History School Trips to Normandy, France
Explore the beaches where events changed the course of the Second World War.
Normandy has had a long and historic relationship with Britain, but it is probably the events of June 1944 that the region is best known for. The long sweep of beaches that the Allies chose to use as their invasion point to retake Western Europe from Nazi Germany can be found in Normandy. What seemed like an impossible plan was the most successful amphibious attack of modern times that pushed technology and inventiveness to its limits and made fighting men heroes.
A trip to this historic region can include the military cemeteries of Britain, the Commonwealth and America, and memorials to those who risked their lives or paid the ultimate sacrifice. In addition to the history of 1944, groups can visit the beautiful medieval towns of Caen and Bayeux, home to the impressive Bayeux Cathedral and the historically significant Bayeux Tapestry.
Bring history to life
A helping hand from a History Tour Guide.
Expert knowledge, an understanding of your students’ educational and social needs and in-the-field assistance are just three of the benefits of opting for a History Tour Guide. We have carefully selected a handful of guides who specialise in various areas of history including WWI, WWII and the Holocaust.
“A very comprehensive and well organised trip”
Outside the classroom…
Whilst inspirational videos and textbooks depicting the bravery and valour of troops in Operation Overlord help students to understand the events, nothing compares to actually visiting the region. Travel the roads and fields where Bocage fighting occurred as the Allies drove the Germans out of this part of France prior to the re-taking of Paris. Visit Caen, now rebuilt but once the location of some of the fiercest fighting during the invasion and see the impact of the invasion on a French community. This is just the start; Normandy has so much more to offer budding history students looking to further their understanding of this period in history.
Did you know?
The stretch of coastline targeted for the landing of the Allied troops measured 50 miles.
Our quick, online quote form allows our specialists to provide you with a bespoke quotation for a trip tailor-made to your group’s individual requirements.
Normandy Fact File
KS3 and KS4 (or equivalent)
Areas of the syllabus illustrated
- The Second World War
- Peace and war
- Europe and the 20th century
Themes that can be explored
- War and conflict
- Warfare over time
- Medicine through time
- International relations
Normandy History Study Visits
When trying to help your students understand the true events that took place on the 6th June 1944, nothing compares to a visit to Normandy. There are ample visits in the region suitable for school groups and here are just a few of our favourites:
D-Day landing beaches
On 6th June 1944, Operation Overlord began with Allied troops arriving on 5 beaches on the Northern French coast. By the end of the day, 150,000 troops had landed on the beaches and, following heavy machine gun fire and hand to hand combat, they advanced into occupied hilltop towns and further inland.
This was a formidable achievement and was a turning point in World War II, leading to the liberation of Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.
The 5 beaches, code named Sword Beach, Juno Beach, Utah Beach, Omaha Beach and Gold Beach, can be visited today. Along the 50 miles of D-Day landing coast, remnants of the past can still be found. From German gun emplacements to war memorials and bunkers, scars and memories of the past still remain.
Only by visiting the D-Day landing beaches will your students truly appreciate the scale of the landing beaches, and understand what an enormous achievement Operation Overlord was.
You can choose to visit the beaches at your leisure and focus on what is important to your class. Alternatively, you can opt to include a guide in your tour. Local guides can be booked through the Caen Memorial Museum. These specialised enthusiasts will accompany your group on your coach and will guide you around the beaches, pointing out interesting areas and detailing individual accounts, giving your students a greater perspective and insight into this point in time.
Gun Batteries, Longues sur mer
Perched 65 metres high up on a cliff top, this German gun battery, known as “Batterie Allemande”, had a perfect strategic view point, overlooking the English Channel for potential allied attacks.
Made up of four 150mm guns, the Longues-Sur-Mer battery had a perfect strategic position between the Gold and Omaha Allied landing beaches and had a key role to play in World War II.
Today, your students can visit the battery and look across the Channel, imagining how surprise gun fire would have felt on the morning of the D-Day landings.
The battery was captured by the British 231st Division on 7th June 1944. Some of the gun casements still house the guns which were used on D-Day and the site is an impressive place to visit.
The Musée du Débarquement was opened by French President Coty in 1954 and was the first museum to commemorate the D-Day landings of 1944. Over 313,000 visitors visited the museum in 2012. The museum features a gallery overlooking the historical site, a diaroma which dramatically brings the early hours of the D-Day landings to life, as well as a cinema and souvenir shop. Guided tours of the museum are available for groups.
