French volunteers open German command post to the public for D-Day

In northern France, a group of volunteers has spent months renovating the command post of the Merville gun battery – one of the main defences built by the Germans and attacked by British paratroopers in preparation for the Normandy Landings. The team hopes their work of remembrance will draw in visitors on D-Day and beyond.

Each year on 6 June, France commemorates D-Day, when some 156,000 mainly British, American and Canadian troops launched a massive invasion to try and free France from Nazi occupation.

But remembering that history isn't confined to one day. Many people on the northern coast of Normandy live with the vestiges of German army presence all year round.

Threading together its Atlantic Wall, Germany built a host of fortifications along the coast – bunkers, shelters, defence posts, and casemates to protect artillery guns.

Merville-Franceville, in the Calvados region, is home to the Merville Battery. Just 2 km inland and 13 km from Sword beach, the giant gun emplacement served to protect the coast and the mouth of the river Orne from invasion.

As such, the Allied forces were determined to destroy it. On the night of 5 June, 150 British paratroopers launched an assault to take out the guns. It wasn't an immediate success and dozens of lives were lost.

"We're really involved in a slice of history, and it's still alive, we're still discovering things," says Gaetan Dagorn, head of the Merville-Batterie association that's been working on restoring the site for the last 15 years or so.


Read more on RFI English

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