So we’ve made it to Day 11 without killing each other….who’d have thought it? Peace reigns, even the dogs happy. Which reminds me, my vastly intellectually superior eldest daughter tells me there’s not enough “Moot Moot” shots in my blogs! So, just for her……
Day 6-8: Courseulles-Sur-Mer. The evening before we left, we had a “stop n chat” with a Dutch couple who were out walking their Borzoi, which is a Russian Wolfhound….Yep, hunts wolves! Imagine that for a job? It was huge, with ears that pointed forward at any noise. The dog looks a little like a Greyhound, but with longer legs, more bulk and a thick coat. I’d never seen one before, it was very quiet and quite jumpy. This type of dog needs an experienced handler, its wasn’t aggressive at all, but the potential for “small animal carnage” on the beaches of Normandy was clearly there. I was gobsmacked when the owner told me it was 10 months old! Mutts wasn’t impressed and clearly did not want to be within any sort of running distance of it!
Great to see one, until that point I’d never heard of them. Bizarrely half an hour later, a friend sent me an unrelated email showing Maj Hubert Pritchard RWF (of the Les Loges incident 16 Aug 1944), sat with family members including Agatha Christie….The dogs of choice in the picture? 2 x Borzoi….coincidence or what? We stayed another night at Courseulles-Sur-Mer before packing up the Chucklebus and heading west along the coast.
Day 9: We were travelling to the Contentin Regional Parc, which includes the tidal wetlands that separate Omaha Beach in the east from Utah Beach in the west. This is the area highlighted in the film “The Longest Day”, where the American GI ends up hanging by his parachute from the church steeple at St-Mere Eglise.
On the journey we stop off at a few points. Firstly at the memorial to The Green Howards. An inspiring sculpture on the side of the road at Crepon:
On the 6th June, a Green Howard, a typically British looking Tommy with crooked teeth and a dodgy haircut, fought with such bravery and displayed an almost suicidal disregard for his own life that he was awarded the only VC for D-Day. His name was Company Sergeant Major Stan Hollis.
I served alongside men from the Green Howards in 1990’s. In fact we lived on a road named in his honour. Even then, some 50 yrs later he was still revered by the men of his regiment.
After departing Crepon, we drove through Arromanche, stropping to take a walk along Omaha Beach, the scene of the American landings. Today a lovely stretch of golden sand. We then moved on along the coast to Pont D’hoc. The location of the famous raid by the US Rangers against the German gun battery perched on the rock face, that posed such a threat to the allied invasion fleet. The US attackers had to scale a sheer rock face and used rocket propelled grappling hooks, fired from the assault craft. On reaching the top they found the guns had been removed and hidden in nearby undergrowth. They destroyed them, then spent the next 48hrs fighting off determined German counter attacks, until relieving forces linked up with them.
What I liked about this US memorial, is that unlike Saving Private Ryan and to some extent Band of Brothers, the memorial planners acknowledged the help the Rangers received from the British and the French. The Landing Craft Group for this task, were led by the British Naval officer who had commanded the landing craft at Dieppe, so knew all about operating under enemy fire. The Rangers were taught their rock climbing skills by Col Tom Trevor of The Royal Marine Commandos, indeed he accompanied the Rangers in the assault and was wounded. They also have a small info board about the local resistance who were part of the team.
After we’d finished at Pont D’Hoc we continued heading west towards Carantan. Eventually ending up at a campsite in the small village of Le Grand Veys.
Located on the seawall overlooking the wetlands of the Contentin Regional Park, its an ideal place to spend a few days.
Day10: The Mutts has discovered what he was put on this earth for, retrieving wildfowl (or his dayglo plastic hoop) from the reed beds, to say he loves this type of activity is probably an understatement! He’s not yet failed to retrieve since we’ve been here. His body responses are very noticeable as he works in the marsh. When he finds his toy, he almost punches it with his snout. Great to watch:
D-Day is never far away though, many of the little lanes and winding roads are named after US Servicemen who lost their lives during D-Day and the subsequent weeks.
Our next move will be to Bayeux on Sunday, where we plan to stay for a couple of nights, assuming we can find a pitch.