Overlord Museum

Parking

The museum has its own large car park behind the main building.

Toilets

There are well maintained toilets on site near the entrance to the building.

Gift Shop

There is a good gift shop selling, books, DVDs, models and a variety of other gifts.

The Overlord Museum at Colleville-sur-Mer opened in June 2013 making it one the younger museums covering the Battle of Normandy. It is located on the roundabout just outside the entrance road to the Normandy American Cemetery and just a few minute's walk from the Big Red One Assault Museum. The huge concrete structure isn't the prettiest piece of architecture in Normandy, but the cavernous interior allows for some of the largest and most complex dioramas we've seen.

We first visited the Overlord Museum a few days after it opened in 2013. Even then we were impressed although the work hadn't been entirely completed. Today the large grassy area to the front of the museum has been fully laid and now boasts a section of Bailey Bridge in addition to the original M4 Sherman, M10 Tank Destroyer and Sexton self-propelled gun.

The museum starts with a small area dedicated to pre-invasion France and an interesting "Goatley Boat" collapsible boat of the type used on the Dieppe raid (Operation Jubilee). Visitors are then taken right onto Omaha Beach for the American assault. Although the dioramas themselves could be a little better illuminated, the various glass cabinets with smaller artefacts are well lit. As visitors make their way around the displays the dioramas themselves are enhanced by a localised audio loop which gives them even more life. We don't know who made the custom mannequins which feature in the various scenes, but they did a great job. Some are almost too lifelike, and a particular German officer looks amazingly similar to Ben Affleck.

What follows is a chronological journey through to the liberation of Paris. Unlike some museums, visitors will not suffer from "death by reading" but concise, multi-lingual panels give just enough context to the scenes. Another nice touch are the heavy-duty reproductions of period documents and magazine covers which are dotted around the museum in plastic holders. These add a little more colour to the subject.

The founder of the museum's collection was Michel Leloup. At the age of 15, as the Battle of Normandy raged around him, he would listen BBC broadcasts on a radio set hidden inside an old cider barrel at his home on a small family farm near L'Aigle. By the time the fighting has moved past the Normandy region he had already begun to explore the wrecks of damaged tanks and vehicles that littered the countryside. After the war Michel began a small logging business where he put surplus war equipment to good use. His first saw-mill was powered by a generator from a Panzer IV and he transported timber in a Canadian C60 truck. He later purchased a German SdKfz 251 to haul heavy logs. Many years later he purchased another of these half-tracks to restore to its former glory. This began a 40 year obsession with collecting and restoring wartime vehicles. In 2009 a piece of land was secured near Omaha Beach with the intention of displaying his vast collection to the public. Sadly, Michel passed away in 2011 before he could fully realise his dream.

There is ample car parking at the museum, although around the time of the D-Day Anniversary it can get incredibly busy. The car park is flat and no steps need to be negotiated either outside or inside the museum. There are very clean toilets and some vending machines. The shop appears at first to be quite small, but is actually deceptively quite comprehensive. At certain times of the year the museum operates a barbeque stand adjacent to the car park.

Steve Davis of and the British company Setout Deisgn Ltd were responsible for collating the images and writing the text used inside the museum. They also organised the manufacturer of the excellent mannequins at the museum, which were sculpted by another Englishman Jasper Lyons.

Updated: July 2016



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