Chapter 8

A Tour of the Juno Area

The tour described in this chapter starts with some recommended visits to sites associated with Juno Beach on the UK side of the Channel. The Normandy tour will lead the visitor around the scene of the D Day battles fought in the immediate coastal areas and inland from Juno Beach. It is assumed that the visitor will have transport, be it minibus, car or bicycle. However, the distance between Mike Sector and Lagrune-sur-Mer to the west of Courseulles, is short enough for a six-mile round trip walk along the shoreline which takes in most of the D Day sites. Included at the end of the tour is a visit to the Douvres radar site.

HMS Belfast

The cruiser HMS Belfast is to be found moored on the south bank of the River Thames in London, between Tower and London Bridges. The ship carried the flag of Rear Admiral Dalrymple-Hamilton commander of Bombardment Force E and engaged the Ver-sur-Mer Battery and targets in the Juno area throughout 6 June 1944. Belfast is a part of the Imperial War Museum and highlights the part played by the Allied Navies on D Day and during the Normandy Campaign. Well worth a visit.

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HMS Belfast.

Southwick House

Many of those visiting Normandy and Juno Beach will cross the Channel on ferry services from Portsmouth. In the village of Southwick, just inland from the port is the Royal Naval shore station HMS Dryad. Here Admiral Ramsey established his headquarters and was joined by Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery to make the momentous and risky decision to launch D Day on 6 June 1944. Southwick House is now the Wardroom of HMS Dryad. However, it is possible, with prior arrangement, to visit the map room, with its wall sized map set up as it was on D Day. An audio commentary describes the use of the house as Admiral Ramsey’s HQ, which is complimented by a number of pictures, charts and maps. To book a visit, please ring 02392 284968 (ask for extension 4418)

Portsmouth D Day Museum

Standing on the sea front at Southsea, overlooking the Solent where the fleet of ships carrying 3rd Canadian and 50th British Divisions assembled, the D Day Museum is well worth a visit before heading to the ferry port. Outside the Museum is a Sherman tank painted in the colours of The Fort Garry Horse. Montgomery’s statue is on the shoreline nearby.

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Juno Area

This tour takes the visitor around the scene of the action on the beaches and some of the inland sites. Please be warned that as a battlefield tour, it is not designed to take the visitor to every regimental or liberation memorial which abound in the Juno area.

The tour starts at Wiederstandnest 32 at the very western end of Juno Beach. Courseulles is the nearest town and is signposted from Ouisterham, the Caen Peripherique, the N13 and from Bayeux. From Arromanches take the D 514 towards Courseulles, pass through Ver-sur-Mer and after 700 yards turn left onto a narrow track marked Brech le Bisson. From Courseulles, take the D 514 towards Arromanches. Pass through two sets of traffic lights and after 1,000 yards turn right onto the Brech le Bisson track. There is ample parking a few yards from the casemate.

Wiederstandnest 32 Image

This point is on the right flank of Juno Beach. It is also on the junction with Love Sector of Gold Beach. This strong point was held by a platoon of German infantry, principally to protect the unusual double anti-tank casemate. Sited on the crest of the dunes, the strong point was well hit by naval gunfire and the casemate bears the mark of a strike from a heavy naval shell. Consequently this small position did not resist C Company, The Canadian Scottish, for long and the anti-tank casemate was, reputedly, out of action by the time the infantry approached.

Looking east along Mike Beach to the next Wiederstandnest (31) at the base of the Cross of Lorraine 1,800 yards away, is a 75mm that covered the same stretch of beach i.e. overlapping arcs of fire. Beyond Wiederstandneste 31 is the town of Courseulles and the village of Bernières. Note two of the many church spires that made life so difficult for landing craft to identify their correct beach.

Driving towards Courseulles on the D 514, the turning to the municipal campsite ‘Camping Canadian Scottish’ is the road leading from Mike 1 Gap. Alongside the traffic lights, is a stone memorial to the Inns of Court Yeomanry, I Corps’ recce regiment. A Squadron landed on Mike Beach during the early afternoon and using this route off the beach set out on their abortive mission to the Odon and Orne River crossings some thirteen miles inland. Continue on to the next traffic lights.

