Because we were in Normandy in April this year I thought I'd repost my impressions of the Beaches where my Grandad landed and, according to him, where he blasted the hell out of the Hitler Youth in Caen. (He isn't very politically correct but I love him anyway). He was a color sergeant major in the Royal Artillery in charge of these things (below) which made him deaf as a post. In an odd coincidence his unit supported the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division throughout the war.
We headed east to some of the D-Day beaches yesterday to try and get a sense of the incredible events that took place 6th June 1944. It doesn't seem so long ago anymore. I think maybe you measure time differently as you get older. I don't have time to write a long blog--almost lunchtime here in the caravan and I'm typing on the kitchen table and I'm about to get kicked off :)
First we went to Juno Beach where the Canadian troops landed. It was a long flat stretch of sand strongly fortified by Hitler's Atlantic Wall (an incredible feat of engineering in itself). The sun shone down on golden sand and it was hard to believe so many men fought and died here.
It's an incredibly beautiful place. Somber and respectful. Row upon row of immaculate ice-white marble crosses and star of David headstones are laid out with pinpoint precision. The symmetry of the stones and the formality of the neatly trimmed lush green lawns and massive monuments adds a slightly surreal aspect. This is nothing like the rural France we drove past to get here. It is grand and imposing and a magnificent resting place for so many unfortunate young warriors.
A little further on is the most spectacular piece of coast taken during the assault at Pointe du Hoc. The American Airborne Division had to climb rope ladders to get to the Nazis shooting at them from the incredible array of German bunkers topping the cliffs (not sure I'd classify this as a beach!). The top of the hillside is dimpled and cratered from the artillery bombing. The battle was fierce and bloody on both sides.
I wouldn't have missed this part of our holiday for anything. Paying our respects and trying to imagine what went on 65 years ago put the whole thing into perspective and made it feel real. How do you thank people for making sacrifices like that?