Battlefield History Tours

Battlefield History Tours
Incorporating History and Heritage tours


 
Western Front to Normandy Tour on 23 September 2019

    

Today is our last day in Normandy, for tomorrow we head to Paris where we disperse to the four winds. And judging by the weather forecast there could be a bit of wind and rain about.

We decided to do the outdoor sites first because of the threat of rain later in the day.

So first up we headed to Coleville sur Mer behind Omaha Beach, and the spectacular American cemetery, containing about 9,400 graves. Most people assume this is the largest American war cemetery in France, but that is not the case. That title goes to the WW1 American cemetery in the Argonne.

There is an excellent display in the visitors centre, which as is the case in all US Government controlled sites, one had to go through security screening. At Point du Hoc, bags were banned outright. Paradoxically here they expedited one's screening because the queue was shorter!

After spending the best part of two hours taking it all in, we were on the move again. There was one more gun battery and complex to see – and it is the Granddady of them all at least in this part of the Atlantic Wall. The Longues sur Mer battery of heavy 150mm naval guns, three of four of which are still in their casemates is the only site where this is the case. The Germans certainly poured a lot of concrete in other countries during WW2 – these casemates were clearly meant to last and exhibited surprisingly little damage considering what had been directed at them.

Although one of the gun positions had been destroyed by a direct hit by what would appear to have been a naval gun, there was little evidence of the cratering that so defined Pointe du Hoc. On D Day, these guns were fully occupied in a shoot-out with battleships and cruisers, the fire from which eventually neutralised this battery, and then it was overrun by British ground forces.

Just as we were leaving, four 15m coaches from the Hangard touring company turned up and disgorged their contents; about 50 people in each apparently off a cruise ship somewhere. We had paid our visit and made our getaway just in time.

Next stop Arromanches, the centrepiece of which is the vista of the remains of the Mulberry floating harbour, which are very visible offshore. After our lunch on the go, we had timed our visit to coincide with an ebb tide so a couple of hardy souls undertook to take a short walk out to the nearest beached caisson, marooned in the sand.

From there it was an inspection of the Musee du Debarquement which has an amazing scale model of the Mulberry based on original manufacturers models complete with simulated wave action as the structures flexed and rode the waves up and down. An absolutely mind-boggling undertaking.

The role of Lieutenant Hudstep RAN in skippering an X Craft (British midget submarine) to perform a critical signalling function, prior to the landings is covered off.

With the tide coming in and rain threatening once again, we had timed our visit well and so with a few of us licking ice creams we made our way to the pick-up point and Lee collected us for our return to Bayeux to take any opportunities to do some more investigation of this beautiful town.

Our 'Last Supper' tonight before returning to Paris tomorrow. Then home or for some on for more adventures.






  


  

Steve Larkins

    

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