Normandy - June 1944

Chapter four

Day 4 Sunday 7th June 2015

Today is our last day in Normandy and we will be making our way back east along the coast via Arromanches and Ouistreham to the Pegasus Bridge before turning south east to make our way to Haramont.
Our first chore, of course, was to break camp and dismantle the tent which we did fairly efficiently in about 40 minutes or so and pack it all up with the accompanying accessories. We then made our way to Le Grand Chemin - the farm - to take our leave of Eric's friends and for me to thank them profusely for allowing me to share their experience and hospitality. When we arrived at the farm we found Alain under the Jeep which was resting on blocks about half a metre off the ground!


Apparently the clutch had gone and Braham had gone off to a spares depot to get a replacement. Together with Eric, I made my personal good-byes, warmly and I hope adequately, to Alain and Herve and Baham's daughter and her long-time, resident British friend. A programmed visit to watch a military parachute drop was cancelled at the very last moment for various reasons and we began to make our way casually and comfortably eastwards via Carentan and along the coast road arriving at what is the very picturesque bay of Arromanches-les-Bains where, from the hill overlooking the bay, one has an excellent view of the entire arc of the remains of the Mulberry harbour:

...and here is a very pleasant view of the bay with the town encircling it together with some pictures of the harbour components:

From here we travelled on some 15 kilometers, or so to St Aubin-sur-Mer, where we stopped for an excellent lunch at a restaurant belonging to a close friend of Eric - also a cabin steward - Olivier. His restaurant is the Green Crab, a really excellent establishment. We chatted afterwards for a while before continuing on to Ouistreham and the story of the Pegasus Bridge and the 6th Airborne Division.

And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,....
Henry V Act IV Scene iii.


This remarkable reconnaissence photograph, taken at some point shortly after the event shows how incredibly close to the bridge the pilots landed their gliders; the bridge no more than 50 yards or so from Major Howards leading glider, with the other two close behind. Under the stressful and poor night-time conditions and less than favourable weather; it was later described as one of the most incredible navigational feats of the war.

The Pegasus Bridge seen above and used by traffic today is, in fact, not the original bridge but a replacement. The original has been preserved and erected on the museum grounds no more than 100 yards from its original site and bears a memorial plaque half-way along dedicated to Lieutenant Brotheridge, who fell in the attack - arguably the first British - if not Allied - casualty of the landings:

Many minor bridges suffered collateral damage during the battles and in the following weeks and months were replaced by many Bailey Bridges:


You can read more on Pegasus Bridge  Here:

....and here is the bridge as it was in June 1944 under British control:


With the completion of our visit to the Pegasus Bridge, our three-and-a-half day visit to Normandy came to an end and we began to make our way back towards Haramont.

This was a visit that in so many ways I found inexpressably emotional and educational - primarily of course with an in-depth understanding of what went on here in the first two weeks of June 1944, over and above what I already knew and the added knowledge of personal stories that came to my attention from the various memorials and dedicationary plaques that I saw. I also got to know Normandy geographically as an area of France that I had not yet had the opportunity to know beyond a very cursory visit.

As I mentioned in my introduction, "pilgrimage" is a strange phenomenon; the objects of veneration varying from visiting the homes of pop-idols; to following the footsteps of Jesus; visiting the site where the Temple stood; where Custer stood his "Last Stand"; the Alamo; or King Arthur's supposed castle at Tintagel. There are heroes of another kind - the medical and other scientific pioneers who dared to go where none had gone before and improve and enhance the well-being of all humanity; where one's personal heroes are buried. All of them have relevence and meaning to those who are drawn to undertake these journeys. My own choices are equally varied and I still have some I yet hope to see especially in the U.S.A.

However, having been a young child growing up in London throughout the whole of WWII, and with a deep interest and a fair amount of knowledge of what went on during those six years, the visit to Normandy will forever remain one of the foremost - if not the foremost visit among them; my "personal world" has been significantly enriched by the 72 hours I spent in North-West France and I have such a debt to pay to my step-son Eric that I doubt I shall ever live long enough to repay him for his patience and willingness to take me along.

Thank you, Eric!

Selwyn - 17th July, 2015