As a young girl of 19 years old Chantal Nobécourt volunteered for the Red Cross in Caen in the summer of 1944. When the city endured the heavy bombardments by the German and Canadian armies she worked at the nursery in the Malherbe High School, that was equipped as refugee centre for the inhabitants of Caen.
Chantal Nobécourt was born in Rouen on 30 January 1925. In 1942 she moved to Caen with her family when her father, a veteran of the First World War, became editor of the ‘Journal de Normandie’, a newspaper that was closely watched by the Germans. In 1943 Chantal enlisted for the Red Cross.
On the evening of 5 June 1944 Chantal heard the Allied bombardment of Normandy and realised that the invasion was in progress. That night her family took refuge in the cellar of their house. Right after D-Day Chantal started helping the refugees in the Saint-Etienne Church. In the Malherbe High School she organised a centre for babies to make sure that they were taken care of.
On 9 July the first Canadians arrived in Caen, that was still partly occupied by the Germans. Chantal helped the local resistance to raise the tricolour on the Place Monseigneur des Hameaux. But when the Canadians announced another heavy attack, she participated in the evacuation of all refugees to Bayeux. After the liberation of Caen Chantal volunteered for the National Mutual Aid and participated in the distribution of clothes during the winter of 1944-1945.
After the war Chantal Rivière-Nobécourt, who passed her life from adolescence to adulthood on the ruins of Caen, was deputy mayor for culture in Caen from 1977-1989.
On D-Day Caen was an important Allied objective as it was an essential road hub, strategically astride the Orne River and Caen Canal. The Germans defended this stronghold with all their power. It took six weeks of fighting and heavy shelling to capture the capital of Normandy. 30,000 Anglo-Canadian soldiers and 3,000 civilians lost their lives.
One of its kind in France, the Mémorial de Caen Museum gives the public the keys to understanding the Second World War, from its origins after the First World War to its latest consequences in 1989. It prompts the visitor to ask himself questions about this rapidly fading episode that changed the face of Europe and the world.
As soon as the news of the D-Day landings in Normandy was heard, the head of the Caen Gestapo decided to execute all Allied prisoners held at the Caen jail. 87 of them were shot in the prison courtyard throughout the day of 6 June 1944. Their bodies were never found.
With nearly 4.000 British soldiers buried here, the Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest British military cemetery of the Second World War in France. The adjacent memorial commemorates the unidentified Commonwealth soldiers who fell during the Battle of Normandy and recalls the close links between Normandy and Britain.