skip to content

Normandy D-day Battlefield Relics

By Nigel Hay (©Milweb Ltd 2008)
The debris of war - 29th Infantry - Hill 108 Normandy 1944

The debris of war - 29th Infantry - Hill 108, Normandy 1944

65 years on, relics of the Normandy invasion and the 80 days of fighting before the Germans were finally pushed back east of the River Siene, still turn up.

Whilst all the major treasure, like the scrapyard of German armour at Trun, is long gone, collectors are finding battlefield relics on a daily basis, actually in the ground or in Depot Ventes and Brocantes. These are junk shops, the depot vente being a junk shop where people leave items to be sold on a sale or return.


The author, MILWEB's publisher, lives in Normandy, right in the heart of Operation Bluecoat – the British Breakout.
Elements of 9th SS occupied the nearby village of Viessoix during Early August 1944 and the fighting was bitter as the British 11th Armoured pushed through from Le Beny Bocage to capture the Vire -Vassy road. This spring, 3 German bodies were discovered at nearby Burcy and interred at the German cemetery at La Cambe.
Having discovered live Mauser K98 and MG34 ammunition plus plenty of shrapnel in the garden and a conversation with the veteran who drove the Sherman (commanded by by Peter Carrington, later to become Lord Carrington) and took the hill top 300 meters along the lane, it is evident that there was fighting in the grounds of the farm property which was used as a defensive position by the Germans.

Recently a digger was in use opposite the drive. Just a few feet down up came this German helmet, with two distinct shrapnel exit holes in the top, suggesting the wearer wouldn’t have survived. On showing this to the farmer who used to own the property and was born in the farmhouse before the war, he gave a Gallic shrug and said that some Germans were buried just where the new terrace was built this year. He casually said 10 years ago a few remains of another German were found in the field behind the office and they left them in the ground.

The new years project is to locate any remains of the Churchill ( or it may be a Comet) that was destroyed about 500m from the house....


Photo Courtesy of  Allan Bryson
These paratrooper items were dug up this autumn near Ste Mere Eglise in a dropzone D area - there must be a personal story about these but we won't ever know. The buckle is from the waistbelt of the M42 jumpsuit. The M-3 fighting knife, missing it's leather handle, the M-2 switchblade knife used by paratroops, a watch, ring, and compass, cigarette lighter and small compass, neck chain and cross. (Photo Courtesy of Allan Bryson)
Ken Lewis, AKA Norman D Landing author of " Doughboy to GI" is a prolific collector. Since moving to a village close to Ste Mere Eglise, he has made some very interesting discoveries. This knuckle duster was found near le Haye du Puits, on the hillside that the 82nd fought for, the hill that produced the famous front page of the August 14 1944 LIFE magazine of paratrooper Kelso C. Horne, who died around 2004 and had his ashes returned to the hill there and are buried under the monument.

Ken found this German machine gun bullet and attached link, U.S. Paratroopers M-42 suit belt buckle, and the 1942 French aluminium coin in his garden. The coin has a hole in the centre because at the time of the liberation, many poor French people didn't have pockets so carried their coins on a cord - hard to imagine this was only 65 years ago!
This 8 round M1 Garand clip was also found in Ken's garden- reminding us that there is still a lot of live ammunition to be found, it is often in poor and dangerous condition - so be careful out there! Metal detecting on the Normandy beaches is strictly forbidden.

Utah   Omaha beach

Utah beach still reveals its secrets (left).
On the left hand side is a scrunched up section of a rubberised raincoat and the shoulder loop with button, three parachute buckles one with spring clip, toothbrush, small bottle for water purification tablets. Small buckles and clips off webbing. A silver foil coffee sachet, and a piece of shaped wood possibly from a ship or landing craft. The spring at the bottom is similar to the return spring of a Jeep carburettor.
Omaha beach (right) revealed a surprise. You wouldn't expect to find over five hundred rounds of British 303 ammunition..... Also the side from a telephone wire reel, in the centre a metal handle off a canteen cup, a small round tin of pear jam this was in excellent condition full paintwork ingredients no corrosion. A large chain possibly used for lowering DUKW's and landing craft into the water from ships. The large metal object opened like a banana skin we had no idea but found about twenty or so of them, all identical it was a tube there was no base in it.
Thanks to Ken Lewis for photographs of the finds.

As amateur relic hunters, we are just scratching the surface - so if you have any items you would like us to include,
please submit your pictures and details here



back to top