Smack in the middle of the five D-Day landing beaches sits Gold Beach, Normandy. Along with Sword Beach to the east, the assault on Gold Beach was led by British troops. (American troops landed on Utah Beach and Omaha Beach while Canada stormed Juno Beach).
Like the other four Normandy landing beaches today, Gold Beach offers many great sites for World War II enthusiasts like yourself.
What happened at Gold Beach on D-Day?
Of all the forces that stormed the Normandy beaches on D-Day, the Gold Beach division made it farther inland than any others. Here are some Gold Beach fast facts:
Gold Beach objective
The objective of British troops landing at Gold Beach was to:
- secure a beachhead
- capture the village of Arromanches in the west
- make contact with Americans at Omaha Beach
- capture the town of Bayeux
- then meet up with Canadian troops next door over at Juno Beach.
Easy enough, right?
Gold Beach Casualties
Of the 25,000 British troops who landed on Gold Beach, they estimated between 1,000 and 1,100 casualties.
Which units landed on Gold Beach?
The Gold Beach landing was led by the British 50th Infantry Division who had already seen significant action in World War II. Assisting them:
- 8th Armoured Brigade
- 56th Infantry Brigade
- And the No. 47 (Royal Marine) Commando
Gold Beach outcome
The storming of Gold Beach resulted in an allied victory! And one of the swiftest too. They nearly reached Bayeux by the end of June 6th and captured it the next day.
Gold Beach Normandy today
Like many of the D-Day beaches, quaint homes and lovely little coastal villages make up the scenery at Gold Beach. However, we know Gold Beach Normandy today more for what happened after D-Day—specifically, for the artificial harbors (code named ‘Mulberries’) at Arromanches. Here is what else you can expect to find at Gold Beach Normandy today:
1. Artificial harbors at Arromanches
Probably most associated with Normandy’s Gold Beach are the artificial harbors at Arromanches-les-Bains. Allied forces built these for the purpose of delivering valuable equipment, tanks, troops, and other reinforcements into France.
Due to a lack of safe deep-water ports in the area, the Allies manufactured artificial ones in Britain, shipped them in pieces across the English Channel, and reassembled them in Arromanches after the Allies had taken the beaches.
Responsible for the shuttling of 529,000 tons of supplies and equipment through France between June and November 1944, these artificial ports served a critical role in World War II. Today, you can still see the remnants of some of these artificial harbors in the waters off Arromanches-les-Bains.
Additionally, Arromanches-les-Bain is a fantastic village to visit for those interested in WWII. Read more about it in my post on the best D-Day sites to visit in Normandy.
2. German battery at Longues-sur-Mer
Germany’s plan for Gold Beach on D-Day was all out bombardment of the incoming ships from four massive gun installations. However, 3 out of these 4 fortifications, after suffering light bombing from French and US troops the night before, were finally destroyed beyond all use (or, shall I say, FUBAR) by the British on the morning of D-Day.
The one remaining gun installation had little impact as the rest of the day played out and the battery’s crew eventually surrendered to British troops.
Today, you can visit the one remaining German battery at Longues-sur-Mer. It is now listed as a historical monument and is still in pretty good condition. (Plus, the location is quite beautiful and really helps to give you a sense of how powerful these guns were.)
3. Bayeux War Cemetery
Bayeux War Cemetery, located just west of the center of Bayeux, is the largest cemetery in France dedicated to Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives in World War II (comparable to Normandy American Cemetery at Omaha Beach). It contains the graves of 4,144 soldiers, including 388 unidentified, and over 500 more of various nationalities.
Also at this site you’ll find the Bayeux Memorial. It features the names of 1,800 Commonwealth troops who died during the various stages of the Battle of Normandy yet have no known grave.
4. Jerusalem War Cemetery
Shortly after British troops took the town of Bayeux, Germany fought desperately to take it back. This happened in a small settlement near Bayeux called Jerusalem.
The Jerusalem War Cemetery is one of the smallest Commonwealth cemeteries in Normandy and contains the graves of just 47 men.
5. Bayeux Tapestry
Though not directly a Gold Beach World War II site, the Bayeux Tapestry is definitely the most famous artifact in this area with some interesting WWII ties.
