On 6 June 1944, French troops landed alongside the British on Sword Beach to liberate Normandy. In Ouistreham, the N°4 Commando Museum, the Memorial to the French Commandos and the Great Bunker will take you to the heart of the battle…
In the footsteps of the French commandos at Sword Beach
Sword Beach is the most easterly of the D-Day landings beach and the only one where the French commandos landed. But why is it called Sword Beach? The beach takes its name from the swordfish.
It was 7.25 a.m. on 6 June 1944, when the 177 French marines led by Major Kieffer arrived on Sword Beach alongside the British… This “Special Service Brigade of the British Army” was the only French unit to land on Norman soil on D-Day.
On the beach, imagine the thousands of soldiers disembarking from the boats at mid-tide to fight the Germans! The French troops were among the first to land to save their country!
With the help of tanks and the French commandos, the British made their way up the beach, braving the gunfire and the “dragon’s teeth”! By attacking the German fortifications from both sides, the commandos managed to liberate Ouistreham. The French troops then continued towards the bunker at the Riva-Bella Casino and joined up with the forces at Pegasus Bridge.
The story of the Green Berets at the N°4 Commando Museum
Head for the N°4 Commando D-Day Museum, opposite the Casino. This is one of the very few museums in France to focus on the commandos. Take a look at the large model to get an idea of what happened on D-Day at Sword Beach.
As you walk through the museum, take the time to look at the authentic military uniforms. We owe these riches to donations by the families of French and British commandos. Before D-Day, Kieffer’s Green Berets trained at the army centre at Achnacarry in Scotland, where they were incorporated into the British brigade. Before you leave, don’t miss the film immersing viewers in the training with images and documents from the period.
The Memorial to the French commandos, so that we shall never forget
On the heights above Sword Beach, on Boulevard Aristide Briand stands “The Flame“, a Memorial to the French commandos. “The Flame” was the work of a local artist, Yvonne Guégan, and shows the names of the 177 marines. On 6 June 1944, 10 of Kieffer’s French commandos were killed. You can read the names of the soldiers who fell in the fighting on ten memorial stones. Beside them is a stone statue of Major Kieffer.
If you take a closer look, the Memorial to the French commandos proves to be highly symbolic. The 7 steps leading up to the memorial represent the 7 soldiers killed between the beach and Ouistreham Casino. The Flame symbolises the renewal of hope or a wave, representing the soldiers landing on the Normandy beaches…