France / Museum
Just after midnight on 6 June 1944 a battalion of the 6th British Airborne Division was deployed to destroy the cannon of the German battery in Merville before they could harm the Allied forces landing on Sword Beach. The Franco-British museum located inside the battery highlights the merciless battle fought by the paratroopers.
On D-Day, one of the missions of the 6th British Airborne Division was to destroy the German gun battery located in Merville. Indeed, the Allied intelligence services saw these four strongholds, located a few miles inland and armed with heavy guns, as a clear danger to the progress of Allied forces on Sword Beach.
Lieutenant-colonel Terence Otway and his 9th Parachute Battalion were to carry out this daring and difficult mission. The 9th Battalion would have to attack the four strongholds in an area surrounded with barbed wire, strewn with land mines and machine gun nests. The attack knew many setbacks; the 750 paratroopers were dispersed and only 150 of them could gather up, and they had to do this nearly without their assault equipment. However, the assault was launched all the same.
After half an hour of fierce fighting, the battery was taken. Nearly half of the British paratroopers were killed or wounded. Of the 130 German soldiers belonging to the 1716th Artillery Regiment, only one quarter survived. Once the strongholds were taken, it became clear that the intelligence services had overestimated the calibre of the cannon.
A Franco-British partnership resulted in the opening of the Merville museum in 1983, located on the very spot where the battle took place. One of the four strongholds shelters a 100mm field howitzer identical to the one deployed in 1944. Inside the museum area, visitors can also admire a Dakota plane involved in the airborne assaults on 6 June 1944.