Musée 44 La Percée du Bocage

Parking

There is a small car park beside the museum building.

Toilets

There are some toilets, accessible before entering the exhibition space.

Gift Shop

There are books and other items for sale at the ticket counter. Some can also be purchased through their website.

It is really difficult for us to review this museum honestly and fairly, because although we have visited it twice and the content was largely, if not entirely, the same - the way we viewed everything was very different on the two separate occasions. We will try to explain.

When everything is working correctly, visitors are ushered around the museum by an automatic, timed lighting system. The lights in the "next" section come on and the lights where you are presently standing will go out. The idea is to guide you around the museum in synchronisation with an audio guide. This may have seemed like a good, perhaps even novel, idea at the outset. However, for us it ruined our first visit to the museum and was the principal reason behind the very low star-rating we originally gave it.

Upon arrival we were directed to a small seating area to watch part of a documentary about fighting in the area during the Battle of Normandy. This, we later learned, was because the viewing of "museum proper" has to be coordinated with the automated, timed lighting system. Once we entered the main exhibit area we were initially encouraged as it looked like a good variety of information panels, cabinets with artefacts and full-sized dioramas with mannequins - fairly typical of a Second World War museum in Normandy.

We found it mildly annoying that photography was prohibited, as not only does this help to give our visitors a bit of "colour" when reading our reviews but it also allows us to take "visual notes" of interesting information or unusual items. In the social media age, it's just common sense as any images people share online is basically free advertising for the museum.

However, what was far more annoying than the photography ban was the lighting system. By controlling the lights on an automated timing system, visitors are forced to move from one area to another around what is effectively a one-way system. Visitors can go backwards - but there would be little point as the previously-viewed areas would be in darkness. We had to hurry to make sure we're giving everything at least a cursory look before the lights forced us to move along.

We managed to make it as far as the map table/diorama which has lights and an audio commentary that describes, in great details, the fighting around the local area. To start with this was interesting, but it did seem to go on...and on....and on. As described above we were prevented from moving on to the rest of the exhibits or backtracking to things we had already (briefly) looked at - because everywhere apart from the map table/diorama and close by was in total darkness. We wouldn't have believed someone if they'd told us about this museum, but we saw it (or rather couldn't) first hand!

After what seemed like a considerable amount of time, but which was probably less than we thought, we decided we'd had enough of the map/diorama and of the museum itself. We made our way through the darkened remainder of the exhibit area until we found the exit, and therefore missed about half of the museum's displays. It was a shame, as there are definitely some interesting things to look at and to read.

When we learned that the management of the museum had changed and had been taken over by the local commune in 2016, we thought it was time to give it another try. For a while, the museum was only opening at weekends and public holidays, but this appeared to have been a temporary measure whilst the museum got back on its feet. According to the website it is now open daily - and the new website itself is actually modern and well designed, something that is generally rare among the D-Day/Battle of Normandy museums.

Our second visit took place in 2018, and this is where things get a little bit tricky.

Upon entering the museum, we were greeted by a very friendly British lady who started by apologising that the audio system in the museum was not functioning correctly. She said we were still welcome to go inside, but after speaking with her French colleague she asked if it was ok if all the lights were left on. We responded enthusiastically in the affirmative.

As you can imagine, we were both disappointed that the original "timed lighting" system was still a feature, but also extremely grateful that, at least on that particular day, it wasn't working. We made a point of asking the nice lady if we could take photographs inside. She said we could, and whilst we did see a "No Photography" sign inside we assume that was just a left-over from the old operators of the museum.

Now that we were able to see the museum "properly" we found it to be a much better experience. There is a good mix of chronological information panels, with text (both French and English), maps and photographs, along with a several full-size dioramas depicting scenes with British, German and American soldiers. Glass cabinets contain a wide range of items, although there are only a few labels and generally no English translations. Many just reference who donated the item to the museum. The large, small-scale diorama is adorned with British and German vehicles, whilst the commentary used the map to describe in detail the fighting in the area during Operation Bluecoat.

It goes without saying that our second visit was much more rewarding than our first. Our issue is not with the content of the museum itself, but rather the inane manner in which visitors are forced to experience it. It's also no criticism of the individuals who keep the museum open, in an area which is a little off the beaten track for many who visit the Normandy battle sites - so we don't imagine it gets the footfall that some other museums enjoy.

Our original review awarded only a 1½ star rating. Following our more recent visit, we have increased this to two stars. This may not seem especially generous, but it based on the fact that we know that the timed-lighting system is still in place...even if we were fortunate to find it malfunctioning when we visited. If everyone could view the museum as we did last time, then we'd have no issue awarding it three stars.


Updated: July 2018



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