SIX GO TO NORMANDY JUNE 3RD TO 9TH 2019
The plan was for two Jodels and an RV7 to go to Normandy to watch the 75th anniversary of D-Day. But it didn’t go quite to plan.
The afternoon before departure Martin, who had been hoping to fit a new radio harness to Hotel Lima (check reg) reported that it was still “a bag of nails” so he and Ivan decided to make the trip in Martin’s truck. They went via Ramsgate and Dieppe. It took them all night but they still arrived earlier than Tim and Kathy in Bravo Victor. And the big advantage from Tim and Kathy’s point of view was that Martin and Ivan could bring bags of clothes for them. (Bravo Victor has no luggage bay)
John and Linda flew Whiskey Yankee (check reg) direct from Seething to Deauville which took them less than an hour and a half.
We had chosen Deauville as our destination because it was close to Caen, which would be where the fleet of C47s & C53s would land after traversing the channel from Duxford. Caen had said they would be far too busy to host us. Ivan did well to book a Euro-camp cabin at Houlgate on the coast between Caen and Deauville. He said there wasn’t much choice: Everywhere was full. When we arrived we found out why: The Police had commandeered every available bed and arrived in literally hundreds of vehicles, to protect the Presidents of France and the USA who were to witness the great commemoration.
The Euro-camp cabin turned out to be just right for our party of six. What it lacked in internal space it made up for with a big covered veranda on which we sat to drink our evening beers and wine. We were greeted on the first night by two C130 Hercules flying at low level round the town.
On Tuesday 4th June we went to Bayeux to see the massive embroidery- the world’s first comic strip. It was brilliantly displayed and there was an excellent museum to explain how it was made, and the social and political context. For most of us, just seeing that was enough to justify the trip,
On the way back we called at Arromanches-les-bains where one of two mulberry harbours had been build by the allies in just a few days, under fire. There was a good collection of military vehicles running back and forth along the beach, and Ivan bummed a lift on a DWUK that took him out to sea.
On Wednesday we went to Mont-Saint-Michel, the abbey on a hill surrounded by marshes. Again it was a brilliantly managed experience, with shuttle buses and horse drawn carriages to enable visitors to leave their cars behind. Then, in the afternoon, the event we had been waiting for, when more than twenty DC3s were to disgorge hundreds of “paratroops” using traditional round parachutes. The only trouble was that we didn’t know where they would be dropped. We found the right town, but no-one seemed to be certain where “Drop zone K” would be. Hundreds of people, many of them from the UK and Canada, were gathered in the four corners of the town and there was no-where to park. Fortunately a locally based Dakota did a couple of drops so by the time the aerial armada came, we had found spots where we each got a reasonable view.
Thursday was the big day for the VIPs and all the roads inside a huge zone were closed, much to the disgruntlement of some British Tourists who hadn’t realised what would happen. We went instead to Rouen, where there was a spectacular armada of tall ships (and some not-quite-so-tall modern frigates) We whiled away the afternoon lounging on the boats and eating ice cream.
The wind and rain was forecast to be dreadful on Friday afternoon and Linda had to be back at work on Saturday morning, so she and John flew back to Seething on Friday morning, keeping ahead of the storm and with a beneficial tail wind. The night before they went, we had an evening meal together in a French Pub, not far from the camp site. In the morning, the rest went to Caen airport to see the DC3s. It was a tortuous journey conducted at a snail’s pace but after four hours, we got there, only to find that the aircraft were fenced off more than 50 metres away, so we couldn’t get “up-close and personal” as the promoters had suggested, We got very cold and wet. But on the way back we visited Pegasus Bridge, with another museum, this time including a replica Horsa glider and some very fragile remains of a real one. British forces captured the bridge one minute past midnight on the morning of D-Day. We had sausage and frites in an army style tent. At suppertime, Martin revealed his culinary skills with mackerel and pasta!
With the wind continuing, Kathy and Tim postponed their departure till Sunday. We spent Saturday visiting various little towns which were all marking the 75th anniversary in their own way. In search of an “Andrews Singers Tribute Group” which we never found, we spent a lot of time watching the unveiling of a memorial to the Polish troops who took part in D-Day. We ended up at a series of German Bunkers captured by the Suffolk Regiment after a day’s fighting. Not only were there the by-now familiar collection of military vehicles and guns but we found and chatted to some young men from Beccles and Lowestoft, in Suffolk Regiment uniforms.
After cleaning the cabin on Sunday morning we went our separate ways, Kathy & Tim in the Jodel and Martin and Ivan in the truck. Both journeys were uneventful.
What had stated out by not going to plan had ended up a very enjoyable and stimulating break. A big “Thank-you” is due to Ivan who organised the whole event and did much of the driving, and Martin and his truck, who provided the “work-round” to make it possible.
We had celebrated both the conquest of England in 1066 and the Invasion of France in 1944, and shall never forget how remarkable both achievements were.
TM 9 April 2019