The D-Day Battlefields
The Battle of Normandy - Bayeux
The historical city of Bayeux, most famous for the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, is located 7 kilometres (4 miles) from the coast and was one of the objectives of the 50th Northumbrian Division which landed on GOLD Beach. Reconnaissance patrols of the 151st Brigade reached the outskirts about 20:30hrs on the evening of 6 June to discover German resistance was far lighter than expected and by midday on the 7th, troops of the 56th Brigade, supported by tanks of 30 Corps, were entering the city.
Bayeux was the first main population centre to be liberated.
Exactly one week later, General de Gaulle was greeted by a rapturous throng, with the crowd falling in behind to form an impromptu Victory procession. As there was no French government the Allies had to accept him as the provisional leader of a soon-to-be liberated Country.
Meanwhile, Bayeux’s ancient and narrow streets were hindering the large-scale movement of men and materiel so British engineers constructed a wide road round the city. This was the basis of today's ring road beside which the the Bayeux War Cemetery and Bayeux Memorial now stand.
The Bayeux Memorial opposite the cemetery bears the names of more than 1,800 men of the Commonwealth land forces who died in the early stages of the Normandy Campaign and have no known grave. They died during the D-Day Landings, during the intense fighting in Normandy itself, and during the advance to the River Seine in August 1944. The memorial was designed by P.D. Hepworth and unveiled by The Duke of Gloucester on 5 June 1955.
Above: Views of the military by-pass in use in the weeks following D-Day.
The Museum of the Battle of Normandy (Musée Mémorial Bataille de Normandie) is located just a couple of hundred metres from the CWGC Cemetery and Memorial. Displays cover the invasion of France by the Allies in June 1944 from the D-Day Landings to the end of the Battle of Normandy. There`s a large collection of military hardware, including several tanks and guns displayed in the grounds, as well as uniforms, small arms, and equipment.
Maps, dioramas, and numerous images are supplemented by a 25 minute video presentation outlining the various stages of the battle. Visitors are welcome to take photographs but the use of flash is forbidden. More information can be found on the Museum`s Official Website.
This is a rare example of a Churchill Crocodile flame-throwing tank which proved highly effective at clearing bunkers, trenches and other enemy strongpoints. British armoured warfare expert Major General Percy Hobart was tasked with adapting Churchill and Sherman tanks to perform various roles to assist the D-Day Landings and this was just one of his creations which were known as the `Funnies.` Often several types worked in conjunction with one another.
The Crocodile's six and a half ton, armoured trailer (missing from the Bayeux Museum tank) carried 400 imperial gallons (1,800 litres) of fuel as well as compressed nitrogen propellant. This was enough for eighty one-second bursts. The three-way armoured coupling enabled the crew to jettison the trailer quickly from inside the tank if necessary.
The thrower had a range of up to 120 yards (110 metres) with a projection rate of 4 imperial gallons of fuel per second. The fuel burned on water and could be used to set fire to woods and houses. The flamethrower could project a `wet` burst of unlit fuel, which would splash around corners in trenches or seep into strongpoints, and then ignite this with a second burst. Often, the initial contact was enough to persuade defenders to surrender. British Crocodiles supported the U.S. Army in the Normandy bocage, and they were so feared by the Germans that captured crews were often summarily executed. More information on `Hobart`s Funnies` can be found on a separate page: Click here to view.
A Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer. These small Tank Destroyers were very easy to conceal and packed a powerful punch. They came into service in July 1944, just a month after the D-Day landings but over 2,800 were produced, making the Hetzer one of the most common late-war German tank destroyers.
Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France and contains burials brought in from the surrounding districts and from hospitals that were located nearby. The CWGC Cemetery was completed in 1952 and contains 4,144 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War, 338 of them unidentified. There are also over 500 war graves of other nationalities, the majority German.
There is no parking at either the cemetery or Bayeux Memorial and visitors are requested to park at the Museum which is just a two-minute walk away.
The inscription in Latin translates as "We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror's native land."
The headstone above marks the last resting place of Trooper L.C. Walker of the Royal Tank Regiment who lost his life on 8 June, aged 26. The markers are embossed with the unit or regimental insignia where the individual victim has been identified.
There are also several memorials within the grounds of the War Museum including the above honouring the Notts (Sherwood Rangers) Yeomanry.
This one to the men of the Essex Regiment carries the inscription `To Commemorate the Liberation of Bayeux on 7 June 1944 & in Honoured Memory of All Ranks of the 2nd Battalion The Essex Regiment `The Pompadours` Who Gave Their Lives in France, Belgium and Holland, 6 June 1944 - 8 May 1845`.
The Military Police Memorial (below) sits next to the Essex Regiment`s. The inscription on the latter memorial reads `Dedicated to The Eternal Memory of Those Members of The Corps of Military Police Who Gave Their Lives in the Support of the D-Day Landings of June 1944 and During the Battle of Normandy and Beyond`.
The image on the right, from the Imperial War Museum`s collection shows RAF Police controlling traffic at `Gripper's Cross`, a busy roundabout on the Caen to Bayeux Road in Normandy. In the foreground is Corporal Brian Nash and on the left directing an Army motorcyclist is Corporal Harry Petters.
Please bear in mind that all images on this website are Copyright. They are not free to use and have been embedded with a digital watermark. Any black & white photographs from the Imperial War Museum and other organisations` archives have been used courtesy of a `Share & Reuse` policy and are also subject to copyright restrictions.
Below, on the left, a mortar platoon carrier passes a group of German prisoners being escorted by a military policeman on a motorcycle, 30 July 1944. Right: A Military Policeman of the Traffic Regulation Squadron (1st Polish Armoured Division) regulating road traffic at the beginning of `Operation Totalise', south of Caen, 8 August 1944.