The Bayeux Tapestry is an extra-long (230 feet by 20 inches) embroidered cloth from the 11th century. It depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England.
While that might not sound entirely up your alley, you should know the Bayeux Tapestry was one of the artistic works most coveted by the Nazis (specifically Heinrich Himmler).
According to Shirley Ann Brown, professor of art history at York University, Toronto, what France considered to be a “national treasure,” the Nazis valued for what they believed to be medieval evidence of Germanic supremacy. (See her article on the Nazi’s love of the Bayeux Tapestry here.)
As such, the Bayeux Tapestry is one of the stars of The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History—an excellent book about the Allied recovery mission of the Nazi’s looted art. (Yes, it’s also a movie, but the book is immensely better and more informative.)
Though it spent a chunk of the war on display at the Louvre in Paris, today the Tapestry is back home in the Bayeux Museum. If the state of fine art during World War II interests you, you should definitely stop by to check out Bayeux’s crown jewel.
6. 69th British Brigade trail
Starting at Gold Beach Normandy and forming a 14-mile loop is the 69th British Brigade trail. (This is also often referred to as 69 ème Brigade Britannique). This hiking/biking/jogging trail follows the route taken by this division of British troops on D-Day and the days following.
Along the route you’ll find informational signs explaining some of the trail’s history and of Britain’s advance through Normandy. You’ll pass beautiful scenery and interesting towns, all while learning some D-Day history!
There’s an informative 69th British Brigade trail brochure and map in that link (but you might need a translator).
Gold Beach Normandy memorials
In addition to the miscellaneous sites listed above, there are also numerous Gold Beach Normandy memorials. Here are the most notable ones:
7. British Normandy Memorial
Without a doubt the largest and most prominent of all the memorials in the Gold Beach sector is the British Normandy Memorial. Or, I should say, will be. This brand new memorial is still under construction with a completion date of June 6, 2021. (However, this may get pushed back due to pandemic-related delays.)
The gigantic memorial sits on a hill overlooking Gold Beach and is surrounded by a column-lined promenade. The columns feature the names of all the British troops (and those who fought under British leadership) who died on D-Day and its related campaigns. (More than 22,000 men and women)
At the center is a bronze sculpture by artist (and son of a Royal Navy D-Day veteran) David Williams-Ellis that depicts three British soldiers storming Gold Beach on D-Day.
There are also plans for an interactive Education Centre here to help tell the story of Britain’s D-Day contributions (and beyond). This is planned for opening in 2024. Check out this British Normandy Memorial brochure for all the details.
8. British Normandy Memorial Waymarker Signs
As part of the British Normandy Memorial, artists from the Charles Bergin Studios also created a set of bronze waymarkers to direct visitors to each of the five Normandy landing beaches.
Each sign is a work of art in itself, taking into considering multiple aspects of visual storytelling to portray the events of each beach. They contain images of troops, tanks, ships, and more, and feature the names of each landing beach. These are positioned “behind” the grand memorial, on the part overlooking the beaches. Get more information on these Normandy waymarkers here.
9. War Correspondents’ Memorial
Dedicated to those who dedicated their lives in the name of freedom of the press is the War Correspondents’ Memorial. (Also called the War Reporters’ Memorial)
Located in Bayeux, the memorial features tall white stones carved with the names of over 2,000 journalists that have been killed since 1944.
There’s also a special memorial stone in honor of Robert Capa, the journalist who landed among the first wave at Omaha Beach and whose photos of that event are now world famous, near the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy. (which I talk about in a minute)
For more on the interesting roles of the war journalists at Normandy, check out that link from the Bayeux Museum.
Gold Beach Normandy museums
Piggybacking off my list of the best Normandy museums for World War II buffs, here are the museums specifically found in Gold Beach Normandy.
10. Arromanches 360
Located in the commune of Arromanches-les-Bains and overlooking the beach and remnants of the artificial harbors is Arromanches 360, a fully immersive museum/theater experience.
Arromanches 360 is, yes, a 360° theater that puts you in the center of all the D-Day and Battle of Normandy action. It uses nine screens to put you into captivating archival footage.
