British Normandy Memorial Site and Gold Beach – Arromanches-Les-Bains, Normandy, France

Today was officially the end of the heatwave. We have been very lucky to have experience rain only 3 times since the start of our trip and ever since the end of the first week we have had temperatures usually 25 degrees plus. Sometimes rather higher than was comfortable to be honest. However, last night the wind started to build and overnight the rain came as forecast. We woke up this morning to strong winds and wet weather. When I tried to called my Dad for Father’s Day there were times I had to shout to be heard above the rain. Ah well, it is probably a good re-acclimatisation for the British Summer when we return 😂

Our first destination this morning was to visit the newly built British Normandy Memorial. Anyone who has seen the wonderful Harry Billinge MBE, a veteran of D-Day on BBC Breakfast and his life long campaign to raise money to build this memorial could not fail to be moved by the lack of such a moment and his efforts to make sure one was built. He was a wonderful character from the interviews we saw. I also lived in Cornwall and went to Par Market everyday to collect money for his cause. Sadly we only heard of his campaign during lockdown and were unable to visit. He visited for the 75th Anniversary of D Day, when the memorial he dreamed of was being built, but sadly he did not live to see if finished. He died aged 96 years in April this year.

British Normandy Memorial

When we arrived at the memorial which overlooks Gold Beach, the rain was lashing down. It seemed atmospheric based on the conditions the men experienced on D Day. The moment is really well done, there is a large parking area and then on the walk to the moment there are large stone plaques which tell the story of the invasion, the victories and the defeats of the Normandy campaign of 100 days.

The memorial then has central area with a beautiful statue and some quotes from statesmen of the time. Then radiating off from there is pergolas where each leg holds the names, in date order by service of the men lost. There are so many names. There is the occasional name marked with a VC cross. The listing by date also shows the brutal losses incurred each day in the campaign. You cannot fail to be moved by being there as you pass a few moments of reflection.

We went back to the van utterly soaking wet, though like everyone else visiting that day many not even in coats, it seemed the least inconvenience in the circumstances.

We moved on to Arromanches-Les-Bains, the far end of the Gold beach landing area. We parked up at the Aire on the cliff top overlooking the remains of the Mulberry harbour which was installed to support landing all the heavy equipment needed for to support the landings. Such a good job was done of the installation that several sections remain in place today. On the cliff top there is a beautiful memorial commissioned for the 75th Anniversary to commemorate the veterans still remaining which shows a really graphic image of the invasion watched over by a stone statue of Bill Pendle of the veterans looking on at his 22 year old self.

We wandered down to Arromanches village for lunch. It is nice to see a number of historic buildings still in place. Though based on pictures of the bombing of the area, I guess many may have been rebuilt. It is a pretty little village though. There is parts of the mulberry harbour and a tribute to Allan Beckett who designed the anchors for the harbour which meant that on Gold beach it still remains but the one on Omaha was washed away. It is very like the delta anchor we had when sailing which we can 100% vouch for its holding capabilities. We looped back to the van after lunch we passed a M3 Sherman tank which had been left in memorial. Very sadly and disrespectfully there were quite a number of children climbing all over it when we walked by whilst their parents watched and picnicked nearby. It was clear that this site had a lot less significance to them than us and we moved on.

Sadly, the day was not to improve by going back to the van to watch the England v Barbarians game. In which England were sadly thrashed by the temporary Barbars team over which they should have had multiple advantages.

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