The D-Day Battlefields
OMAHA Beach - Colville-sur-Mer
Sleepy Collville-sur-Mer lies just inland from OMAHA Beach, with its most notable feature being its church, Notre-Dame de l'Assomption de Colleville, which dates from the late 12th or early 13th century. There is one CWGC burial in the churchyard, Sergeant Pilot Hector J. R. Barrow, 213 Sqdn RAF, who died on 28 November 1940, aged 21.
The village and the adjacent stretch of beach were defended by four strongpoints, coded ‘WN60 to Wn 63’ (German for ‘ Wiederstandnest’ meaning ‘resistance point’). It’s well documented how badly the attackers fared here, sustaining horrendous losses but some elements had gained the plateau by the end of the first day.
Once they started to advance warily across the higher ground, the mostly inexperienced GIs soon found themselves in typically-Norman hedgerow and orchard country with well concealed enemy positions often difficult to locate. Many Germans or Ost Battalion soldiers doggedly remained at their posts until they were overrun, rather than withdraw to regroup further inland for a possible counterattack in strength. Nevertheless, the Americans were prevented from progressing more than a few kilometres and their casualties continued to mount.
Early on 7 June, 1944, the 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry Regiment was tasked with seizing the houses of Colleville-sur-Mer. By 10:00 hrs, US troops had reached the village centre, taking around 70 German soldiers prisoner in the process. By evening, the Americans were in control but they were still at risk from sniper fire. Colleville-sur-Mer was considered secure by the following day and the build up of troops and equipment continued to build rapidly. From then onwards, tens of thousands of US service personnel passed through these narrow streets as they worked their way inland.
Poster-sized black & white images taken during the war are on external display at various points showing how the village looked during the Allied advance.
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