11. The Landing Museum
Also located in Arromanches is the Museé du Debarquement, or, the Landing Museum. This is the best place to learn about the artificial ‘Mulberry’ harbors installed in Arromanches that helped win the war.
You can check out working models to see what they’re all about, watch archival films, and take guided tours of their varied collections. Then you can look outside and see the very harbors you’ve just learned about.
12. Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy
Along with the museum for the Bayeux Tapestry as mentioned earlier, the Bayeux Museum also hosts the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy.
Though not entirely Gold Beach related, this museum focuses on the Battle of Normandy as a whole—ergo, the almost three months of fighting that followed the D-Day invasions.
This museum takes you inside the action between 7 June and 29 August, 1944 through the use of archive-based film and diorama, tons of information displays, and a large collections of artifacts. And it does so in a chronological fashion.
You can find the Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy near the Bayeux War Cemetery and the War Correspondents’ Memorial.
13. America Gold Beach Museum
This small museum has a misleading name but a couple of great stories to tell. The America Gold Beach Museum doesn’t have anything to do with Americans on D-Day, as the name would suggest.
The museum consists of two parts, each side telling the story of the two important historical events to happen here in the commune of Ver-sur-Mer:
- June 29, 1927: the date when American aviators set off to link France and the United States by airmail aboard a plane named “America”… that crashed on the beach of Ver-sur-Mer. (The crew survived though.)
- June 6, 1944: D-Day and the landing of British troops on Gold Beach.
Come for the World War II history, stay for some little known flight history. But don’t come to learn about American contributions to Operation Overlord.
Visit Gold Beach Normandy
To visit Gold Beach Normandy is to initiate a learning experienced focused on the British and Commonwealth contribution to D-Day, the Battle of Normandy, and the overall Second World War.
Gold Beach Normandy is full of interesting museums, meaningful memorials, and some great learning experiences. It boasts a perfect, central location for exploring all the landing beaches and surrounding towns.
Gold Beach Normandy hotels
There are many great hotels in the area of the beaches, but if you’re specifically here to visit Gold Beach Normandy, check out these great places to stay:
Gold Beach Hotel
During my visit to Gold Beach Normandy I personally stayed at the Gold Beach Hotel. This pleasant, quiet, simple hotel is perfect for the complex and emotional experience of visiting Normandy’s landing beaches.
It’s easy to get to, affordable, clean, and convenient. No complaints here.
Hôtel de la Marine
Hôtel de la Marine is a well-loved hotel that sits at the end of a quiet street in Arromanches right on the beach. It’s just off the town’s center by only a bit so you’ll still be close to everything.
Everyone absolutely loves the ocean view rooms here and the hotel’s location. This hotel has all the comforts you need for your visit to Gold Beach Normandy. There’s even a restaurant on site.
Le Petit Matin
For something a little more luxurious, check out Le Petit Matin down in Bayeux. This gorgeous property is the most highly rated in the area and you’ll see why when you see these pictures.
It’s just a few minutes’ walk into the center of historic Bayeux so you’ll have plenty to see and do. It offers free WiFi and free parking and guests absolutely love the breakfast here. It’s clean, comfortable, and the staff is friendly. Très magnifique!
Ocean view apartment in Arromanches
Better yet, if you’re planning on spending a good amount of time in Normandy, checking out many of the beaches, why not book a stay at a local apartment?
This particular one-bedroom apartment is tucked away in the charming town of Arromanches. It has an incredible view of the ocean (and the artificial harbors) and a large terrace to enjoy it from.
This spacious apartment sleeps four, comes with a full kitchen, and is close to many of the Gold Beach Normandy sights to see.
Cosy Apartment in Arromanches center
If you want something more in the middle of things, this Arromanches apartment is located just a few steps from the D-Day Museum in the center of town.
You’ll have easy access to shops, restaurants, museums, and the beaches from this centrally-located apartment. It has two bedrooms, free WiFi, free parking, and a washing machine. It sleeps four, is large and spacious, and has excellent reviews!
More info for your visit to Gold Beach, Normandy
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