Utah Beach, Normandy, France
Our ferry Journey is very peaceful, I can’t believe how lucky we were, there was a storm yesterday and one is due tomorrow, we had heard the horror stories of ferries being stuck out at sea and not being able to land, but if you had looked out of the window in the cabin you would have been forgiven for believing it was a summers day.
The journey from Poole to Cherbourg takes approx five and a half hours; I still have a raging cold so spend most of it sleeping.
When we arrive in Cherbourg we make the decision to go home rather than spend a few days visiting Normandy, it’s disappointing but we can always come again.
As we start to drive we see the signposts for all of the famous monuments and beaches in Normandy so decide we can stop off at one place on our way.
We see a sign for Utah Beach and follow it.
We arrive in Sainte Mairie du Mont, this is such a beautiful village, it is Sunday afternoon so everywhere is closed and it is very quiet. We walk around and start to notice the plaques on so many walls, you can’t help but to become emotional as you are reading them.
Sainte Marie du Mont was liberated on 6th June 1944, the allied fighters had been dropped in the area and had to find each other, as you look around the town and the surrounding countryside you cannot begin to imagine how these young men must have felt, there are no places of safety, and gun battles took place all over.
One plaque describes how 2 allied soldiers found each other and stuck together until they connected with more, another plaque describes how a local painter was using the toilets and 2 German soldiers dropped a map, he found it and hid it in his trousers, until he could hand it over to the allied troops, this map contained all German military sites in the area.
The bravery of these men and the villagers was so humbling, we have all heard the history lessons at school, but it is only as you visit the sites that you can truly appreciate the true horror of what happened.
I am so glad that we visited on a bright, winter’s sunny afternoon, the town is almost deserted (during the summer there are many tourists). Being so quiet, allows you time to reflect and wander from Monument to commemorative plaque, the quiet gives the place an eerie and humbling quality at any moment you expect to walk into a German officer or see an allied trooper hiding behind a wall or building. It is such a sombre experience, you would expect to feel the joy and excitement from the liberation, but you realise that with the liberation comes so much death, how many young men from every nation and country never made it home? How many villagers lost their lives and homes?
There was one shop open in Saint Mairie du Mont and this was a souvenir shop, Le Boutique du Holdy we walked around and the souvenirs were world war II memorabilia, it was amazing to look at these items, there were hand grenades and parachutes, bullets and pistols, thinking back to 6th June 1944, how many of these men and women would’ve realised the items they used would be for sale in a shop on the main street in the 21st Century. I feel torn as I walk around and take our photo’s, are we buying into the commercialisation or are we being given the opportunity to actually see what was available at the time, a glimpse into history brought alive?
We leave the village and head over to Utah Beach, this is busier and it is amazing listening to the voices as we walk around there are so many different languages being spoken, just parking the car we heard British, America and French, all with a common goal of visualising what it must have been like for the people of the time, luckily we can visualise it without the fields being flooded, without the fear of being shot or the walking into an advancing tank.
We head out of Normandy and start the drive home, we are glad that we made it to one area and have agreed that we will definitely spend a couple of days in Normandy over the summer, the big dilemma is do we want to glorify the atrocities by being tourists but if we don’t, does the bravery and suffering of these men and women get forgotten as have the experiences of so many others though the ages?
I have added a number of links on this page; they are not paid links but links to other sites that have more information on the Normandy Coast.