You are here

D-Day - Beach Defences

The Atlantic Wall was a series of defensive structures built along the European coastline from the Spanish border to Norway during the Second World War, to repel an Allied invasion of occupied Europe. In planning for the D-Day invasion, Allied photo-reconnaissance aircraft covered every mile of the Wall. Photographic interpreters carefully identified and recorded defences including beach obstacles, minefields, gun emplacements, anti-tank ditches and infantry strong-points.
Beach obstacles ranged from steel ramps, gates, and caltrops called 'Czech Hedgehogs', to concrete pyramids and timber posts, often tipped with mines, all designed to tip, puncture and destroy landing craft approaching the beaches. Concrete bunkers housing artillery and anti-tank guns were placed to fire along the beaches, with no open embrasures facing directly out to sea. Wide ditches were dug parallel to the beaches to prevent tanks getting inland and to channel them into areas where anti-tank guns could engage them. Infantry strong-points were placed around bunkers for heavy weapons, to prevent invading troops getting beyond the shoreline. Further inland, open fields were dotted with wooden posts joined by wires and occasionally tipped with mines; known as 'Rommel's Asparagus', these were intended to discourage glider landings. Examples of all of these defensive measures feature below.