Gap Mike 2 Image

At the traffic light, turn left on to Avenue General De Gaulle, towards the dunes and the large steel cross. Park near the AVRE ‘One Charlie’. This is the Winnipeg Rifles’ Mike Red Beach. A Company were first ashore, landing in this area. To avoid casualties the infantry were to have landed behind the DD tanks and the assault armour but in the event landed ahead of both! When they eventually arrived the ‘funnies’ of Number 1 and 2 Troops, 26 Assault Squadron RE, created Number Two Gap, which lies behind ‘One Charlie’ and is still used today. This vehicle is the best example of a restored AVRE to be found on the invasion coast. Heading east along the beach several large casemates of the western part of Wiederstandnest 31 can be found amongst the dunes. The first is a 75 mm casemate just beyond the lifeguard station. Further along the dunes, built for a 50 mm, another casemate is located by the sailing club building. Other parts of the smaller concrete structures can be seen protruding from the dunes. B Company, The Winnipeg Rifles fought most of the day to clear this extensive Wiederstandneste.

The large Cross of Lorraine commemorates General De Gaulle’s return to France on 14 June. He visited Montgomery at his headquarters at Creully before going on to Bayeux, where he was photographed surrounded by enquiring locals wondering who was the tall man with the big nose. Also landing nearby were Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 12 June and King George VI on 16 June. The NTL totem describes how a group of Osttruppen held out until D+1 in a solarium in this area.

Wiederstandneste 31 (Courseulles West) and Museum Image

Continue along the concrete road past the Sailing Club to the Juno Beach Centre and park. The new museum opened on 6 June 2003 stands in the eastern part of the extensive Wiederstandneste 31. In front of the Museum is a command post bunker, the large steel ring is all that remains of an observation post cupola. Further right is the remains of the only 88mm casemates to be found in the Juno area. It covers the entrance to Courseulles harbour and Mike Green Beach.

The Museum not only covers the operations on Juno Beach but the part played by the Canadians in general during the war. This modern Museum, largely manned by Canadian students is well worth a visit. Entrance fee payable.

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Courseulles East Image

Either walk from the Museum into the town via the footbridge or drive into Courseulles and park by the aquarium. A 50mm KW39 gun, originally set in an octagonal weapons pit, remains covering the inner approaches to the port’s inner basin. The shield of this obsolescent tank gun bears some impressive scars inflicted by direct Allied fire. Across the road is the Canadian DD tank ‘Bold’ that belonged to B Squadron 1st Hussars. This tank was recovered from the seabed after twenty-seven years and restored to a high standard. While the propellers of the DD conversion kit are missing, the gears that drove them can be seen. The tank bears small memorials to units that landed on this part of Juno Beach. Included are the crests of HMCS Algonquin and Souix.

Wiederstandneste 29 – Couseulles Image

A hundred yards further east is a large wooden dagger monument to the Winnipeg Rifles despite the fact that this was the area assaulted by the Regina Rifles. Post-war development and realignment of the sea wall has removed virtually every trace of WN 29. It has completely disappeared and the area is now occupied by the municipal swimming pool and blocks of holiday flats.

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Combined Operations officers examine the Courseulles defences. The dismounted tank gun covered the dockside at Courseulles then and now.

Continue east along Avenue de la Combattante to the T-Junction and turn right at the traffic lights filter left back on to the D 514 towards Bernières. Do not follow the signs into Bernières but follow the road around to the left. After half a mile, when the road is again running parallel to the coast, park in the car park near the Comitee du Debarquement monument.

The D Day Buildings – Bernières Image

This area was much photographed on D Day, not least because this was the point that Major General Keller landed. Some time can be spent making ‘then and now’ comparisons with the buildings on the beach and the old railway station building just inland.

