Hermanville sur Mer (Sword Beach) picture, mid-1930s

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by tmac, Oct 22, 2012.

  1. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    This may be of interest to anyone studying the Overlord coastline. It is a picture postcard of villas at Hermanville-sur-Mer, along the stretch of shore that became Sword Beach - the 3rd British Infantry Division landing zone - on D-Day. I think the picture is mid-1930s, but it may be earlier.
     

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  2. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Certainly earlier tmac.

    I am not given to oneupmanship but.

    There is a splendid website www.lion-hermanville which has 4,237 post cards of this stretch of Sword Beach. Fascinating stuff.

    Mike.
     
  3. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    Thanks for that, Trux - what an amazing website! Anyone seeking pictures of the Hermanville area need look no further. I even found the postcard that I've posted here and you're correct in that it is much earlier than the mid-1930s - in fact, it's 1900.
     
  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    The website also has some plans showing the layout of plots and buildings. I have found it useful for identifying the location of photographs.

    A little Googling can bring up a number of collections of postcards showing the towns and beaches of Normandy. Most are cards from 1890 to 1930 but show the area in more peaceful times.

    Mike
     
  5. borjeno

    borjeno LCI 241 (L)

    I have been trying to narrow down the area and your photgraph shows an amazing similarity to the bulidings in photo. That is a line of prisoners marching by the ship

    That is an excellent website, thanks.
     
  6. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Borjeno.

    Your photo is of the slipway at La Breche. This an area of large villas built in the last decade of the 19th Century. This is probably the most photographed stretch of shore. There are many cards on the site mentioned above. I will find some references and names of villas.

    Mike
     
  7. borjeno

    borjeno LCI 241 (L)

    Borjeno.

    Your photo is of the slipway at La Breche. This an area of large villas built in the last decade of the 19th Century. This is probably the most photographed stretch of shore. There are many cards on the site mentioned above. I will find some references and names of villas.

    Mike
    Thanks Trux, I would be very interested in finding the area shown in the photo if at all possible.
     
  8. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    Three SP Bofors guns of my father’s troop (F Troop, 92nd LAA) landed at La Breche on D-Day directly opposite a house called La Tour (The Tower), which is still there today.

    Because its tower resembles a church spire, the soldiers thought at first that the building was a church. They drove through the garden of the house and forward into Hermanville, en route to Pegasus and Horsa Bridge.

    La Tour is on the promenade close to the memorial plaza which commemorates the units of 3rd British Infantry Division. Looking through those splendid old postcards to which Trux directed us, I found a pre-war picture of the house. At that time, a second, larger house - called La Breche - stood alongside it.

    I’m not sure, but I think this may be the same area shown in Borjeno’s photo. If so, it is easily accessible and very interesting.

    The attached pictures show 1: The La Tour house and the La Breche house (old postcard).
    2: Aerial shot of the La Breche area (old postcard). In this picture, the La Tour house is still there, although the La Breche house has gone.
    3: A modern close-up of La Tour.
    4: The view from Sword Beach, centred on La Tour (photographed on June 6, 2000)
     

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  9. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    tmac,

    This is the same area as shown in Borjeno's photo. One of the breaching teams landing at H Hour was forced away from its correct landing point and made a exit from the beach to the west of La Tour. I think this was more a public garden than the garden of the house but it became the most westerly of the Sword exits.

    The slope in Borjeno's photo is just to the left (east) of Villa La Breche. This was the largest of the villas and was demolished soon after the war. This exit was in a straight line with the forward route to Hermanville. Easy to find on the maps, including Google.

    I am still looking out photos. There are a considerable number of postcards as well as a number of photos taken on D day by an Official Photographer.

    Names are confusing. Contemporary documents call this area Hermanville rather than La Breche. Correctly I suppose it is La Breche at Hermanville sur Mer

    Mike
     
  10. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    Thanks for that interesting information, Trux. The breaching team did well to improvise when they couldn't make it to their designated landfall.

    In fact, the three 92nd LAA guns also came ashore in the wrong spot. They were supposed to land about half a mile east of La Breche, but their LCT was diverted because of shellfire. The LCT carrying the troop's other three guns landed in the correct location.

    One of the 92nd LAA veterans, Len Harvey - my father's old comrade - told me how they were directed through the garden of La Tour along mineswept lanes marked by white tape.

