Omaha Beach - D-Day Beaches
The D-Day beaches, located around 15km northwest of Bayeux, were part of the largest ever military operation in history.
It was on these Normandy beaches, early on the 6th of June 1944, that thousands of troops from the USA, Canada, UK and other nations swarmed into France and participated in eventually over-coming the Nazi occupation.
The day we visited this region was cold, grey and drizzling. The weather added to the sombre feel of the beach we visited, called Omaha Beach.
We didn't go to the main section of the beach, but a little further west, where there is no development and you can get a feel for the scene back in World War II.
Look for the obelisk on the hill and climb up to it for a view over the beach. Also up here you can visit the remains of a German bunker and munitions site.
Follow the signs off the D514.
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American Military Cemetery
The American Military Cemetery is located on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach. It covers 172 acres, and contains the graves of 9,386 American soldiers. Most of them were killed during the invasion of Normandy and subsequent military operations in World War II.
There is mounted information outlining the landing sites and forces involved, helping you to get a clearer understanding of how the invasion progressed. You can also view a wall which is inscribed with the names of soldiers whose remains were never found.
Although the cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful place, with its immaculate lawns and gardens, there is no escaping those white glistening crosses marking the graves of so many men.
When we visited it was raining, and an eerie mist rolled in across the grave stones, making this a truly sobering experience.
Situated on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel in Colleville-sur Mer, 17km northwest of Bayeux. Just off the D514.
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LA POINTE DU HOC
The symbol of the gallantry of the young American soldiers and one of the strongpoints of the German fortifications, the famous POINTE DU HOC was taken by storm by Colonel Rudder's Rangers on the morning of June 6th, 1944.
All is peaceful now, but you can just imagine how horrific it really was on that day.
In this photo, the sea is top left, where several hundred Rangers were brought in and managed to capture the fortified position at the Pointe du Hoc, after a particularly daring assault.
- Family Travel
FALAISE -- HOME OF WILLIAM THE CONQUERER
Born in Falaise in 1027, William was the son of Robert the Devil, duke of Normandy. After his father died in 1035, he had to struggle to stake his claim.
He made Normandy the most powerful State from the military viewpoint and the best administered in the Christian world in the XIth century.
William's men were trained professionals, used to military discipline. They were drawn up at Hastings in three ranks: In front archers and cross-bowmen, in the middle heavily armed foot-soldiers and in the rear mounted knights. These details are from the remarkable "Bayeux Tapestry"
In 1066, he was able to embark on the conquest of England, left to him by his cousin King Edward, over which kingdom he reigned until his death in 1087.
- Family Travel
OMAHA BEACH -- AMERICAN CEMETERY
Overlooking OMAHA BEACH , the American Cemetery (Cimetiere Americain) , located in Colleville Sur Mer, contains over 9,000 perfectly alligned white crosses, on a 170-acre plot. A chapel and a memorial are also on the premises.
Hans and I had just recently seen the movie "Saving Private Ryan" so it was especially moving for us to be standing in this very special place.
- Family Travel
LONGUES - SUR - MER
This German artillery battery, (Batterie de Longues) located in LONGUES-SUR MER, gave the Allied ships a pounding on the morning of June 6, 1944. It is the only coastal battery to have kept its guns, giving an impressive picture of what an Atlantic Wall gun emplacement was really like.
The amount of cement in this thing was incredible. No wonder it's still standing.
- Family Travel
We Are Not Afraid Of Bird Flu
"Le marché du samedi matin": enjoy the Norman accent!
It takes place every Saturday morning on Place st Patrice.
I usually buy organic food here: on the picture I'm on the way to this spot. (But I have to wake up early...) Many old ladies sell eggs, and various vegetables, and homemade jams and cheese... and flowers
There you may also taste French wines, or Norman cider, or food from Corsica, and you needn't cook on that day: there's a various range of take-away food (kebab sandwiches and chips, vietnamese meals, paella, couscous, roast chicken, spicy food from The West Indies...
Age Cannot Wither Her
A moving moment-- encountering this statue while working our way to the William the Conqueror Center to view the tapestry. This statue, missing its hands, is in a corner garden close to the museum.
Take the time to wander the streets of Bayeux, and you will encounter many treasures.
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The little chaple of the Urselines
In the streets of Bayeux we suddenly found a small charming chapel. These little places always reach a soft spot in my heart. Refugees for those who seeked peace and rest in turbulent times. How much we need these places in the present days of noise and shouting.
Along the banks of the river Aure
Bayeux - no doubt - has to be thankful for a lot of it's potential to the small river Aure, that provides the town not only a means of transport, energy (for the many watermills that used to be here and the few that still remain, but above all fresh water. Now-a-days it gives the town numerous places of scenic beauty, along the banks of the slowly moving water. Already a few pictoresque places passed by in my previous tips, but here are a few other ...
See A Damaged Cathedral at St.-Lo
St.-Lo (pop.25K) is 35 km west of Bayeux and you can route yourself through there going to or from Mont St.-Michel. Unlike Bayeux it was a busy railhead and the center of the Allied offensive in 1944. The West facade was extensively destroyed as well as parts of the church. It was decided to fix up the remnants as a memorial to the War. The church has an interesting rood beam. The bombings unearthed the old town ramparts that are incorporated in the rebuilding beautification of the town
- Family Travel
As if you were Sleeping Beauty...
