Sign-Posted Battlefield Exploration

The French aren't noted for being the best at sign-posting things. It's not uncommon for visitors to be following road signs towards their destination, only for the signs to suddenly just stop - often, it seems, just as the traveller arrives at a three-way junction. Thankfully we now have Sat-Nav (or GPS to our American friends).

For many years the Normandy battlefield area had eight signposted routes highlighting theSign-posted Overlord battlefield routes key stages in the timeline of Operation Overlord from the landings on 6th June 1944 to the closing of the Falaise Pocket in August. The routes each had their own explanatory title and included multiple stops along the way. At each stop visitors would find a tall dark blue sign, or "Totem", with a little bit of information. Each year the official Normandy tourist booklet would also contain a copy of the map with the routes. They were a very useful way of helping visitors navigate the expansive area which saw fighting during the Battle of Normandy, whilst providing some context and chronology.

As of 2019, for some reason, the authorities have removed this very useful signage - although the blue totems themselves still remain. The totems give an explanation of the significance of that site or area, with one side having French language and the other English. Some of the totems are also equipped as "Géo Points" at which visitors can use smartphones or tablets to get additional information. You can read more about these "Géo Points" on our Digital D-Day page.

Despite the removal of the actual signs, the routes are, of course, still valid. Below we give a quick summary of each of the eight routes along with some basic details. For each of them there is a link to download a .gpx file (you can read about GPX files here), but essentially they are small text files which can be imported into some navigation devices or apps allowing users to recreate and follow the routes on those devices. To avoid problems when downloading the files we have included zipped versions for each route, as well as the files themselves.

The colour-coded map displayed at the bottom of the page gives an overview of the eight original routes and some of the stops along the way. If you click on the map you can open/download a PDF version for enlargement or printing, or you can simply click here to download a PDF version of the map instead.

It's a shame the signs have been removed after so many years, but their essence lives on with advances in technology.



The Eight Routes

Overlord - The Assault

Overlord - The Assault

Overlord l'Assaut  Yellow Route: Overlord - The Assault

This route concentrates on the British and Canadian sectors and the activities of D-Day itself, including the British airborne assault on the invasion area's eastern flank.


   Route length - 117km

   Approximate Duration - 5 hours

   GPX file

   GPX file (zipped)
D-Day - The Onslaught

D-Day - The Onslaught

D-Day Le Choc  Purple Route: D-Day - The Onsalught

This route focuses on the American landings at Omaha Beach, along with the battle for and capture of the towns of Carentan and St Lô.


   Route length - 120km

   Approximate Duration - 6 hours

   GPX file

   GPX file (zipped)
Objective - A Port

Objective - A Port

Objectif un Port  Orange Route: Objective - A Port

Concentrating on the landings at Utah Beach and the American airborne assault, this route follows the mission to capture the port of Cherbourg.


   Route length - 101km

   Approximate Duration - 5 hours

   GPX file

   GPX file (zipped)
The Confrontation

The Confrontation

L'Affrontement  Light Green Route: The Confrontation

Starting from Bénouville this route focuses on the stalemate around the city of Caen and advance southward to consolidate the Normandy beachead.


   Route length - 121km

   Approximate Duration - 6 hours

   GPX file

   GPX file (zipped)
Cobra - The Breakout

Cobra - The Breakout

Cobra La Percée  Dark Green Route: Cobra - The Breakout

This route follows General Omar Bradley's attack southwards down the Cotentin Peninsula which pushed the Germans forces back towards Brittany.


   Route length - 209km

   Approximate Duration - 5 hours

   GPX file

   GPX file (zipped)
The Counter-Attack

The Counter-Attack

Le Contre-Attaque  Red Route: The Counter-Attack

This route takes in locations around the German counter-attack in the Mortain area following the American breakout at Avranches.


   Route length - 197km

   Approximate Duration - 6 hours

   GPX file

   GPX file (zipped)
The Encirclement

The Encirclement

L'Encerclement  Brown Route: The Encirclement

From Alençon to l'Aigle this route helps visitors understand how the Falaise Pocket was closed from the south, trapping the fleeing Germans.


   Route length - 145km

   Approximate Duration - 6 hours

   GPX file

   GPX file (zipped)
The Outcome

The Outcome

Le Dénouement  Blue Route: The Outcome

This route looks at the final battle around the Falaise area, the closing of the pocket and the eventual defeat of the German army in Normandy.


   Route length - 126km

   Approximate Duration - 5 hours

   GPX file

   GPX file (zipped)


Overview Map

Overview of the sign-posted battlefield routes in Normandy
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