Normandy 2004

(Note that this is an initial draft of the page. I need to confirm details, but I wanted to see what the pictures looked like on the web. More will be added shortly.)

On Thursday ??June2004 a group of hardy souls set out from Blackpool in two Jeeps complete with trailers for the Pleasuredome that is Horndean, near Portsmouth. Driving through the night they arrived and set up camp, reserving space for others who were traveling from Preston, Lancaster, and the Ormskirk area.

After spending a few riotous nights at Horndean, it was a case of load up the vehicles and head for Portsmouth. There the queues to load onto the ferry were enormous with military vehicles of all types joining in.

The crossing was smooth with hardly a ripple on the way across. The landing at Caen went without a hitch and they were soon on their way to Bayeux to camp. This site is about 20 minutes from the Pegasus Bridge, famous for the assault by the 6th (Airborne) Division on the 6th June 1944, and thus securing a vital route for the main force arriving on the Normandy beaches. This was the scene of much rushing about in 2004 however, as Bob had arranged to meet someone about a gearbox at 4:00 which did not leave enough time to have a good look at the old bridge and musem.

The advance party met up with Jon & Susie, Tim & Christine and Dick with the Chevy, Dodge Command car and yet another Jeep.

The area is full of museums to celebrate D-Day. At one of them a number of tanks have been recovered from the sea, restored to an extent so they do not rot any more, and put on display. These examples show a Sherman adapted with a bulldozer blade, and the rear of a DD Sherman (named after the Duplex Drive that provides power to the twin propellers.)

The beaches at Omaha and Utah look tranquil now but back in 1944 they looked quite different than is shown here. Not so obvious from these photos but the surrounding area is still heavily pock marked from the shells and bombs that were fired and dropped onto the area. Although they are now overgrown with grass and bushes, they are still very recognisable. The gun emplacements of Hitler's "impregnable" Atlantic Wall remain as shattered battle scarred concrete shells.

No trip to this part of France would be complete without visiting St Mere Eglise. In memory of the paratroop landings there, and the memory of the poor paratrooper who landed on the church tower only to be shot in his harness, a dummy now hangs from a parachute on the church tower.

As part of the D-Day event, a number of landing craft sailed in to Arromanche carrying a Sherman and a Churchill tank. The landing craft were modern day equivalents of the LCTs used in 1944, and the tanks themselves did not launch onto the beach, as they are too precious to risk exposing to salt water.

The team had their own octogenarian with them in the form of Dick Newbould. He kept them entertained with stories of his wartime experiences.

No visit to France would be complete without a drink at a pavement cafe. This visit was no exception. From there, a short walk to the memorial was  the order of the day.

Normandy still retains many of the relics from the occupation. Here a gun emplacement still contains it's gun.

The vehicles gathered in the sheltered avenues of Bayeux prior to the presentation of a plaque to the Mayor by the MVT. A drive around the town was arranged but due to the numbers and the lack of a police escort, the convoy was broken up by private cars. Some broke off and arranged their own trip around the town.

The trip home was uneventful until loading onto the ferry. Geoff was being guided on to the ferry by a French port official when another official stopped Dave who was in front. Needless to say Geoff drove into the back of Dave's trailer, bending it and the tow hitch on Dave's Jeep. "C'est la vie" as the French say. Repairs have been organised.