    I think you're correct in that it probably wasn't the garden of the villa, but a more public open space. But the gunners were initially convinced that the La Tour building was a church, some of them asking: 'Are we on church parade, then?'

    As for the name of the spot, the one I was given many years ago was La Breche d'Hermanville.

    Here are a three more pictures ...

    1: Len Harvey pictured in 1984 at the exact spot (arrowed) where the 92nd LAA guns came off the beach near La Tour. On D-Day, a gap had been blown in the sea wall.

    2. The plaza just back from Sword Beach at La Breche where the 3rd British Infantry Division units are commemorated.

    3. Len Harvey and two other 92nd LAA veterans, George Baker and Jim Holder-Vale, drinking a toast on the seafront at La Breche on the morning of June 6, 2008. When the F Troop men made the crossing on D-Day, some had been too seasick to drink their rum ration. So, 64 years on, my brother produced a bottle of rum and treated the veterans to a welcome glass.

    Tom
     

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  11. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

  12. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

  13. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    And an air photo of the buildings and exits mentioned above. The La Tour exit on the far right and Villa La Breche the next exit along.

    air 4.jpg

    Mike
     
  14. tmac

    tmac Senior Member

    Thanks for those pictures, Trux. They're really interesting and the aerial shot is fascinating. It's good of you to search them out, along with the archive map of the villas.

    As I mentioned, the second LCT of 92nd LAA came ashore east of La Breche, opposite Colleville (now Colleville Montgomery).

    When I was there in 2008 with the veterans, they pinpointed this LCT's exact landing place as being on the beach directly across from what is now the junction of the Avenue de Bruxelles and the Boulevard Maritime. This is near a large car park. I've done a very rough location map.

    I wonder if it's possible to find any old postcards showing what this stretch of the shore looked like pre-war?
     

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  15. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    tmac,

    I have not seen any cards of that area. I have a couple of air photos and a couple of contemporary maps, all rather unclear. They do show that there was nothing in the area to photograph. The Bella Riva area was slowly extending westwards and the La Breche area extending eastwards but there was a large undeveloped area between them.

    The exit you show was the most easterly of the Sword exits. It was also one where the Breaching Team carried out an almost text book operation with flails clearing a way up the beach, the AVREs following to the dunes where they laid a log carpet and a Bobbin carpet. The flails then cleared a route to the main lateral road. One flail was knocked out on this last stretch.

    I will look further.

    Mike.
     
  16. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Three photos.

    The first shows the beach at Colleville. Only beach huts are visible. There is mention of what might be a holiday camp or campsite but there seems to be no permanent buildings.

    The second is an air photograph, probably taken around 9.30 judging by the tide. It shows La Breche well developed. Then there is an area laid out with roads and plots but little actual building. Then the undeveloped area of Colleville.

    The third is of the lateral road and light rail track from Ouistreham to La Breche. Obviously fairly early on D Day. Is the lady really going shopping?

    colleville10.jpg

    La Breche X.jpg

    Mike

    Edit: The air photo has declined to upload. I will try again later.
     
  17. DannyM

    DannyM Member

    Hi,
    Hope you don’t mind me jumping in with a couple of bits.

    The holiday camp was the “Colonie de Colleville sur Orne”. Some of the buildings show up in a series of photos that were taken as the Commandos were moving inland. They look like bungalows but in most cases the roof is missing.

    Colleville sur Orne was renamed Colleville Montgomery in June 1946.

    Regards

    Danny

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    6th June

    View attachment 90605
     

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  18. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Good to hear from you Danny. We should have asked you in the first place.

    The air photo I was trying to upload must be from the same series as yours but from a different angle. Same craft are in the same positions. Presumably the aircraft was circling as I have now seen three photos taken from different angles.

    Mike
     
  19. DannyM

    DannyM Member

    Hello Mike,
    I only put in an edited piece of the photo as you probably guessed. The full image shows the B26 Marauder over Sword Beach.

    Full image is here : All sizes | p013132.jpg | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    Do you know if the other two images are “stills” from a film or air recce photos ?

    I know there are a couple of oblique air recce photos covering this area that were taken on the 6th June by a US pilot flying a Mosquito. Have yet to find decent copies though.

    And there are also some “stills” showing a bombing raid on “Hillman” around. From a Pathe film I believe. Will see if I can find the link. Believe the photo above may have been taken on this raid.

    Regards

    Danny
     
  20. DannyM

    DannyM Member

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