No other port is more closely linked with the liberation of Western Europe after D-Day. Along with the staggeringly big concrete blocks remaining from the Mulberry Harbour towed over from Britain in June 1944, war museums bring the massive Allied operations here back to life. But Arromanches is also an appealing resort today.
Arromanches is a very moving place. Here, in the midst of the D-Day beaches, you still get a strong sense of the huge effort involved in the Allied invasion to liberate France and the rest of Western Europe from June 1944 on. Troops deliberately did not land at Arromanches on D-Day itself, to leave the coast here clear for a portable harbour (nicknamed Mulberry Harbour) being tugged over from southern England to be put in place, free of any debris.
The port was meant to be temporary, lasting maybe three months. It served for some five months. The Arromanches Mulberry Harbour became known as Port Winston, after British wartime leader Winston Churchill, who was closely involved in its conception. A staggering 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tonnes of supplies arrived via Port Winston.
Despite all its sombre reminders of the shattering war effort, Arromanches has a good deal of charm, offering wonderful beach and cliff walks. Wandering around the port, you can also spot some intriguing memorials.
- D-Day Museum - Musée du Débarquement: this central museum focuses on the D-Day landings and the crucial months of Allied action afterwards. It goes into fascinating detail about the setting up of the Mulberry Harbour here via models and displays. There are also powerful videos to view..
- Arromanches 360°: images bombard you from all sides in this circular cinema opened for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The clips take you racing through the 100 days of the Battle of Normandy to liberate the region before the Allies moved on to free the rest of Europe from Nazi occupation.
- Memorials to British Sappers: poignant memorials to British engineers, or sappers, can be seen around Arromanches. These sappers played a critical role in preparations leading to D-Day. On the heights east of town, beside an unmissable statue of the Virgin Mary, a memorial honours the sappers of the Royal Engineers. Down in town, a memorial from 2009 pays homage to the brilliant London engineer, Allan Beckett. His design for a floating roadway was of great significance, allowing Allied craft to land safely. Near Beckett’s memorial, a so-called ‘whale pier bridge’ used by disembarking Allied craft is on display.