Arromanches – a unique WW2 attraction

An army marches on its stomach. For several months a large portion of that food was transported to the troops through the town of Arromanches. We drove here on a whim, after seeing a sign on the highway for it. It took nearly two circuits through the town’s narrow winding streets to find the municipal campground. The campground was located right in the center of town however and must have been built in 1970s, but everything was clean, in good repair and the campground was mostly empty. Arromanches is right in the middle of the Normandy landing locations but was spared most of the fighting because the Allies had bigger plans for the town and needed it intact.

 

 

 

When planning the D-Day invasion one of the problems for Allied military commanders was providing material and equipment to any troops who would be landed on the continent. All major and minor ports were fortified and strongly garrisoned in 1944 and the failed raid on Dieppe had shown that an attack on a fortified port would be foolhardy so an alternate solution was needed. While the origin of the idea to build a temporary port is contested, a famous memo from Churchill provided the support needed to get the plan off the ground.

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Just 3 days after D-day the allies had built two temporary ports called Mulberry’s, one of which was destroyed by a storm 2 weeks later. The one in Arromanches survived the storm and continued to operate for about 10 months despite being designed for 3 months of use. Over 2.5 million troops, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tons of material were off-loaded here.

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The concrete mulberries that were sunk to form the harbor.

Arromanches

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While we were in Arromanches, low tide occurred during the day which was great because we could walk out onto the beach and get close to some of the old block ships that had washed ashore after the port was closed. Walking the sand and getting up close to the block ships was a great introduction to the site before we headed into the Musée du débarquement. The museum was great, complete with huge models of the port during operation and a large number of other “standard” WW2 items (guns, uniforms, medals etc.). There was a lot of information about the French Resistance including the ingenious gadgets they used to communicate with England and disrupt Nazi activities. A little more unique were the maps showing the actions individual units took through the war which helped get a feel for what it might have been like to be in one of those units. Two mini-movies about the port and D-day were also shown and very well done.

Low tide is a little smelly when you have land breeze

Low tide is a little smelly when you have land breeze blowing from the high tide line towards the ocean.

A controversial anchor design used to hold the pontoon bridges in place. They were only able to retrieve this one out of 100s.

A controversial anchor design used to hold the pontoon bridges in place. They were only able to retrieve this one out of 100s.

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The whole town is very quaint with only one block that has been developed into a tourist zone. Getting from the campground to the water takes you through the rest of the town which is quiet and relaxed. As we wandered we came across a French woman selling strawberries and jam which of course we bought, yummy. We also discovered that cider is one of the regions primary exports so we bought a few bottles which were good and didn’t really last long. Leah liked the “doux” cider the best.

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Not sure what James is doing here… Ethan says “James is hypnotizing.”

The merry-go-round was great fun.

The merry-go-round was great fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Above the town was an attraction called Arromanche 360 which I walked up to partly for the view and partly for the show. The show was in a theater with screens that wrapped the perimeter of the room. One could easily go to this a few times before you saw everything though once was enough for me. The view of the town and the harbor was excellent and I enjoyed my stroll down the hill. On the way down there is a Sherman Tank on a pith which you can get right up close to.

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By this time I think everyone was WW2-ed out and it was time to leave Normandy so we got on the road again and headed south toward Mont St. Michael.

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