A hangar is to be erected across the 9th Parachute Battalion’s attack route.
The set up of the Management of the Merville Battery Museum is quite possibly unique for Normandy. All of the decisions are made by an Anglo-French (GIP) Committee, with four representatives (of which I was one) from the British ‘Friends of the Merville Battery’. The other big difference is that much of the work carried out on the site is performed by a large group of French volunteers. These people have done a tremendous amount to evolve the Merville Battery Museum over the last ten years. With the fame of the 9th Parachute Battalion’s action and the museum increasing, visitor numbers have risen accordingly, necessitating a new entrance building and car park. These are absolutely vital improvements and during the commemorations for the forthcoming 75th Anniversary of D-Day, on 5th June the new building will be officially opened.
However, there is one other part in the building project which I believe will be disastrous for the site and its history (and has caused my resignation from the Committee). This is a hangar for the Dakota that will be built right across the attack route into the Battery by Colonel Otway’s small force.
Apart from altering the historic topography, the proposed hangar is HUGE and will dominate the site, providing a seismic shift in the focus of the Merville Battery. Also, this will not be just a hangar. It is obvious that it will become a museum within its own right, splitting the history of the Merville Battery.
This will be a final dilution of the 9th Parachute Battalion’s history, which has been gradually eroded for a few years now, in favour of becoming a more ‘general museum’ about the 6th Airborne Division.
The Dakota at the site has been designated as a ‘national treasure’, and requires protection from the elements. However, it is my opinion that the position chosen for this hangar is to the detriment of the history and the future of the site. Although there is the link between visitor numbers and people becoming more aware of the action, there comes a time when enough is enough. This is a step too far.