Mulberries, Batteries and Bayeux – Bayeux, Normandy, France

Today was a bit of a slower start as I needed to organise the dogs to get tape worm treatment at a vets, part of the re-entry requirements into the UK. We had not been quite sure where we would be when and this needs to be done a maximum of 5 days before and a minimum of 24 hours. So after a bit of forward planning and half successful attempt at a phone call in French to the vets, they are booked in to a vets in Bayeux tomorrow morning.

As it happens, this all worked out fairly well as it meant we managed to time going down into Arromanches at low tide when the closest Mullberry Harbour structures as left exposed by the retreating tide. Only when you can see people walking alongside them do you realise the size. I guess they did have tanks, trucks etc to unload onto them. These remains feel somehow much more of a connection to the events of 1944 as you know that they are in-situ and original. Whereas some of the artefacts sourced locally for displays are often examples for elsewhere etc.

After coffee and crepes it was time to hit the road again. We went to visit Longues-sur-Mer Gun Battery. Located between Gold and Omaha beaches, it was an important target for early attack to protect the landings on those beaches from its four 152mm guns. It was fired at by a combination of Allied ships to finally put it out of action on 7th June, it’s garrison of 184 men surrendered. The are the four gun emplacements, still with guns in place and a garrison slightly further towards the coast. They seem to be as they were left complete with shell holes. After watching The Longest Day and Major Pluskat at his battery, it was interesting to go and see, giving a bit more of a German perspective to the offensive. Although according to Wikipedia, Pluskat was not actually with his troops that day so the film was not quite accurate.

Finally, onwards to Bayeux, where we easily located one of the two aires in town. Our first visit here was a more somber and reflective one at the Bayeux War Cemetery containing over 4100 Commonwealth servicemen. Opposite stands the CWGC Bayeux Memorial which honours almost 1800 service personnel who died in the Normandy Campaign who have no known grave. That seems a shocking percentage and probably tells something of the brutality of the battle and the conditions in which they were fought. Even within the cemetery there were many graves which were unnamed. I cannot imagine how awful a task it must have been to be responsible for these burials. However, the end result is immaculate and a very fitting final place of rest with beautifully carved headstones of pristine Portland stone and immaculately kept grass and well places roses and other flowers. We located Leonard Penney, whose name was on the British Normandy Memorial and thankfully was one of those who did have a marked grave in the cemetery.

Next we wondered over to the Battle of Normandy museum. It was a little late to enter as it was now nearly closing time. However, we managed to get a look around some of the external exhibits, lots of tanks and guns so Kev was happy.

Back to the van and out again to explore Bayeux old town. Apparently Bayeux missed some of the heavy allied bombing of neighbouring towns, so retains a quaint old town area around the Cathedrale. The Cathedral itself was pretty spectacular. Apparently the place that Harold was made to swear an oath to the then Duke of Normandy William, which he later broke and resulted in William becoming William the Conqueror.

We found a nice bar for a cool beer after another busy day of sightseeing. Soon getting into conversation with Paul and Sue on the next table. Both independent motorhomers on their respective travels. Sue returning home within the week, having travelled back from Turkey via Albania and Belgium. Paul was just restarting his 90 days, having been motor homing full-time for the last 4 years. It was interesting to meet with them and exchange a few stories. Maybe we meet on the road again sometime.

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