|A sobering but very interesting day as we journeyed from Bayeux to the Normandy beaches, the scene of the D Day landings seen by the Allied forces as an invasion but by the French as liberation., and of course it did not all happen in just one day.
Our first stop was at the German cemetery, well kept but so sad with so many of the burial spots just marked with the indication that here are buried two soldiers or one soldier and one name or occasionally two named soldiers. One plaque though has attracted particular attention and there are always fresh flowers place on it and the name is Michael Wittmans, apparently a much decorated German soldier but whose name now lives on in some on-line war games. A worrying thought.
Moving on to Pointe du Hoc on the coast the cliffs that had to be scaled by the first forces to land can be seen. The first group had the task of destroying six big guns thought to be along that headland but what was found were decoys, the big guns having been moved inland. The area has craters scattered all round and a German bunker is still there as is the rusty barbed wire. Corinne, our very knowledgeable guide had many explanatory maps and photographs and explained the great difficulty the first troops had in scalingnthe cliffs, being wet and laden with equipment.
Our next stop was at the American Cemetery which overlooks what is an area of more landings known as Omaha. Here in immaculately kept grounds are the crosses and stars of David for more than 9000 young people who died in the conflict, and around the walls are the names of many more who were never found so have no burial place.
Our loch stop was at Le Havre, a fishing port with a marina of boats. The walled harbour has a small outlet to the sea reminiscent of the Cornish harbours. It was a lovely sunny day somsitting alongside the sheltered harbour was a delight.
Our afternoon visit was to the village of Arromanches. The allied forces had realised that an invasion would not be successful unless there could be ongoing supply of soldiers, support staff and materials. The Germans were guarding the harbours along the coast and a disastrous attempt to take the port at Dieppe had shown that the allies could not rely on taking an existing port/harbour. The plan, originating in England, was to build an artificial harbour and that was achieved with the components being fabricated in all different areas of .England withnworkers unaware as to the final purpose of what was being fabricated. On June 7th the work started with firstly old merchant ships being sunk as an outer breakwater, then huge concrete " boxes" which had been towed from England were put in place 2 km off shore forming a protective sea wall. There landing wharves were then installed with floating causeways which allowed gooods and equipment to be transferred from ship to shore. A hundred or so barrage balloons , inflated with hydrogen were floated above to prevent enemy planes attacking and lastly artificial fog was created each night. The whole construction was completed in two days!
The D-Day museum located in the town has excellent models and a film tells the story including a letter from Winton Churchill - a very short letter ordering an artificial harbour, and saying that it must be done despite any sort of difficulties.
The remains of this artificial harbour are clear out at sea and on the beach where today, as it is Ascension Thursday and a public holiday families were making the most of the sun. I had no knowledge of this part of the landings and realise how vital it was in pushing back the occupying forces.
Dinner tonight was outdoors at a lovely restaurant situated on a small river with a reservoir and water wheel. I'm heading to be now to be ready for another busy day tomorrow with the weather forecast to be warm and sunny.
Sorry still no hope of adding photos.