The Merville Gun Battery | Attraction Guides | History Hit

The Merville Gun Battery

Merville-Franceville-Plage, Normandy, France

Luke Tomes

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About The Merville Gun Battery

The Merville Gun Battery is a decommissioned coastal fortification in Normandy, France, which was built as part of the Germans’ Atlantic Wall to defend continental Europe from Allied invasion.

The Merville Gun Battery history

Operation Overlord was the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, in June 1944. This hinged on the ability of Allied troops to land at various beaches in Normandy, an event known as D-Day or the Normandy Landings.

The Merville Gun Battery, which had four 100mm calibre guns (the Allies thought it had 150mm guns), was within firing distance of Sword Beach, which was designated as a British landing zone.

This was a danger to the forces which were to land at Sword Beach and their supporting fleet. Thus, the 9th Battalion of the British Parachute Regiment led by Lieutenant-Colonel Terence Otway were tasked with capturing and disabling Merville Gun Battery before the landings were due to take place on 6 June 1944.

The complex operation was subject to severe setbacks. Only 150 of the 750 troops who were supposed to arrive actually reached the site after troops were dropped in incorrect locations up to ten miles from the intended drop zone. Furthermore, very few supplies reached these troops.

Yet, despite these problems, Otway and his men managed to improvise a new plan and successfully neutralised the Merville Gun Battery just hours before the Normandy Landings began. German troops managed to return to the fortification in the afternoon, but it now had only two working guns and posed a much smaller threat to troops landing at Sword Beach. In any event, it was recaptured by the Allies once again on 7 June.

The Merville Gun Battery today

Today, the Merville Gun Battery is open to the public as the Musée de la Batterie de Merville, which stands as a museum, a memorial and an educational site.

Intensive research has been planned, works have been started, and new formats have been planned for each casemate on the site. These are stitched together by the educational trail, which gives a suggested order for a visit. All gun battery bunkers are accessible to visitors, who may look inside and imagine what German soldiers would have seen on the morning of June 6th, 1944.

Getting to The Merville Gun Battery

The Merville Gun Battery is located roughly a mile inland from the coast of Normany, just under 15 miles (a 30-minute drive) from Caen.

Free parking is available on site.

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