D-Day Academy is more than only a museum. As the organizers say themselves, it’s a museum on wheels. The object of D-Day Academy is to let the visitor experience more deeply the world of D-day and thereafter, not only by seeing and listening, but also by touching, feeling and riding. Furthermore, instead of having to read information about displayed items there is a guide, who is an historian, with you who will explain and tell you everything you want to know (in English or French). This museum can only be visited by pre-arranged reservation, i.e. by booking one of the “tours” that are offered by D-day Academy. You will be picked up at the rendez-vous point in an authentic military vehicle from the time of WW2. When you arrive at the museum, at the outskirts of the village of Rots, near Caen, you will notice a few other military vehicles, a.o. an US half-track and armoured scout-car and a German Luftwaffe transport vehicle, all of the in perfect ready-to-drive condition.
The exhibition space consists of two halls. These contain a collection of all kinds of weapons, clothes, vehicles ammunition and more, related to the battle of the beaches and Normandy. For example: an amphibious vehicle, called the “Royal DUKW” in which King George was brought to the beach, not long after D-Day; panzerfausts; howitzers; PAK (German 88); shells and grenades of every caliber; a four barrel FLAK; tank barrels; a crashed Spitfire (rather special); uniforms, helmets etc. There’s also a kind of communications-post with working receiver/radio and a large display of food- and drink rations for the allied soldier. A lot of the brands are still with us today: Kelloggs, Heinz, Kitkat, Coca Cola. The walls of the museum are filled with pictures taken from the invasion and the Normandy battlefield, together with large original Allied and German propaganda posters. They bring about an image of the life of soldier and civilian in that turbulent past day and age. The items that are displayed are not so neatly arranged as in other museums, but it is up to the visitor if that’s felt as a downside or not.
What makes this museum special is that the visitor is allowed and even stimulated to touch and hold everything. To pick up pistols, rifles, machineguns, automatic weapons (like the English Stengun and Bren, the US M1 Garand and Thomson and the German MP40 and infamous MG42) and different shells and hand grenades is a special experience. To complete this experience even a helmet can be put on. One can walk around freely through the museum, but the historian guide will guide you and give a detailed explanation about the things that are shown, but also tell stories about events that took place according to the available existing knowledge of the visitor about WW2. A drink is included in the offer.
After the halls have been visited the guide will invite you for a little ride in one or more of the vehicles, e.g. the half-track. After that a more extensive ride in the environment will be undertaken in one of the military vehicles. Accompanied by historical photographs of streets of village squares the guide will take you to the same spot and tell you about the events that took place. You will also stop at monuments in remembrance of the fallen allied soldiers. A moment of contemplation…
At the end of the tour the visitor is brought back to the rendez-vous point. Having gained an Impressive experience.
The D-Day Academy offers two tours: DEMACA and EXACA. The above description is of the DEMACA tour and takes about 3 hours. The EXACA tour consists of various 1-day expeditions to the beaches and other places of interest of the Normandy battlefield. The precise details of a tour depends on the group size.
For current visiting hours, please visit the website of the museum.
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- Text: Jaco der Nederlanden
- Photos: Jaco der Nederlanden