We experienced an impressive night at this thousand-year old castle in Colombieres, a quiet, lovely little town about 15 miles in the west of Bayaux. Apart from its history from William the Conqueror to WW II, the charming chateau shows the harmony of fortified XII century massive, round towers and elegant XVIII century living rooms.
We arrived rather late in the evening but the owners, Mme. Claire and M. Charles de Maupeou welcomed us with warmest hospitality of French noble family that refreshed us from a tiring day trip.
Special tips: the home-made french bun "brioche" with hot chocolate that is served at the hearty breakfast is marvellous. In our opinion, it deservs a michilin star!
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Corporal Sidney Bates VC
We took some time in the Bayeux CWGC cemetery to seek out this particular gravestone. A brave young man who fought and died so that we might be free of tyranny.
You'll find the grave of Corporal Sidney Bates at grave reference XX E19.
He was awarded a posthumous VC with the following citation:
'War Office, 2nd November, 1944.
Sidney Bates VC Grave.JPG
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the posthumous awards of the VICTORIA CROSS to:—
No. 5779898 Corporal Sidney Bates, The-Royal Norfolk Regiment (London, S.E.5).
In North-West West Europe on 6th August, 1944, the position held by a battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment near Sourdeval was attacked in strength by 10th S.S. Panzer Division. The attack started with a heavy and accurate artillery and mortar programme on .the position which the enemy had, by this time, pin-pointed. Half an hour later the main attack developed and heavy machine-gun and mortar fire was concentrated oh the point of junction of the two forward companies. Corporal Bates was commanding the right forward section of the left forward company which suffered some, casualties, so he decided to move the remnants of his section to an alternative position whence he appreciated he could better counter the enemy thrust. However, the enemy wedge grew still deeper, until there were about; 50 to 60 Germans, supported by machine guns and mortars, in the area occupied by the section. Seeing that the situation was becoming, desperate, Corporal Bates then seized a light machine-gun and charged the enemy, moving forward through a hail of bullets and spnnters and firing the gun from his hip. He was almost immediately wounded by machine-gun fire and fell to the ground, but recovered himself quickly, got up and continued advancing towards the enemy, spraying bullets from his gun as he went. His action by now was having an effect on the enemy riflemen and machine gunners but mortar bombs continued to fall all around him.
He was then hit for the second time and much more seriously and painfully wounded. However, undaunted, he staggered once more to his feet and continued towards the enemy who were now seemingly nonplussed by their inability to check him. His constant firing continued until the enemy started to withdraw before him. At this moment, he was hit for the third time by mortar bomb splinters, a wound that was to prove mortal. He again fell to the ground but continued to fire his weapon until his strength failed him. This was not, however, until the enemy Had withdrawn and the situation in this locality had been restored.
Corporal Bates died shortly afterwards of the wounds he had received, but, by his supreme gallantry and self sacrifice he had personally restored what had been a critical situation.
- Historical Travel
Place Charles de Gaulle, where the General spook
After several years of occupation, the French forces that left their homeland, could finally return on French soil and started the liberation of their fatherland. Bayeux was the first town that was liberated and it was here at what is now named Place de Charles de Gaulle, that the General gave a inspiring speech to the French forces. For the first time since Dunquerque on French liberated territory. A monument remembers this event and the square is a very green and pleasant place.
War Cemetery Register
Many come to Normandy to honor the brave... but if you have the time, seek out the Register at the War Cemeteries you visit. These books are usually held in a little niche "vault".
Look through the registers for the longer passages. They detail the heroic deeds of the bravest among those who rest there. Then, with the aid of the attached map seek them out and toast them for sacrifices.
Two examples at the British War Cemetery at Bayeux are:
Corporal Sydney BATES (Age 23), 1st Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment -- Victoria Cross:
In North-West Europe on 6 August 1944, the position held by his battalion was heavily attacked. As the threat became desperate, Bates seized a light machine gun and charged. He was almost immediately wounded and fell, but he got up and advanced again -- through falling mortar bombs. He was hit a second time and more seriously wounded, but he went forward undaunted, firing constantly till the enemy started to fall back before him. Hit for the third time, he fell, but continued firing until his strength failed him. By then, the enemy had withdrawn and Bates by his supreme gallantry and self-sacrifice had personally saved a critical situation. He died shortly afterwards of his wounds.
Sick Berth Attendant Arturo FANCONI (Age 38), HMS Odyssey -- C/MX:
On 28 June 1944, Fanconi was summoned to help the wounded at Quineville, Normandy. To reach the wounded, Fanconi ran at once half a mile through what later proved to be a minefield. With help, he carried two patients out. While considering how best to help a third man, a mine burst beneath the rubble -- killing one helper and wounded Fanconi and another. In crawling to help his comrade, yet another mine blew off his foot. The explosion hurled him into the air and set off a third mine which severed his other foot. A corporal tried to him but to no avail.
While at the US War Cemetery, look for the gold lettering on the crosses commemorating the Medal of Honor recipients such as Theodore Roosevelt Jr. -- the eldest son of President and the only general on D-Day to land by sea (on Utah Beach). He led his troops while having to use a cane to walk. He later succumbed to a heart attack.
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