There is one house in Bernières sur mer that is simply part of our collective memory, a large villa built at the entrance to the beach. Closely linked to the D-Day Landings, it is its true symbol.

Visits by appointment only.

This villa, very much in the style of neo-Norman seaside architecture, with its thatched roof and half-timbering, was built in 1928 on the seafront, on the very recent seawall at the entrance to the beach for Léon Enault, director of the Louvre department stores, then the Hôtel Crillon, Place de la Concorde and the Hôtel Terminus, Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris.

6 June, D-Day

At 7.15am, the Queen's Own Riffle of Canada landed in front of Bernières, with the mission of reducing the casemate at La Cassine. By 8.05am, its men were on shore. The state of the sea prevented the landing of artillery and heavy equipment, and they suffered very heavy losses. More than a hundred dead and wounded. Nevertheless, they silenced the Cassine casemate, took over L'Étrille and Les Goélands and used grenades to dislodge several German soldiers who had taken refuge in the cellars. These were immediately taken prisoner in the south courtyard, then taken shortly afterwards to the beach where the survivors of the Queen's Own, joined by men from the Chaudière regiment, rounded up the German prisoners.

The house was then occupied by British Admiral Cooper, who made it his headquarters until September 1944, with the onerous task of coordinating all supply operations for Allied troops advancing inland. Every day, a noria of flat-bottomed barges arrived from England and unloaded their cargo on the beach at Bernières, leaving at the next tide.

Thus L'Etrille et les Goélands, certainly the first house liberated on French soil, went down in history. It features in many of the photos and film footage taken on D-Day by both Canadian and British war correspondents, broadcast in the early hours of the Liberation - it even appears on a Canadian stamp issued on 7 November 1994!

Since then, it has become the true symbol of the D-Day Landings for the people of Bern and our Canadian and British friends alike. And every year, the Hoffer family opens the Étrille to them. Many friendships have been forged with veterans and their families, who see this Famous House as Canada's House. 

Today, the left-hand side of the house is run by the "Maison des Canadiens" association, which offers free guided tours all year round, booking by e-mail. The right-hand side of the house is managed by the Town Hall, which will be hosting exhibitions.

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