Welcome to DDayCenter. The aim of our website is to offer an accessible, easy-to-follow guide to D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, whilst providing some useful advice and opinion to help people discover the battlefields and landing beaches of Normandy for themselves. We also want to try and highlight the many physical reminders of Operation Overlord here at home - many of them now overlooked or their relevance forgotten.
DDayCenter is also a great place to keep up-to-date with the annual D-Day Anniversary commemorations. We compile listings from numerous sources and believe we are able to provide the most comprehensive overview of forthcoming events being held not just in Normandy but those taking place in the UK, Canada and the United States.
Every year around five million people visit the D-Day sites. Through education, exploration and remembrance we want to help keep alive the story of Normandy Landings and of D-Day Veterans. This quote from a well-known journalist and war reporter mirrors our own intentions.
I want to tell you what the opening of the Second Front entailed, so that you can know and appreciate and forever be humbly grateful to those both dead and alive who did it for you...Ernie Pyle, 12th June 1944
It was the largest amphibious operation in history and the greatest combined operation of all time. The invasion of Normandy under the leadership of General Eisenhower was a gamble that could have gone horribly wrong. Instead it enabled the Allied forces to secure a lodgement on the continent from which Hitler and the Nazis could be vanquished.
When it comes to military history, the Normandy campaign is unrivalled for its museums and the significant amounts of battlefield remnants that stand as a testament to the bloody campaign that marked the beginning the end of the Second World War. Learn more about the places to visit and read our travel tips for exploring Normandy.
The coastline and fields of Lower Normandy are not the only places that bear the marks of the D-Day Landings. Scattered around the UK from the Scottish coast to the Isle of Wight are the concrete and metal scars of a nation at war, the springboard for the Allied invasion of Europe. Discover these along with the national tributes to Operation Overlord.
The real heroes of D-Day are the men who stormed the beaches, dropped from aircraft or landed in flimsy gliders. Of the many ways we can keep their story alive and engage with younger generations is though the restoration and preservation of the tools and equipment that helped them in their valiant fight for freedom.
2016 D-Day Conference
Saturday 14th May 2016 saw the D-Day Center team (both of us) travelling the short journey down the M27 to Portsmouth to attend the third annual D-Day Conference hosted by the D-Day Museum in Southsea. We were very pleased to see the event was as well attended as in previous years.
The guest speakers included a few new faces as well as some old favourites, and the presentations given touched on some diverse subjects – from the foreigners who fought for Hitler to the midget submarines of Operation Gambit.
Another Conference is planned for 2017, but as the D-Day Museum will be closed for its major renovation works at that time a new venue will be found for the 4th annual event.
Restoring the C-47 "That's All Brother"
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF) are world renowned for their fleet of restored vintage aircraft, including one of only two airworthy B-29 Superfortresses in the World. In 2015 we were excited to learn of the launch of a Kickstarter campaign aimed at saving a very important C-47. Nicknamed “That’s All Brother”, the aircraft was found in Wisconsin just days before she was scheduled to be broken up for scrap.
In 1944, “That’s All Brother” was part of the 438th Troop Carrier Group based at Greenham Common in England. On the night of 5th June the aircraft was piloted by Colonel John M. Donalson of Birmingham, Alabama. Their mission would be to carry paratroopers of 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne destined for a drop zone near Sainte-Mère-Église – spearheading the airborne phase of Operation Neptune.
We are pleased to say the Kickstarter campaign was a success, surpassing the original target of $75,000 in just two days. The campaign eventually raised over $300,000. The CAF team’s goal is to have “That’s All Brother” airworthy in time for the 75th Anniversary D-Day (#DDay75) in 2019.
Read more about the project here and see the latest restoration news.
Saving the LCA's of Pointe du Hoc
In 2015 we came a across a story we could hardly believe, had it not been for the source – WarHistoryOnline - which is well known on social media for its excellent articles and guest bloggers, including Dan Snow, popular historin and great-great-grandson grandson of David Lloyd George.
The story that took us by surprise concerned a couple of 70-year old landing craft. However, these weren’ just any old boats, but three of the original LCA (Landing Craft, Assault) which carried Lieutenant Colonel James E. Rudder and the men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion to Pointe du Hoc. These historic boats are currently in southern England awaiting full restoration. Read more here.