The Mulberry Harbours were temporary ports built within the sea to allow for British machinery and supplies to be sent over to Ground forces. The American site (known as Port Phoenix) and British site (known as Port Winston) were built in the Arromanches area. Because of the unstable nature of the tides, the ports had to be flexible, with pier heads and roadways rising and falling in line with the tide. At its busiest point, this huge engineering feat allowed over 18,000 tonnes of supplies to be transported to ground troops each day. Despite being designed to last 3 months, the port was operational for 8 months. The port is proudly held as one of the best examples of British Military engineering. A 15 minute film on the harbour can be seen in the Musée du Débarquement.
Perched high on the cliff tops of Arromanches, the 360 Museum depicts the history of the 100 day battle of Normandy through 9 high definition cinema screens. This impressive circular cinema is housed in the former American site of the Mulberry Harbour. Images gathered from around the world have been put into this film, highlighting the devastation of the area and paying tribute to the soldiers and the 20,000 civilians who lost their lives during the battle.
Pegasus Bridge Museum in Benouville
The Museum has reopened for a new season, following renovations to the reception area, museum shop and the exhibition hall. Photographs in the exhibition have been reprinted and the information panels have been developed so they are easier for visitors to understand.
The Pegasus Memorial is dedicated to the men of the 6th Airborne division and their role during the D-Day Landings of 1944. Hundreds of artefacts and images are on display, depicting the missions of the 6th division who had to hold the Eastern flank of the division against German counter attacks. These missions included capturing the bridges across the River Orne and Caen canal.
On the night of 5th June, 1944, the 6th Airborne division, made up of 181 men, completely took German troops by surprise by landing in 6 Horsa gliders close to the bridge. They took the Pegasus bridge (then known as Benouville bridge) and held it until they were relieved, preventing German troops from using it during the days and weeks following the D-Day invasion.
Jim Wallwork, pilot of the 1st glider to land at Pegasus Bridge, died in January 2013, aged 93.
The Caen Memorial Museum
The Caen Memorial Museum prides itself on being a museum of War as well as Peace. The museum’s permanent collection “World War-Total War”, which opened in 2010, aims to map the timeline of world war. It covers the following themes; “From European War to World War”, “Genocide and Mass Violence”, “Total war”, “Societies at War”, “Re-conquest and Liberation”, “The cost and ending of war” and “Memories and History”.
The museum is a modern and interactive space, which will give your students a real overview of the causes and effects of war, as well as the continuation of war in modern day society.
Museum guides can be booked to guide your group around the landing beaches. Educational resources in the form of notebooks can be provided for your students, to focus your visit. Classes are also available at the museum, which will allow your students to handle artefacts and ask questions of the museum guides. For example, your students could take part in a “Resisting the Nazis” class, handling artefacts such as a machine gun and grenades, to understand how dangerous life really was as a member of the Resistance. Packed lunches can also be provided by the museum; making it perfectly suited for school groups.
British Cemetery in Bayeux
Bayeux cemetery contains graves of 4,144 Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives during the Second World War, 338 of which are unidentified. There are also 500 graves of soldiers from other nationalities, mainly German. It is the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France and provides students with a good example of a cemetery that is today cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in comparison to a cemetery that is not.
Opposite the cemetery stands the Bayeux memorial which holds the names of a further 1,800 soldiers who died in the early stages of the war and have no known grave.
The American Cemetery in St. Laurent, Omaha
The American Cemetery in St Laurent was the first American cemetery on European soil, dating back to 8th June 1944. The cemetery is spread across172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 American soldiers, most of whom lost their lives during the D-Day Landings.
There are 1557 names of missing soldiers inscribed on the walls of a memorial garden, to the East of the cemetery. The memorial at the site has large maps and information about the operations of the soldiers, as well as a bronze statue representing the spirit of American youth. In the foreground of the memorial there is a reflecting pool, with granite statues representing the United States and France.
The cemetery is staffed during opening hours and staff are happy to give information or to show visitors to their relative’s graves.
The German Cemetery in La Cambe
The German soldiers who died during WW2 were scattered in small cemeteries and plots in various parts of Normandy. It wasn’t until after the war that the German Graves Commission established 6 German cemeteries in Normandy. The La Cambe cemetery was set up in 1954 and, as part of the Commission’s work, the remains of more than 12,000 German soldiers were moved from over 1,400 different locations across Normandy.
