Wn05 Merville-Franceville West
Extensive bunker site with views over Band beach area
Wn05 site overview
What to see
A huge complex of bunkers and buildings which would have been a key objective to silence if the Allied forces had pressed ahead with landings at what was a location codenamed 'Band' - the sixth but unused D-Day landing beach area that was ruled out prior to June 6, 1944.
There are over 20 buildings remaining at the site although some are inaccessible due to the scrubland and gorse which covers this area between the sandy beaches of Merville-Franceville and the Orne estuary where the Orne river and Caen Canal lead to the city of Caen just a few kilometres away.
Two large bunkers stand around a hundred metres apart behind the dunes - a R506 gun casemate and a R504 anti-tank gun garage and personnel shelter.
The R506 has the addition of a Tobruk to its left flank, but as this build was made after the main casemate - a 'cold joint' - the concrete structure wasn't held in place and has toppled forwards. Access to the R506 has now been sealed.
Alongside the R506 is a section of anti-tank wall which leads you east to a small recess behind the dunes where you can find an unusually shaped Vf6a type of bunker. This is an observation position and provided the eyes for the Merville Batterie just inland of this location. This post was abandoned in May 1944 following a series of heavy bombing raids across the area.
To the east of this, and completely overgrown now, is a second R506 casemate which covered the position east towards Merville-Franceville Plage.
The R504 bunker is accessible, with care, and inside you can see the garage area where the 4.7cm Czech-made anti tank gun would have been stored before it was wheeled out to the ground in front of the large bunker. Two large crew rooms inside - protected by a gas lock and short corridor - are largely filled with junk but you can get a scale of what it might have been like to shelter inside the building.
Inland, behind the bunkers, is an old French fort complex which is currently under restoration. Within its walls are a number of defensive positions including Tobruks for a MG and a tank turret - in this case a captured French Renault 35 turret. Nearby are several light personnel shelters, observation posts, and ammunition stores for the guns at the complex.
To the west of the site are a cluster of concrete buildings including a R669 type casemate for a 75mm field cannon and this, coupled with a Vf casemate for a 4.7cm Skoda gun would have provided coverage over the estuary to prevent waterborne access along the main river into Caen. In recent years this area of the site has become completely overgrown and is difficult to access.
Protecting the rear entrance to the site is an MG stand with Tobruk and this makes a good vantage point to view the area too.