The D-Day Battlefields
On 1 November 1972, the commune formerly known as Grandcamp-les-Bains amalgamated with Maisy and changed its name to Grandcamp-Maisy. During the Second World War the town of Maisy, inland and to the west of Pointe Du Hoc, was fortified and a German heavy artillery battery and HQ were established to form a formidable part of the Atlantic Wall. Grandcamp was the port area.
There are a number of points of interest relating to the D-Day Landings in this locality but with a busy itinerary I only had time to stop for a few minutes to photograph a couple of memorials in a small garden alongside the main road. The most prominent is this 10 metre-high steel figure holding a dove which represents World Peace. The work was designed by Chinese artist Yao Yan and erected in 2004. An information panel in French and Chinese explains the complicated symbolism.
The text on the National Guard Memorial alongside the Statue of Peace reads `On 8 June 1944, advance elements of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Regt, were halted by the deadly fire or a German machine-gun. T/Sgt Frank Peregory attacked the enemy with daring using grenades and his bayonet. He captured 35 enemy soldiers. For the valour and courage demonstrated by this American soldier during this action, he was awarded the highest U.S. military decoration: The Medal of Honour.`
A memorial (not photographed) to the 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 US Rangers is located in Place de la Republique next to the town hall and a there is a Rangers Museum nearby which details the events relating to the battle for Pointe du Hoc. Grandcamp and Maisy were both liberated on 8 June 1944 by the 116th Infantry Regiment and from then on the port at Grandcamp played an important role in landing vast amounts of men and equipment for the push into the French interior.
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Until recently, the site of the German battery at Maisy was badly overgrown and, having been covered over by US engineers before the end of 1944, it was largely forgotten. British military historian Gary Sterne rediscovered and purchased the site many years later and turned it into a museum with over two-and-a-half miles of original trenches, tunnels and bunkers. The extensive complex held out for 3 days following the Landings during which time its 155mm guns and 10.5cm howitzers constantly shelled the beaches.
Two French bomber squadrons (RAF No.346 and No,347), equipped with Handley Page Halifaxes, were formed just before D-Day and based in Yorkshire. Their first mission was on the night of 5 June when they targeted the Maisy defences. The above photo shows Halifax B Mark.III of No. 347 (Free French) Squadron taxiing to its dispersal at Elvington, North Yorkshire.
A memorial (not photographed) to the two French air units now stands in Grandcamp-Maisy and there is another at Elvington, England.
On the morning of the 6 June 1944, HMS Hawkins (D86) (right) claimed to have put Maisy`s guns out of action, but various vessels duelled with the German artillery until 5th US Rangers attacked across the fields on foot during the morning of 9 June.
Much of the battery site has been excavated and was opened as a museum in April 2007. Check out the official website for more information: www.maisybattery.com.
One of the houses in the French village commemorates the fact that the leader of the Free French Commandos who landed on SWORD Beach on D-Day, Cdt Philip Kieffer (1899-1962), stayed there after the war. He died aged 63, after a long illness, and is buried in the town cemetery. His grave lies to the rear of the site, flanked by two flagpoles. Also buried here is an RAF airman, Flying Officer Richard Peel, who lost his life on 24 November 1941, aged 22 years.