The cemetery was completed in 1961, since which 700 further German bodies have been found on the battlefields and have been buried here. The cemetery now houses the remains of more than 21,000 German soldiers, 207 of whom are unknown and 89 of whom are buried in a mass grave.
There is now a visitor’s centre at the cemetery and information on German soldiers can be accessed via a computerised database.
Ste Mere Eglise
This French town was taken by German soldiers in June 1940. During their 4 year occupation, a Swastika flew over the town hall and life went on relatively peacefully.
During 1944, however, the town was subjected to several air raids. On the night of 5th June 1944, an air raid took place and a house caught fire. The town’s inhabitants formed a chain, taking buckets of water from the town’s water pump to extinguish the fire. The house in question is now the site of the Airborne Museum which houses many artefacts as well as a D3 aircraft and glider.
The occupying troops ordered the town’s residents into their houses during the raid, and fought the attacking soldiers from the 505th division. The town was captured at 04.30hrs on the morning of 6th June and the American flag was hoisted.
An iconic image of the town can be seen in the film “The Longest Day”. One scene depicts the real events of the raid, whereby paratrooper John Steel landed on the church, which his chute being caught on the steeple and catching fire. He lay hanging there for 2 hours before German soldiers captured him, later being released by the Americans.
The town’s community claims that the town was the first to be liberated in France, as does St Marie du Mont, a town near Utah beach.
Normandy Sample Itineraries
Your bespoke itinerary will include the appropriate balance of educational visits and leisure excursions to fill your chosen duration and meet your aims and objectives. Your dedicated Educational Trip Coordinator will offer advice and recommendations with the sole aim of creating the perfect itinerary for your group. But just to get you inspired, we have outlined the itineraries created for two of our clients below.
Dates: 6th – 9th July
Passengers: 21 students and 3 teachers
Accommodation: Acceuil Les Tourelles
Board Basis: Full Board
Overview of visits: Pegasus Bridge, Merville Battery Museum, Arromanches, Mulberry Harbour, Longues Gun Battery, British Cemetery in Bayeux, Pointe du Hoc, Utah Beach Museum, St Mere Eglise, Omaha beach Cemetery, Caen Memorial Museum, Cambes-en-Plaine British War Cemetery
It was an early start for the students as they were picked up from school at 5am. After a lunchtime ferry the group arrived at Acceuil Les Tourelles in the early evening where they checked in made themselves familiar with their surroundings before an evening meal and an early night.View the full day-by-day itinerary
The day started with the group heading out after breakfast for Benouville to visit the famous Pegasus Bridge site. After viewing the memorial and seeing the artefacts exhibited here it was on to the Merville Battery Museum. The Battery is made up of four steel-reinforced concrete gun casemates and also includes a command bunker, accommodation buildings to house men and ammunition magazines. Just before lunch there was time to fit in one more visit at Arromanches to view the Mulberry Harbour. After lunch it was on to the Longues Gun Battery in Longues-sur-Mer which played a vital role in the D-Day landings and gives a good insight into how Nazi Germany viewed the coastal defences of the Reich referred to as the Atlantic Wall. The British Cemetery in Bayeux was the group’s next stop, with the students taking in the 3935 graves of British and Commonwealth soldiers. After a full day it was then back to the accommodation centre for an evening meal and time for relaxation.
Today’s visits started with the coach departing for Pointe du Hoc and the German Gun battery, which was strategically placed in range of the American landing beaches of Utah and Omaha. It was then onto Utah beach for a look around the Utah Beach Museum which was created as a permanent tribute to those who lost or risked their lives. After lunch, the group departed for St Mere Eglise where they were free to look around the town before a visit to the Omaha Beach Cemetery and visitor centre. The group then made their way back to the accommodation centre for their evening meal. Time for rest!
The group checked out after breakfast with just enough time for a couple more stops before heading home. First it was Caen and the Caen Memorial Museum, followed by time at the Cambes-en-Plaine British War Cemetery where 224 British soldiers are laid to rest. With time to reflect during their jorurney, the group arrived home.
