Arromanches, which is more correctly known as Arromanches-les-Bains, is a coastal town found in the Calvados department of Lower Normandy. It is a moving, pleasant seaside town, famous for the part it played in the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944.
Here in the midst of the D-Day beaches, you can 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.
Arromanches was in the forefront of the Normandy landings, after its beach appointed Gold Beach during the operations, was one of the beaches selected to receive the man-made landing harbours.
Troops deliberately didn’t land at Arromanches on D-Day itself to leave the coast clear for a portable harbour. This portable harbour which was known as the Mulberry Harbours, which during the invasion of France led to the end of the Second World War. The harbours were designed so they could be floated across the English Channel to act as a temporary harbour for the D-Day Landings.
The port was meant to be temporary lasting only a few months, however it managed to serve for five months. After British wartime leader Winston Churchill was closely involved in its conception, the Arromanches Mulberry Harbour became known as Port Winston.
A truly staggering 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and around 4 million tonnes of supplies arrived via Port Winston. Arromanches still has a great deal of charm despite some of its sombre reminders of the shattering war effort. It is really quite a small town in comparison, some may say more of a village. Summertime visitors increase the population substantially. Many visit because of the historical importance of the town.
These days you can enjoy wonderful walks, wandering around the port you can spot some intriguing memorials. The beach is a beautiful stretch of golden sands and the town itself has a lively, pleasant atmosphere and there are plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants which make it a great holiday base, although the landing sites remain one of the key attractions to this charming area.
The remains of the Mulberry Harbour can still be seen at Arromanches with a couple of the concrete harbours on the beach and another line can be seen in the sea. It does sound a bit grim but it really is quite evocative.
There is a long line of high white cliffs beyond the main beach which is in the centre of Arromanches. Allow yourself time to climb the hill and follow the cliffs, to the east of Arromanches centre as the best view across the town and beach is from here.
Another historical monument in the centre of Arromanches is the church of Saint-Peter built in the 1860’s to replace an earlier church which was too small for the growing numbers of visitors attracted to the resort.
The two main attractions in Arromanches are dedicated to the town’s role in the Normandy Landings.
D Day Museum – Musee du Debarquement. This museum focuses on the D-Day landings and also the crucial months of Allied action afterwards. You can watch powerful videos and it goes into fascinating detail about the beginnings of the Mulberry Harbour here via models and displays.
Arromanches 360 – This circular cinema was opened for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Images bombard you from all sides. 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.
You can also see poignant memorials to British engineers or Sappers around Arromanches. These Sappers played a critical role in preparations leading to D-Day. Besides an unmissable statue of the Virgin Mary on the heights east of the town, a memorial honouring the Sappers of the Royal Engineers.
Down in town, a memorial from 2009 pays homage to the amazing London Engineer, Allan Beckett. His design for a floating roadway was of great significance allowing the safe landing of Allied craft. Near Becketts memorial a so called ‘whale pier bridge’ used to disembark Allied craft is also on display.