Wiederstandneste 28 – Bernières Image

Either walk along the coastal walk or drive 100 yards and park on the wide verge opposite the Intermarche supermarket. Walk down to the casemate and the beach huts. This 50mm anti-tank gun casemate is again much photographed and is today surrounded by Canadian war memorials and those belonging to other units who landed in this sector, including the Hackney Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, who worked with the Beach Group. The level of the beach is higher than in 1944 but the upper part of the old curved seawall can be seen along with a small solid anti-tank round embedded in the seaward side of the 50mm casemate.

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Memorial plaque Bernières

Follow the D514 east. After half a mile, at a junction with large flowerbeds where the road changes into the D7 and heads inland, turn left on the D514 sign posted to St Aubin la Plage. A short way down the road is a left turning into Avenue des Hirrondelles, where the house Image that features in one of the much shown D Day film sequences can be found.

Wiederstandneste 27 – St Aubin Image

The location of this strong point is easily identified by the 50mm anti-tank gun casemate and a sizeable group of flags and memorials on the seafront, chief amongst which are the North Shore’s and the Fort Garry Horse’s memorials. Parking is normally available in this area. This is the only casemate of this design complete with gun that is left on the invasion front. The majority of the strong point has been lost to coastal erosion or lies under the car park and cliff area to the left of the memorial.

Follow the one way system from the seafront, turning left onto Rue Maraechal Foch and following the road past the crucifix to the roundabout. Follow the sign to Lagune-sur-Mer Plage on Avenue Marseret. After 400 yards turn left at the halt sign onto Boulevarde Maritime. Turn right and head into Lagrune’s seafront square and park.

Wiederstandneste 26 – Lagrune-sur-Mer Image

The strong point, based on a 50mm anti-tank gun and several Tobruk machine gun positions, was one of the smaller coastal defensive positions, as the bluffs flanking Lagrune made this an unlikely spot for a major landing. There is little to be seen of the German defences except for the rebuilt houses at the rear of the square. The square contains an NTL totem, a US Army truck crushed into a cube to represent the destruction of war and, more conventionally, a memorial to 48 Commando Royal Marines.

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The house featured in the film showing A Company of the North Shore Regiment landing.

The route out of Lagrune to Taillerville is by minor unsigned roads. Retrace your steps back towards St Aubin. Turn left onto Route Mal. Montgomery – an insubstantial street. At the crossroads by the Hotel Restaurant de la Mer take Voie 48 Commando. This is the area that the Commandos spent the night of 6/7 June before renewing their attack. Turn right at the tennis courts onto Route de Taillerville (D219a). Driving across the open country it is easy to appreciate the open fields of the field of fire enjoyed by the German anti-tank and machine gunners as the Canadians debauched from the coastal towns.

Tailleville Image

Tailleville is a good example of the inland villages, which normally consist of a chateau, large farmhouses, agricultural buildings and more modest dwellings. All are substantial constructions built from local stone. The concrete Tobruk machine gun position, now converted to a flowerbed, and the roof of a troop shelter can be seen by the entrance to a farm on the second bend on the way into the village. Look out for the Juno Committee marker. Continue west through the village along the D35 signposted to Reviers and Bayeux. The first cross roads (D79a) was the axis of the inland advance of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the Chaudiere. There was an extensive company defensive position dug in the fields to your right. Continue across the main D79 for a further 1,000 yards and park by the Canadian Cemetery.

CWGC Canadian Cemetery Bény-sur-Mer/Reviers Image

This cemetery, containing 2,049 graves, of which all but five are Canadian, is located on the D35 in the open country east of the village of Reviers. 3rd Canadian Division’s machine gun battalion, The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, has a memorial plaque located in the left hand of the two observation towers. The graves in the cemetery are mainly but by no means exclusively, post-war concentration from the fighting between D Day and the middle of July. It is a particularly moving place for Canadians to visit and comments in the visitors’ book from US visitors often underline how little known is the part played by their fellow North Americans.

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Bény-sur-Mer CWGC Cemetery.

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The Giant Wurzburg Radar Dish at the southern site.

Revieres Image

Little evidence of the fighting is to be found in this village with its bridge over the small River Mue and the bridge a little further on over the river Seulles. However, there is a small memorial in the village to the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada at the centre of the village.

