Trip to D-Day 65th Anniversary Celebrations in Normandy

juniper

Active Member
I went over to France on a bit of an 11th hour whim to go and see the above at the weekend, and felt so humbled by it all I felt the need to do a (not very little) post here about it:

Myself and Mrs. Juniper did a self-booking trip (paid the price as far as hotels are concerned too:eek:) at the weekend to go and see what we could of the D-Day 65 celebrations. Got a great price on the ferry (LD Lines, never even heard of them before, and was very glad to see that they existed when we got to the ferry terminal:D) from Portsmouth to Le Havre, and sailed overnight to arrive first thing Saturday am. We would have loved to see the fireworks the previous night where they apparently lit up all 50 miles of the Normandy coast with fireworks, but never mind – I couldn’t escape from work early enough.

On the Saturday we headed straight to Bayeux, where we got to see the Parade of veterans, about 600 vets in total, at the British cemetery. It was so incredibly emotional and inspiring to see them all there - gave me a huge lump in my throat I can tell you.

Next we dashed off to Pegasus Bridge, where there was a parade of the survivors of the 6th Airborne to celebrate the first activities of D Day itself and to commemorate a new memorial to Major John Howard, the leader of the glider-borne forces that day. The commemoration was jointly done by the local mayor and Major Howard’s daughter, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd, most certainly including my own.

We then headed to Arromanches, the site of ‘Port Winston’ - the Mulberry harbours that successfully enabled the vehicles to bring post D-Day supplies to the Allied forces. The harbours are crumbling but still visible. The beach was full of jeeps and other military vehicles, including also a landing craft. The port was packed with people, including most importantly the veterans who were being presented with commemorative medals, and there were many highlights, including a flypast of a Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane.

On Sunday morning we headed to Colleville-Sur-Mer, the site of the American cemetary which had been the place the day before where Sarkozy, Obama, Prince Charles et al had staged the big televised event. (Oh, and as a bit of a rant, the annoying thing about that for me was that unless you were given an invite by the US Embassy for this you couldn’t get within miles of the place on the 6th June itself, and I am sure that there were a lot of people with a much better reason to visit than me who would have been upset by this?). We also went down onto Omaha Beach, and then dashed back to see Pegasus Bridge one last time on the way back to Le Havre.

Would have loved to have got to see St Mere Eglise and St Marie du Mont, but had seen both of these before on a trip inspired by watching Band of Brothers for the first time, and time did not allow in just 24 hours or so.
Overall we were delighted with how much we saw, with the atmosphere, with the emotion of it all, which you just cannot pick up when you see these things on tv. We will be back, and do it again, for sure. Next time we will book up ahead of time, and will not then have to stay in a hotel 40 miles away and get ripped off for the privilege, but that is to no way take away from the experience, which was brilliant.

Did anyone else here go – what did you think? What was the tv coverage like?
 

johntheexpat

Distinguished Member
Everyone should visit a military cemetery at least once in their lives. The scale of the losses involved becomes a somewhat more real experience. I visited Etaples some years ago and it was a truly awesome experience.
 

FZR400RRSP

Banned
A mate and I are interested in doing a Normandy tour.
Anyone done it themselves, rather than as part of an organised tour?
Easy enough?
I'm thinking we might go in his car though, as my big black German one might not go down too well....:D
 

Uridium

Well-known Member
Everyone should visit a military cemetery at least once in their lives. The scale of the losses involved becomes a somewhat more real experience. I visited Etaples some years ago and it was a truly awesome experience.

On a Motorbike tour around France a couple of years ago me and my touring mate stopped at several War cemetaries on route. Each one we stopped at was beautifully maintained even though many of the smaller ones are nothing more than a small fenced off area in the corner of a ploughed field in the middle of nowehere. Without fail each visit brought a lump to my throat.

@Bowfer...No need fo an organised tour. All the French War cemetaries are well signposted and are aslo noted on every French roadmap I've seen.

Some of the smaller Cemetaries are well worth visiting as well as the large ones; As mentioned above many of them are just a plot in the corner of a farmers field so tend not to be filled with tourists, allowing you to take in the visit on you own.
 
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FZR400RRSP

Banned
Each one we stopped at was beautifully maintained even though many of the smaller ones are nothing more than a small fenced off area in the corner of a ploughed field in the middle of nowehere. Without fail each visit brought a lump to my throat.
I was watching a documentary about the dambusters, and it showed one area where a Lanc crashed en-route.
As you say, just a corner of a field.
Since it happened, the site has been faithfully tended by the farmer and his family.
Unbelievable.:thumbsup:

BTW, I've just finished 'LANCASTER-THE BIOGRAPHY', by Tony Iveson.
Great book.
 
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ODP

Distinguished Member
It was so incredibly emotional and inspiring to see them all there - gave me a huge lump in my throat I can tell you.
ya big wetta :arty:
 

juniper

Active Member
A mate and I are interested in doing a Normandy tour.
Anyone done it themselves, rather than as part of an organised tour?
Easy enough?
I'm thinking we might go in his car though, as my big black German one might not go down too well....:D
As Uridium said, it is indeed easy enough to do it yourself. Somewhere like Bayeux is a good base, allowing good access to Omaha and Utah beaches in the West, and Gold, Sword and Juno to the East of there. I shouldn't worry about the German car either - in fact there were quite a few German visitors we saw at the weekend too - the German cemetary at La Cambe in fact is a very haunting experience - the quite austere nature of the place is such a contrast to the likes of Colleville, but is no less a dramatic or must-see experience because of it.
 

IronGiant

Moderator
Both my Grandfathers were at Vimy ridge (and both came home) so that was a must see for me, but it is a memorial rather than a cemetery. It's a bit of a step from Normandy but may be "on the way" depending on what crossing you make.

Dave
 

Solomon Grundy

Distinguished Member
I know my Grandad was there in Europe but because he would not talk about it I do not know where...be great to get his service records now that he has passed on as I am sure he would have been upset had I done it while he was still alive.
 

FZR400RRSP

Banned
Been some excellent documentaries on the History channel this past weekend too.
I remember one bloke making me laugh.
IIRC, he was a doctor and was talking about having to give the wounded drips on the beach.
Dodging bullets himself etc.
The interviewer asked;

"And did you volunteer for this?"

Quick as a flash reply

"No"

:rolleyes::D
 

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