Secqueville-en-Bessin War Cemetery Located between Bayeux and Caen off the D217, Secqueville-enBessin is the final resting place for nearly 100 Commonwealth war dead. This battlefield cemetery contains the graves of men killed in the advance on Caen, which took place in early July 1944. St. Charles de Percy War Cemetery Located off the D290A, St. Charles de Percy War Cemetery is the southernmost of the Normandy cemeteries. Many of the men buried here died in late July and early August 1944, during the major thrust from Caumont-l’EventÊ towards Vire. There are just over 800 Commonwealth war dead buried in this cemetery. St. Desir War Cemetery The most easterly of the Commonwealth war cemeteries in Normandy, St. Desir War Cemetery is located off the D159, west

of Lisieux. Many of the 600 Commonwealth war dead buried here died in the final stages of the Normandy campaign, in pursuit of the German forces towards the Seine. St. Manvieu War Cemetery, Cheux St. Manvieu War Cemetery, Cheux, is located on the D9 west of Caen. There are over 1,600 Commonwealth war burials in this cemetery, corresponding with the heavy fighting in the region between Tilly-surSeulles and Caen from mid-June to end of July 1944. Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery is south-east of Bayeux, off the D6. This cemetery contains nearly 1,000 Commonwealth war graves, corresponding to the heavy fighting here immediately after the landings, chiefly the 49th and 5th Divisions as well as the 7th Armoured Division.

War cemeteries of other nations in the Normandy region are: The Normandy American Cemetery east of Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer and north-west of Bayeux in Colleville-sur-Mer, overlooking Omaha Beach. The Polish War Cemetery at Grainville-Langannerie, 18 kilometres south of Caen on the N158 road to Falaise. The German Military Cemeteries at La Cambe, 23 kilometres west of Bayeux on the road to Carentan, and at St-DĂŠsir four kilometres west of Lisieux (almost adjoining the CWGC cemetery).

Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is responsible for the commemoration of almost 1,700,000 members of the Commonwealth forces who gave their lives in the two world wars. The graves and memorials of these men and women, who came from all par ts of the Commonwealth and who were of many faiths and of none, are found around the globe in 153 countries. Enquiries on the location of individual burials or commemorations can be directed to the offices below or to the Commission’s website at where there is an online searchable database. Commonwealth War Graves Commission 2 Marlow Road Maidenhead Berkshire SL6 7DX Tel: +44 (0) 1628 507200 Fax: +44 (0) 1628 771208 E-mail: Website:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission 5-7 Rue Angèle Richard CS 10109 62217 Beaurains France Tel: +33 (0) 3 21 21 77 00 Fax: +33 (0) 3 21 21 77 10

Front cover: Commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade landing on ‘Queen Red’ Beach, SWORD Area, at approximately 8.40 am, 6 June. The brigade commander, Brigadier the Lord Lovat DSO MC, can be seen striding through the water to the right of the column of men. The figure nearest the camera is the brigade’s bagpiper, Piper Bill Millin.

D-Day - Normandy  

This guide explains tells the story of The Battle of Normandy or D-Day as it is perhaps better known. The guide contains a short and conci...