The historic city of Caen in north-western France came under relentless bombardment in the Battle of Normandy in 1944.
These include packed suitcases, tins of syrup, maps and official passes and even ladies’ make-up bags containing nail varnish and lipstick. There are also children’s magazines and toys, shoes, prayer books and makeshift beds.
Caen Memorial historian, Marc Pottier, said the lost world was a hugely moving testament to the ordeal of ordinary people during the war.
He said: “During the summer of 1944 here in Caen, 15,000 refugees experienced some of the most terrible conditions imaginable. By visiting these galleries we can better understand what they went through.”
On D-Day (June 6th 1944), Caen was the principal objective for the British 3rd Infantry Division and was the scene of intense fighting right up until August. The old city, including parts dating back to the Middle Ages, was largely destroyed, with three-quarters of the buildings reduced to rubble.
Reconstruction went on until 1962, with most of the underground shelters largely forgotten. Caen University hopes that at least some of the caves might one day be opened to the public.
by Andy Moreton
For a stay in the Caen region, Luxique can offer the best rates at Relais Chateau d’Audrieu, an outstanding 18th century listed building set in lush parkland.