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20th Century: Second World War and “D Day”

The Second World War

Panneau Place Jean Moulin - Photo : G. BrameIn September 1939, France was at war with Germany and metropolitan France was soon invaded. In July 1940, Marshal Pétain came to power and went on to lead the “Vichy Government” and collaborate with the Nazi German regime. The French suffered food shortages and fuel rationing but a black market developed and the Resistance movement began to get organized.

On June 18th 1940, General de Gaulle broadcast an appeal from a BBC studio in London, calling on all French people living abroad and the Allied powers to rally to save France and Europe. At the same time, Winston Churchill in Britain and Général Eisenhover in the United States were secretly preparing an invasion with the help of the Resistance networks.

D-Day – “Le Jour J”

In the sand and snow, I write your name, Liberty.” Paul Eluard

Drapeaux américain, canadien, britannique, normand et français pour les cérémonies du Débarquement - Photo : G. BrameOn June 6th 1944, a page of world history was written on the beaches of Normandy. The Allies were the long awaited “tide of liberty”. The liberators arrived in Paris on August 25th 1944. Europe must never forget the soldiers who came from different countries around the world to free it from Hitler’s totalitarian regime. The treaty ending the War in Europe was not signed until May 8th 1945 after the surrender of Nazi Germany.

There is a memorial museum in Caen dedicated to Peace. Known as “le Mémorial”, it contains many memories of the Second World War and pays moving homage to all those who gave so much to achieve peace. Its telephone number is easy to remember: 02 31 06 06 44 (June 6th 1944).


The French called British soldiers "Tommy" because Tom was a common name in England. The Americans were nicknamed "Sammy", with Uncle Sam in mind.

Tombe de Brian Cornwall, soldat britannique - Photo : G. BrameA Brian, notre "Tommy"

Pour notre joie de vivre

Combien de soldats sont morts ?

Héroïque et sublime Brian fut chez nous la seule victime

Près de son corps glorieux

Dans sa poitrine ouverte

J’ai vu de mes yeux,

Raidi, son coeur inerte.

Gaston Tremblot – June 6th 1994

To Brian, our "Tommy"

For us to enjoy life

How many soldiers died?

Heroic and sublime,

Brian was the only victim here.

Through the gaping chest wound

In his proud body

I saw with my own eyes

His frozen, inert heart.

Brian Cornwall was killed on August 19th 1944 at the age of 18. He is buried in Normandy at Moulins-sur-Orne.

Ralph D. Day was shot down in his plane on July 5th 1944, aged 21.


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