Reflections from Normandy: Overview

The Normandy beaches viewed from the Channel at 06:00 - what a sight it must have made 70 years ago

The Normandy beaches viewed from the Channel at 06:00 – what a sight this must have made to young men in their landing craft 70 years ago

Travelling to Le Mans for the 24 Hours brought with it the opportunity to take a whistle-stop tour of the Normandy beaches and dig around in the embers of last week’s spectacular D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations.

In fact the official commemorations will go on for another week, albeit on a somewhat less presidential scale, and the knock-on effects of the event are profound in France. Only this morning I discovered from a French colleague that the rail strike that will hit all main line and Métro services this week has been timed to coincide with the D-Day bank holiday, so that the oppressed workers can take advantage of spending a few days away somewhere pleasant!

If you want to know when the French are going on strike, check the bank holiday dates...

If you want to know when the French are going on strike, check the bank holiday dates…

There are many pages of the Internet dedicated to the military campaign and still more news stories and editorial content available covering the commemorations. That is not the S&G’s purpose in life. I am simply going to post some photos of my journey down the D514 coast road, a backwoods route these days but which was, in 1944, the main artery for the defending Germans and the advancing Allies.

I haven’t included any of the many museums that can be visited along the route for the simple reason that I didn’t stop at any. In all honesty one doesn’t need to in order to get a sense of those momentous days in 1944 as so much of what happened is writ large on the landscape. But if you have the time, say three days or so, there is a virtually limitless supply of preserved artefacts on display as well as, of course, the gigantic cemeteries of German, American, Canadian and British war dead.

What follows for S&G readers are the images I took away from the battlefields as they are today – both with commemorative crowds and as you will find them if you venture there at any other time. It is a journey well worth the making.

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