History explorer: D-Day beaches

Seventy-five years ago, the largest seaborne invasion the world had ever seen was unleashed on a quiet stretch of Normandy coastline. Ellie Cawthorne explores the beaches, cliffs and villages that still bear the scars of D­-Day

Looking out across the Channel, shell craters pockmark Pointe du Hoc – a German artillery position seized by US Rangers. The promontory is one of many reminders of D-Day along the Normandy coastline. (Photo by Getty Images)

Stand at the centre of Omaha beach, where the ‘Dog Red’ and ‘Easy Green’ sectors once met, and you’ll be confronted by towering shards of metal protruding from the sand. This striking memorial – simply called Les Braves – is a reminder that, although the water here is now calm and the beach empty, this was once the site of fire and fury, its sea and sand stained red with blood.

From shell craters to rusting gun batteries, reminders of the invasion that unfolded here in 1944 can be found up and down the Normandy coastline. Walk east along Omaha beach from Les Braves, and on the other side of the quiet bluff you’ll find the Normandy American Cemetery. Between wide avenues lined with oaks and pines, row upon row of immaculate white crosses stretch out, each one marking a US serviceman who lost his life during the Normandy campaign. Looking at the headstones spanning this vast plot, it’s hard to comprehend that the 9,380 graves here represent just 40 per cent of the Americans who died during the battle for Normandy, the majority having been returned home to their families.

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