The Blockhouse of the former command and control post renovated on 5 levels and transformed into a museum, to offer everyone a living Memory Visit!
The Grand Bunker of the former Shooting Command and Management Station has been completely renovated to house a museum devoted entirely to the Atlantic Wall in Normandy. After having belonged to the Navy, the founders wanted this unique blockhouse to recover its original appearance.
A remarkable construction, since it is a Sonderkonstruktion (to which we will devote a paragraph below), all rooms were remodeled in a remarkable way, with a very abundant and authentic material. The founders took full advantage of this 17-meter high construction to re-situate and present the essential functions that characterized the life of the defensive positions of the Atlantic Wall in the D-Day Landing.
The founders of the Museum wished to offer to visit the 5 levels of this blockhouse in which was installed the nerve center of the command of the defenses of the estuary of the Orne, in order to reconstitute and restore the atmosphere which could reign in this one. on the eve of the D-Day!
It should be noted that the Museum of the Atlantic Wall, the Grand Bunker, is the last visible vestige of what was the most powerful coastal battery in the area, the latter having been defined as a defense zone to be fortified primarily by the German high command.
The Grand Bunker Museum therefore allows us by its high presence not to forget that a powerful device of coastal defenses was deployed to Riva-Bella. In addition it invites us to discover this last vestige of the interior by restoring it in its first destination. The Grand Bunker Museum becomes a real memory journey …
All the Atlantic Wall in an authentic SonderKonstruktion
A Sonderkonstruktion … What can he hide under this strange denomination? Simply a construction program. Pursuing. The Todt Organization, in response to Hitler’s desire to build a permanent defense in the West, endeavored to pre-define the constituent elements of this military architecture in order to have elementary blocks of standard types. A precise nomenclature was established to describe the various elements and was recorded in catalogs. Thus each type of construction has a precise codification. The models of Fortress Europe are building programs.
A Sonserkonstruktion is coded SK. What does this abbreviation conceal? Without going into the details of the abbreviations assigned to the different types of work, the mention SK is precisely a construction that does not meet any pre-defined model. It is therefore a Sonder construction, that is to say special.
And this is what illuminates the originality of the architecture of the Grand Bunker and gives it its signature. As you can imagine, the Sonderkonstruktion was not legion. This indicates how the Grand Bunker represents a vestige of exceptional interest in every respect. And it is this special status that the founders of the Museum were able to highlight. They knew that this almost unique construction on the Atlantikwall (there are only two similar ones) would make it possible to work particularly effectively to present this colossal site that was the Atlantic Wall. Indeed, it is a unique place to penetrate the Atlantic Wall from the inside.
5 fully equipped levels for rooms restored in their period functions
Each room of the Grand Bunker seems in full activity as on the eve of the D-Day. Each level will show you how daily life was organized in the Big Bunker. And although it is a Sonderkonstruktion, standard elements also characterize this unique architecture. One example among others: look carefully at the washbasin facing the entrance to the blockhouse. It is part of a standardized space that can be found in many other bunkers.
Once inside, you will breathe the air so particular of a blockhouse. You will be able to feel the life behind the concrete, its gas-tight armored doors and confined spaces. From room to room, from floor to floor, the multiple rooms of the Grand Bunker will make you browse and enter all the organs of the Shooting and Command Direction Post. You will experience many powerful sensations unique to this historic site that has been revived by the curator of the Atlantic Wall Museum.
Successively you will explore every vital center of this highly strategic place:
The technical level with generator and ventilation room fully restored.
There will be two levels of rooms that seem to be still inhabited, as well as an armory and a first aid post.
Then will open the room of transmissions and the room of cards.
Just above, will offer you the breathtaking 180 ° degree panorama available to the Germans to monitor all the maritime movements in the Bay of Seine. The rangefinder for measuring distances to targets is always present. And from this high position you will be able to see Le Havre in Quineville on a clear day, that is, to sweep the entire area of Operation Overlord.
But it is not finished. The last level is also accessible and fully equipped with barriers that allow you to enjoy this unique point of view without any danger. You will be able to access the position of German Flak, that is to say the tank for anti-aircraft gun 20 mm.
And in this place, I leave you to the pleasure that will be yours when you contemplate the grandiose panorama which will be offered to you. And you will not fail, I’m sure, to imagine what the Germans were doing at the dawn of the longest day, June 6, 1944 …
Many reconstructed scenes of everyday life in the blockhouses of the Atlantic Wall in Normandy
Machine Room, Maschinenraum, Fan Room, Lüfterraum, Close Combat Station, Nachkampfraum, Anti-Gas Room, Gasschleuse, Ammunition Bunker, Munitionsraum, Standby Room, Bereitschaftsraum, Officers Square, Führerraum Offizier, the squad of the NCOs, Unteroffiziersraum, the equipment room, Vorrate, another hall, Bereitschaftsraum, the plan room, Planraum, the signal room, Nachrichtenraum, the local radio, Funkraum, another Ammunition, Munitionsraum, Observation Officer’s Room, Wachoffizierraum and Telemetry Room, Messtand, DCA Tank, Flakabwehrkanone, show how the variety of functions combined in one remarkable work of the Atlantic Wall is of exceptional interest. The Big Bunker becomes a true Treaty of the Atlantic Wall, its Abrégé or its authentic condensed.