Normandy's 'Iron Harvest'
It’s not uncommon to find unexploded Second World War munitions along the coastline of the Normandy Landings, but May 2015 was an especially busy month.
There was some alarm on 12th May following the controlled explosion of a single shell between Vierville-sur-Mer and Grandcamp-Maisy. A light aircraft passed the area just moments before the detonation. Some local residents believed the plane had crashed and reported the incident to the emergency services.
The demolition team admitted that the detonation had been much louder than expected, with an impressive plume of smoke.
Later in the month, a much larger operation was undertaken that would last 48 hours. A 1,000 metre exclusion zone was put in place around Englesqueville-la-Percée and the town hall transformed into a command post, whilst demolition experts tackled some 200 unexploded shells which had been uncovered by the tide at the foot of the cliffs.
After the war, the shells from an ammunition dump were tossed over the cliff edge in an attempt to destroy them. However, not all the shells exploded, and they are still being discovered to this day.
In 2011 and operation to destroy over 1,000 shells was undertaken by a 16-strong team of experts near Pointe-du-Hoc.
Unique D-Day survivor is set to be saved
After being submerged on the bottom of Wallasey Dock at Birkenhead for four years, a Mark III LCT (Landing Craft, Tank) was refloated thanks to funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the passion of the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the skill and hard work of Salvesen (UK) Ltd.
LCT7074 was decommissioned in 1945 having made 32 round trips to the D-Day beaches. Later renamed "Landfall", she first served as the floating headquarters of the Master Mariners Club in Liverpool, and later a club and restaurant. She was eventually purchased by the Warship Preservation Trust who, recognising her historical significance, intended to perform a full restoration. However, the Trust went into liquidation in 2006 and the future of the last surviving LCT became uncertain. Things went from bad to worse in 2010 after she sank at her mooring following years without any preventative maintenance.
In October 2014 she was finally rescued. Divers placed huge orange flotation bags within her hull, and as the air flowed LCT7074 was gradually brought to the surface. You can watch an amazing time-lapse video of the operation here.
This historic vessel has now been moved to Portsmouth where detailed planning work on her future will take place in conjunction with the D-Day Museum. It is hoped that she will be fully restored in time for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. However, more funds will need to be raised in order to carry out this work. Watch this space!
Read more here.(Image courtesy of Nick Hewitt)
The end for the Normandy Veterans' Association
2014 saw the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the many events and ceremonies that took place to commemorate the Normandy landings. Sadly, this significant year also saw the disbanding of the Normandy Veterans' Association after more than 30 years.
On 16th October, around 600 guests attended a service at St Margaret’s Church within the grounds of Westminster Abbey. Around 43 Normandy veterans were in attendance, including the NVA secretary George Batts. The NVA's standard was laid up during the service, and the Association formerly disbanded on 21st November.
The Normandy Veterans' Association was formally launched in April 1981, and within just five years there were 35 different branches around the UK. Following the disbanding, some local NVA groups will continue as social clubs, but the service at Westminster Abbey was the last formal event of the Association.
Normandy - UNESCO World Heritage Initiative
Known as UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation was founded in 1945. UNESCO’s 1972 Convention for the protection of cultural and natural world heritage is considered to be one of the most important international heritage conservation schemes.
Becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site is by no means an easy task. It can involve many years of hard work lobbying to get included onto a member state’s national list for submission to UNESCO. After a minimum of 18 months of evaluation the World Heritage Committee, made up of representatives from 21 states who have signed the Convention, make the final decision on the merit of the submission.
Across the world there are over 1,050 World Heritage sites. France is not short of them, boasting more than 40. In Normandy has two of these including the Benedictine abbey of Mont Saint Michel and, for some reason, Le Havre. The Bayeux Tapestry is also listed on UNESCO’s "Memory of the World" register.
To coincide with the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings in 2014, the Basse-Normandie region launched an appeal to support its application to the Normandy Landing Beaches included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. This was supported by the French Parliament and the resolution also adopted by the United States Congress.
The process continues, but for more information or to register your own support visit the official website.
If you have a D-Day related story to share, please get in touch.