The Var was the location for two significant events during the Second World War: scuttling the fleet at Toulon on the 27th November 1942, and the Allied landing on the 15th August 1944 on the beaches below the Maures Massif –
an event greatly supported by the French Resistance in the Var.
On the 15th August, French commandos and Allied parachutists landed on the Cap Nègre and around the Muy and La Motte, followed a few hours later by the landing on the beache of Lavandou, Rayol-Canadel, Cavalaire, Ramatuelle, Sainte-Maxime and Saint-Raphaël by infantrymen and American tanks. In complete disarray, the Germans only offered a sporadic resistance, and connections were soon established between the various troops. Supported by the FFI, the Americans were able to march towards Aix and Digne, whilst the French attached Hyères to the east and circumvented Toulon to the north, towards Bandol and Marseilles. On the 21st August, the department was almost fully liberated, with the exception of Toulon and the surrounding area, which would be permanently liberated on the 28th August.
In total, 100,000 Allied soldiers landed in the Var and 10,000 were parachuted in. 2,000 fighter planes and 200 battleships were mobilised for operation ‘Anvil – Dragoon’ – the code name for the landing.
The main landing beaches
CANADEL BEACH: a group of African commandos landed here by mistake on the night of the 14th August. They established contact with the detachment on Cap Nègre, then invaded Rayol and Mole, 10km from the coast.
CAVALAIRE BEACH: on the 15th August, the troops from the 3rd American Infantry Division landed on this beach, of which a small number joined the French commandos from Canadel and the Cap Nègre at 13:00.
LE CAP NEGRE: on the 15th August, just after midnight, 70 specially-trained African Commandos landed at the bottom of the Cap Nègre cliffs and scaled them, surprising the enemy and seizing the battery that they were tasked with reducing.
PAMPELONNE BEACH: on the morning of the 15th August, the 3rd American Infantry Division landed on this huge beach that would become an important landing site. Not far from this beach, the Ramatuelle aerodrome, built in 48 hours by destroying the vineyards, allowed the 1st Allied planes to take off.
NARTELLE BEACH: on the 15th August, the 45th American Infantry Division landed here, followed by the French 1st Armoured Division, led by General Sudre, the following night.
DRAMONT BEACH: the wreck of an Allied ship, the concrete German structures and the commemorative monument overlooking the beach serve as reminders of this battle that took place on the 15th August, when the 36th American Infantry Division landed.
Don’t miss: visit to the ‘Memorial of the Allied Landing and Liberation of Provence’ in Toulon
This Museum was fully renovated in 2016 and is one of the 9 key national remembrance sites of the Ministry of Defence. With outstanding views over the harbour of Toulon, the memorial uses the latest advances in historical research and modern technologies to immerse the visitor in Provence landings and the events of summer 1944.