A lot of horrible things happen in a war— surprise bombings, gas attacks, probably a shower of bullets. It could’ve been any of those during the invasion of Normandy but what made it hell for the soldiers were the little French farms that welcomed them: the hedgerows.

D-Day Invasion

The Battle of the Normandy was the Allies’ operation to invade Western Europe that the Germans occupied. About 160,000 troops crossed the English channel on the first day of the invasion. The Allied forces failed on the first day (more of that later on) but eventually succeeded after capturing the port at Cherbourg.


The hedgerows in the French countryside. Photo from The Platers Aid

The farms in Normandy were divided by ancient hedgerows. They are fences or boundaries “formed by a dense row of shrubs or low trees. Hedgerows enclose or separate fields, protect the soil from wind erosion, and serve to keep cattle and other livestock enclosed.” It is said that the Romans started the practice before the 18th century. They often included stone walls as well that farmers had dug up out of the soil to prepare the fields for crops.

Hedgerows in the D-Day Invasion

Hedgerows, however, served an entirely different purpose during WWII. When the allies arrived in June 1944, they were welcomed by these walls of vegetation as high as 16 feet on top of the mounds. Cutting through them seemed impossible. As per Battle of Normandy Tours, it “made defense easier and attack more difficult. The Germans had used the previous two weeks of inaction to construct strong defenses, and when the American Army resumed its attacks south, they soon ran into stiff resistance.” We’re talking about some 3,900 hedge enclosures in an eight-square-mile area.