When in Normandy, besides seeing Mont Saint Michel, there is one other major thing to do. And that is visit the beaches of Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword and Utah. If that isn’t enough of a hint then add in 6 June 1944 and hopefully you have it by now. The D-Day beaches.
After having breakfast at a nearby Cafe and not being ripped off this time (see we are quick learners), we headed up north to the town of Arromanches. It was about an hour and half of driving and the GPS did take us down some scenic, small and winding roads. We arrived at the town at about 11:30am and went to the museum which is situated on the foreshore where the first Allied troops would have landed. This was ‘Gold’ beach where one of the British divisions landed and it was also the place where one of the Mulberry Harbours was built. The remnants of the Harbour are still able to be seen today (as evidence by the photo). You will see that it was overcast today but not raining for much of the day. The same sort of weather that was experienced by the troops landing on the D-Day beaches on 6 June 1944.
The museum has photos, artifacts, notes, uniforms, weapons, a scale replica of the harbour etc in it. It was a stirring experience. It was an emotional experience. The notes were often handwritten and showed something of the intensely personal nature of what was experienced that day and some of the following days in the liberation of Europe. To think, if that hadn’t happened we might all be speaking German and eating Bratwurst and Sauerkraut.
You cannot romanticize or trivialize what occurred that day. One of the quotes in the museum from Harry Parley, a 2nd class lieutenant from the British army was “As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down, I became a visitor to hell.” There was an account of another officer who on landing realised they were taking heavy losses because of a gun station above them. He single-handedly went and took the gun station, killing all the German soldiers manning it. He then noticed that there was another bunker causing the landing troops trouble and took that one by himself as well. Later in the day he rescued two men from his division who were about to be killed by Germans. An incredible day for him. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts on 6 June 1944 alone. He saw the war to completion and returned home to England to die of old age. It was because of men like him that the world is as it is today. I have been reminded that the bravery of men 60, 100 and even 1000 or more years ago has resulted in the life we all enjoy today. Take a moment to be thankful for them. We did today.