Annual D-Day celebrations are taking place today to honour those who landed on the beaches of Normandy on 6 June 1944 – what does the area look like today, and how does it compare with 78 years ago?
What does Normandy beach look like today?
Normandy has more than 385 miles (620km) of coastline. It also has what its own tourism board calls “the most beautiful beaches in (France)”, which is hardly surprising – they are quite spectacular.
Normandy has numerous family friendly beaches with sheltered spots and safe shallows; sand dunes and long stretches of golden sand; rock pools and offshore archipelagoes; and so on.
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The five beaches Allied troops actually landed on 78 years ago were codenamed Omaha, Sword, Utah, Juno and Gold for D-Day.
What are the real names of the beaches allied troops landed on during D-Day?
The westernmost of the five beaches of the Normandy landings was codenamed Utah. Its name is now effectively Utah Beach – camping sites, museums and memorials all refer to it as such.
Behind it are the communes of Saint-Martin-de-Varreville and Audouville-la-Hubert.
“Omaha Beach” backs on to Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, and is in the Calvados department of the Normandy region. “Gold Beach” is closest to Ver-sur-Mer, and either is, or is adjacent to, Place d’Asnelles – Asnelles beach.
“Juno Beach” is next door to the east, in Courseulles-sur-Mer.
Neighbouring “Sword Beach” is the name given to the miles-long stretch of open sand that runs from Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to the beach at Ouistreham. Many of its sections have names of their own: Riva Bella beach, Ouistreham beach, Luc Sur Mer beach, etc.
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How different did the beaches of Normandy look in 1944 compared to today?
Black-and-white photographs of the D-Day landings show the beaches of Normandy torn up by explosions, tank tracks and the frantic feet of infantrymen.
Operation Overlord involved thousands of ships and landing craft. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of tons of supplies arrived at the beaches of Normandy, while four million mines were laid.
Much of the photo evidence of the D-Day landings focuses on the soldiers rather than the beaches. And, understandably, filmic recreations often do the same, finding it easier to tell human stories than topographic ones.
However, before the Second World War, the beaches of Normandy were immensely popular tourist spots. While they may have had less in terms of modern infrastructure, French holidaymakers frequented them during holidays.
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