The Last Battle of Normandy
It was a last minute decision to vist this memorial after we picked up a leaflet in a Tourist Office. As we made our way by car through Trun and followed the signs along Circuit Août we began to learn about the enormity of the events we would find commemorated there.
The Mémorial was built in 1994 to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the Allied Landings in Normandy. It is a sympathetic design located on a bluff overlooking the fields of battle.
The main museum building, with shop, audio-visual facilities and toilets is cleverly sunk into the hillside but has a panoramic window-wall. The window sill shows all the points of the battle action and a guide accompanies you to give a full and clear explanation - in English or French. We were the only visitors present and the young woman who guided us was excellent.
There is no extra cost for this service. Admission was 4€ with the Normandie Pass.
Military strategists and historians still debate the rights and wrongs of the tactics used by the military commanders involved. The loss of life - of the Allied forces and the Nazis, and destruction were enormous .
The result was the trapping of the occupying forces west of the Seine leading to the Allied liberation of Paris.
Montgomery is said to have pronounced it - "The beginning of the end of the war."
Eisenhower, visiting the battle field a day or so after said -
"It was possible for hundreds of yards to walk over decomposing human remains in a heavy silence,through a luxuriant countryside where all life had brutally ceased"
Leaving Trun we followed Circuit Août 44 to the Mémorial de Montormel.
Driving through the pleasant countryside our thoughts were still full of the what we had just learned about the events that took place in these peaceful fields in August 1944.
We spotted the French and Canadian Flags blowing high in the strong breeze and assumed we were arriving - so soon - at the Memorial.
But this was another site of remembrance and rest, located on one of the few "heights" in this mainly flat landscape, commemorating the Canadian and Free French Fighters who saw battle together in the closing of "The Gap".
Although a little weather damaged the information boards gave a clear, concise history of the action, the terrible destruction and loss of life that gave rise to the description Couloir de la Mort - Corridor of death.
There was little here except the flagpoles, a few information boards and a bench to sit to view the landscape and reflect. But what a very moving experience.
This is quite a small town centre to explore on foot. Shops began to open soon after our lunch - among them a rather smart looking ladies dress shop, boulangeries, a hair salon and a general store. The boucherie charcuterie was due to open later
I thought the Maison de la Presse might have an illustrated local history book but did not find one there. However as you walk around, the history of the occupation and liberation becomes clear from numerous information boards, the renamed streets and squares,and the war memorial inscriptions.
Maybe it was because this was an un-planned, un-researched town to stop in that so short a visit had such a profound effect on me.
And went some way to prepare me for the visit to the Memorial a couple of miles away at Coudehard-Mont Ormel.