The great care given to the Museography has always sought not to restore pieces with scenes with a cold appearance; the treaty could have been coldly technical. This is not so because the daily life of the soldiers of the Grand Bunker was cleverly introduced into each scene with the help of a multitude of objects that were part of the experience of these soldiers who obeyed, day after day, their different assignments, in this huge concrete shelter. The result is a clean atmosphere, a unique atmosphere at the Grand Bunker. It is transformed into an enormous ship that makes us travel back in time to plunge us back into a position of Command and Direction of Shooting in full effervescence.
Omnipresent characters and all put in situation
The Grand Bunker through its maze of pieces still seems, as we said above, in full activity. Each piece presents the characters who were busy at the time with their tasks. The numerous pieces of the Grand Bunker, on the eve of the D-Day, swarmed, as they do now, with soldiers of all ranks, all occupied with their roles.
Museography has worked to place us in the role of observer capable of surprising a life normally kept secret from the very thick concrete walls. The impenetrable becomes accessible and the visitor will revel in the wealth of characters that animate the Grand Bunker because no space is unoccupied. Better, it shows how much the promiscuity in the works of the Atlantic Wall was oppressive. No place seems superfluous and each character occupies space with astonishing veracity. All inside an authentic historic space concreted by the Organization Todt and moreover SK. This is what gives the Grand Bunker its unique cachet in the Space of the Battle of Normandy. The staging in its massive walls is total and the immersion is by the same also total.
Hundreds of documents, plans and photos to accompany the life of the scenes of the Grand Bunker
The Big Bunker not only gives to the eyes but also to the mind. He makes the most of his very special nature. In fact, it includes within its architecture functions that are generally dispersed in multiple works. It becomes easy to discover the multiple aspects of the Atlantic Wall in a unique place that stands as a true witness of the Atlantikwall and sentinel against oblivion.
All major aspects of the Atlantic Wall are approached in such a way that with the help of objects, plans, photos, documents a complete panorama is offered for the visit and the understanding. Dioramas facilitate the apprehension of various subjects. For example, a magnificent and imposing diorama presents the theoretical defense system of the D-Day beaches.
Operation Neptune, the codename given to the D-Day amphibious operation, itself coded Overlord, was not forgotten more than the assault on Sword Beach. The role of No. 4 Commando is also discussed in the explanation of the fighting for the Liberation of Riva-Bella and Ouistreham …
Distilled over reconstituted scenes, subjects treated with didactic elements are more easily retained. During his visit, each visitor will sample elements as he pleases to leave with selected pieces of this gigantic enterprise that was the Atlantic Wall which, to defend the Western Front, stretched from Norway to the Pyrenees.
The roof of the Grand Bunker, which overhangs the whole city, was arranged to offer an exceptional panorama on the estuary of the Orne and the beaches of the D-Day (reopening of the roof in April 2019, the visitors are under their own responsibility on the roof of Bunker)
No other museum offers visitors a panorama of the D-Day beaches at 17 meters high. It is easy to imagine from this high place where the German soldiers entrenched in the Grand Bunker lost nothing of the most gigantic landing operation of all time.
Complete 360 degree panorama which, if you have powerful binoculars and on a clear day, will allow you to see from Le Havre to Cotentin, from Pegasus Bridge to Sainte-Mère-Eglise. You will be able to measure the full extent of the assault that was launched at the dawn of June 6. You will not lose anything of the topography of the German defenses of the estuary of the Orne: you will see very well the water tower of Merville-Franceville which indicates the Battery participating there and the locks of the port of Ouistreham, the castle of water of Ouistreham, Saint-Aubin d’Arquenay, mount “Hillman” ….
But you will also have the power to distinguish the two extreme sectors of airborne operations for D-Day, namely the area of Sainte-Mère-Eglise paratroopers 101th and 82th Airborne and the area of Merville-Franceville, Amfreville, Ranville for the British Airborne troops of the 6th Airborne of Major General Richard Gale.
And then more simply, you will have all the leisure to let you go to some meditations raised by this place so much charged with History … A point of view impregnable on History!
The Atlantic Wall staged in great detail at the Grand Bunker Museum in Ouistreham
The founders of the Atlantic Wall Museum led the reconstruction of the Grand Bunker’s pieces with attention to detail that goes a long way. Each piece thus restores an aspect of rare authenticity and contributes to the feeling of discovery of a place with perpetual activity.
And again history is not harmed, because the Museum of the Atlantic Wall clearly demonstrates by the crowd of details that repopulate the Big Bunker, how much the Second World War was a war where Technology and the Iindustrie had a major place …
And what a pleasure it is to be able to let his sense of observation wander to capture information of surprisingly varied natures that perfectly illustrates the functional organization of his works that were to form an impassable Wall to protect the mythical Fortress Europe.
For the founders of the Museum, restoring is not an empty word …