Dates: 17th – 21st April 2012
Passengers: 44 students and 5 teachers
Accommodation: Bon Sejour
Board Basis: Half Board and Bed and Breakfast
Overview of visits: Pegasus Bridge Memorial and Museum, William the Conqueror’s Castle, Caen Memorial Museum, Monet’s House and Gardens, Chateau de Versailles, Musée du Louvre, La Conciergerie, Notre Dame, Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur Catholic basilica, Bateaux Mouches cruise, Newfoundland memorial, Thiepval Memorial
The coach departed from Wolverhampton in the early hours of the morning to catch an early morning ferry to Calais. It was then straight on to the first of the day’s excursions, Pegasus Bridge Memorial and Museum. After this, it was time to go to the accommodation centre the Bon Sejour Hotel for check-in, room allocation and finally an evening meal before spending the remainder of the evening at leisure.View the full day-by-day itinerary
Today’s excursions started with a visit to William the Conqueror’s Castle at Falaise with a step back in time to this 12th century castle that perfectly illustrates the power of the Dukes of Normandy. It was then onto a different period in this region’s history and a visit to the Caen Memorial Museum where there are a number of exhibitions focused from 1981 to the end of World War II. Packed lunches were eaten at the museum before the group were met by a tour guide and took part in a 3 and a half hour tour of the landing beaches and the American cemetery. An evening meal was taken back at the hotel and the rest of the evening was free for study and relaxation.
Breakfast was taken on the go as the group checked out of the hotel and departed for Giverny for a visit to Monet’s House and Gardens. There are enchanting gardens which inspired the impressionist Claude Monet’s most famous works. From there the group headed to Versailles and the Chateau de Versailles, the official residence of the Kings of France. It was then off to Paris and check-in at the Kyriad Porte d’Ivry Hotel was followed by an evening meal at the hotel.
Now in Paris, the first visit of the day was to the Musée du Louvre where the group split up into two groups to explore the many fantastic and world-famous works of art that are housed in the museum. After a spot of lunch, the two groups took it in turns to visit La Conciergerie on the banks of the River Seine in the heart of Paris. Once both groups had completed their visits, the group made their way to Notre Dame for a view of the most important and impressive churches in Paris. The metro was then taken up to the Montmartre, the highest hill in Paris, for a visit to the Sacre-Coeur Catholic basilica. The group soaked up the ‘bohemian’ atmosphere and the impressive views over the city. From here, the group took the coach to Pont de l’Alma jetty where they boarded a Bateaux Mouches cruise for a riverside view of the many bridges and famous landmarks, accompanied by commentary in English. After a busy day, it was back to the hotel and a well-deserved evening meal and nights rest.
Breakfast was taken early today before the group checked out of the hotel, loaded up the coach and got on their way to the Newfoundland memorial at Beaumont Hamel to take part in a guided visit. The group then departed for Thiepval Memorial, a former German strong point and now a memorial to the missing. The afternoon was spent enjoying a little retail therapy at the Cite d’Europe – shopping centre, before the group headed back to the UK on a late afternoon ferry.
We have a number of hotels and hostels in and around Normandy which are perfectly suited to school groups. Here are just a few of our favourites:
Bon Sejour, La Plage
Ideally located just steps away from some of the most beautiful sandy beaches of Calvados, the Bon Sejour La Plage is perfect for school groups. The hotel has 74 rooms, each with a TV, hairdryer, Wi-Fi and safe. Rooms are comfortable with secure wooden bunks and a maximum of 4 students accommodated in each room. Adults are accommodated in twin rooms. All rooms have a private shower and W.C. and all rooms are spread over 3 floors can be reached by the hotel’s lift. The hotel has plenty of facilities for your group to enjoy; a heated swimming pool, sauna, spa, ping pong table, tennis and pétanque courts, mini golf and a library.
Grandcamp-Maisy “Les Aigues-Marines”
Located by the sea wall with views out to sea, this centre can accommodate up to 80 people in 2 to 4 bedded rooms across 2 wings and on 2 floors. Each room has a washbasin, with toilets located on each floor and showers on the ground floor. There is a dining room, 2 activity rooms and a TV area.
Lion-Sur-mer “La Petite Falaise”
Just 50m from the beach, this centre is made up of 2 buildings. Students are housed in rooms with 2 – 6 beds. Each has a washbasin and shared bathroom facilities can be found on each floor. There is a large dining room, 3 activity rooms that can be used as classrooms, a separate area for teachers as well as outdoor areas for table tennis.
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