Retrace the route back past the Canadian Cemetery and turn right onto the D 79 towards Douvers la Delivrande. Look out for the signs for Musee Radar.

The Douvres-la-Delivrande Radar Site Image

This fenced site, run by the Caen Memorial, is normally only open during July and August. However, it has been known to open for groups outside these dates. It is always worth checking opening hours with the Radar Museum (Tel: 02 31 06 06 43) or via the Memorial (Tel: 02 31 96 66 05). Even without the site being open, enough can be seen of the enemy positions and the surrounding area to appreciate the problems experienced by the North Shores, the Black Watch, 41 Commando and their supporters. The large dish of a Giant Würtzburg radar can easily be seen. If the site is open, the massive casemates make a very informative visit. The radar technology used by the Germans and how the Allies overcame it to achieve tactical surprise, is explained in a simple but engaging manner. There is an entrance fee. The equally massive bunkers of the northern site are not fenced and can be seen in the fields to the north but they are difficult to reach.

Return to the D79 and continue towards Douvres la Deliverande. At the roundabout turn on to the D7 again following the signs to Douvres.

CWGC Cemetery Douvres-la-Delivrande Image

This cemetery is located on D7 in the southern outskirts of the town. It contains 1,123 graves, of which, the majority, 927 are British, 11 are Canadians and 180 are German. There is also a grave of an Australian airman who was killed on D Day. Again this is a post-war concentration cemetery and although there is a group of D Day graves including some Canadians, the burials span virtually the whole Normandy campaign.

This concludes the tour. To return to the invasion coast continue north through Douvres la Delivrande following signs towards Lagrune-su-Mer. To reach Caen turn and head south on the D7 to the Peripherique. Those heading to Bayeux should drive into Douvres la Delivrande and pick up signs for the city and head west on the D35/D176/D12.

Visits to the Bayeux Area

If time allows, it is worth finishing off the tour with a visit to Bayeux. The city was captured virtually undamaged, against slight opposition, by troops of 50th Division on D+1. Take the ring road to the south of Bayeux. This road was built as a by-pass by the Royal Engineers to take the heavy logistic traffic from Arromanches around the choke points in the narrow streets of the city.

Bayeux Museum

This excellent museum concentrates on the inland battles and the breakout. There is plenty to see including mannequins dressed in a wide range of uniforms, vehicles, weapons, equipment and documents. The thirty-five minute film is shown alternatively in English and French. Outside there are fine examples of a Sherman tank, M10 tank destroyer, a Churchill (Crocodile conversion – without its fuel trailer) and a German assault gun. There are also several memorials to British units in the Museum grounds. Allow at least an hour and a half to make the most of the museum. Entrance fee payable.

CWGC Cemetery Bayeux

Just a little further along the ring road is the largest World War II CWGC cemetery in France, which contains the last resting-place of soldiers from virtually every service, arm, branch and regiment of the British forces who fought in the Normandy campaign. Located on the south-western edge of Bayeux, the cemetery is adjacent to the sector of Second Army’s Rear Maintenance Area which, was allocated to the Medical Services. Many of the original burials were soldiers who died of wounds in the nearby field hospitals. However, most of the 4,648 burials are the result of the post war concentration of graves. Of the Bayeux graves, 3,935 are British, 181 are Canadian and of the remainder, there are twenty-five Poles, seventeen Australians, eight New Zealanders, seven Russians, three Frenchmen and two each from Czechoslovakia and Italy. The total is completed by 466 Germans and a single unknown body. The Germans are almost exclusively soldiers who died of wounds having been taken prisoner. The Juno area graves in the cemetery are exclusively British, post-war, concentrations, with bodies having been moved from battlefield cemeteries established behind the dunes by 103 Beach Group. The front row of Plot 14 is almost entirely made up of Royal Marines from 48 Commando who were killed on D Day and moved here from the original Commando Cemetery at Bernières. Opposite them is a group of Royal Engineer graves belonging to men who were killed in action while crewing the ‘funnies’ of 79th Armoured Division. The men are probably from a single AVRE crew.

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