The Hillman Strongpoint...
...at Colleville-Montgomery, Normandy
Colleville-Montgomery, a name which it changed in memory of the Field Marshall, is a village on high ground behind Ouistreham, overlooking one of the D-Day Landing Beaches, Sword. One of a group of German strongpoints that were all D-Day targets, there was Hillman, Morris, Daimler and Humber. Hillman was a command and observation post up on the ridge behind the beaches, and had a great view of the landings on the beaches in front. To the Germans, it was Wn 17. Closer to the shore, and slightly to the north east of the position (looking toward the sea) were the gun positions that were 'Morris'.
Hillman was taken, as was Morris, and after the war the land owner presented the Hilllman site as a gift to the people of the town, and it is held in memory of the Suffolk Regiment, who liberated the community back on D-Day. Today the bunkers are still there, and the three main ones are kept locked up, but two of them open each week for guided tours. This year, 2011, I went back for another visit to the site, which has a car park and you are able to walk around it at any time you are able to visit. Only the larger bunkers are kept shut, while the rest of the position is freely open to have a look at. This year I was lucky, and was able to catch one of the tour days (3pm on Tuesday afternoons).
The group who look after the site, Les Amis des Suffolk Regiment are all keen enthusiasts on the history of the area. I'd had a look in one of the bunkers that was open, but came back to see the Command Bunker on the Tuesday afternoon. With some display cases, some equipment still in place or found to go on show, there is the shaft that looks up to the steel observation cupola that you can see on the surface. I gather that not only did they have a visitor only a few years ago who walked in and said 'That was my bunk', but the details and medals of the Commander of the Hillman site were also sent to them by his family, and are now displayed in the collection.
With water reservoir, cook house, guard post and the 3 main bunkers, all complete with integrated Tobruk pits, this is now a really pleasant place to visit. It is also a case of standing in the footsteps of history. The trenches, barbed wire and mines that protected the garrison are all gone, but the bunkers and the view down to the beach is a moving experience to imagine what it must have been like, not only for the German troops stationed there, but also for the British troops who were tasked with capturing them.
During my visit I was told that one of the gun bunkers from the Morris battery has also been given to the group, as the area of the Morris strongpoint is now being covered by an expanding modern housing estate. I was asked if I'd like to have a look, and was told I was the first visitor to be shown the bunker since it was handed over. Currently it is used purely for storage, and still has pictures of horses painted inside where it was used for private stables since the end of the war. Directly opposite though, a new house was still under construction, and I was amazed to see that an open gun emplacement has been left intact within the garden of the house. Just imagine the Estate Agent details, '3 Bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, one en-suite, kitchen, garage for two cars, good size garden and gun emplacement'. I have to be honest, pretty much a dream house for me....if only
Back at Hillman, we stood on the roadside, looking over to the east, and towards Ouistreham (North East) and Pegasus Bridge (South east). Apparently there was a machine gun position here that inflicted a number of casualties among the Norfolk Regiment as they advanced through open country toward the area of Pegasus Bridge, where they were to support the gliders that had landed there. Empty cartirdge cases have been found in the verge, where the machine gun position was at that time.
If you visit the Normandy area, do make sure you visit the Hillman site in Colleville-Montgomery, and I certain you will thoroughly enjoy seeing what is left there today, and the amazing view to the beach.