8 Jun 2011


The Liberty March at the D.Day Festival, Caranten, Normandy

Having just got back from a holiday in Normandy I would like to share with you the celebrations of the 67th D-Day Landings that we saw whilst there. The D-Day Landings were a massive Allied assault on the Normandy coastline on June 6th, 1944 - aimed to liberate France. It is quite something to see how important this date is to the French and every year they celebrate in such style, as only the French could do!

Liberty March at the D.Day Festival, Caranten, Normandy

Carantan held an historical walk in the footsteps of the 101st Airbourne Division with over 100 participants doing the Liberty March in GI uniforms. Civilians came dressed in 1940's clothes for the March. A Jazz band was playing with Swing dancers jiving. All in the presence of remaining war veterans who are treated with great respect.

The parade at the D.Day Festival, Caranten, Normandy
(love this detail on the woman's black coat,
plus, that 40's pram had a small child in - all dressed in 40's clothes)

The Liberty March at the D.Day Festival, Caranten, Normandy
The French dressing the part for the D.Day Festival, Caranten, Normandy

The D.Day Festival, Caranten, Normandy
Jeeps were lined up at the D.Day Festival, Caranten, Normandy

On June 6th at at 6.30 am Six American, British and Canadian divisions landed on Utah, Omaha, Gold Juno and Sword Beaches in history's greatest amphibious assault. The Americans landed on Utah and Omaha Beach and battled German resistance over a beach bristling with obstacles. Troops fought across an open area of up to 200 yards, and attacked up steep bluffs. By the end of the day the Americans held fragile control of Omaha Beach.

Omaha Beach, Normandy as it is today
Just over the 200 yards from sea to land is now home to the American Cemetery for those who lost their lives over that time. A staggering 9,387 headstones stand in 172.5 acres of the most beautiful gardens.  (9,238 latin crosses, 149 star of David, 1,557 missing in action and 41 sets of brothers). Walking around the acres of headstones made me realise for the first time just how many men lost their lives. It is all very well seeing a figure written down, but until you stand surrounded by just under 10,000 graves, read their names & how young they are all were, it really hits you.  Each one was someones son, brother, father, uncle etc.
The American Cemetery Omaha Beach, Normandy
The wall of names engraved that encircle the Cemetery

Above: The engraved tablet walls honor the missing in action who gave their lives in this region. A bronze rosette beside a names shows that the remains were later recovered, identified and buried. Below: Photos I took inside the Chapel show the mosaic ceiling depicts America blessing her sons as they depart by sea and air, and a grateful France bestowing a laurel wreath upon the American dead. 

Mosaic detail on the Chapel Ceiling.

The British Cemetery Bayeux, Normandy
The town of Bayeux is home to the Bayeux War Cemetery where now stands 3,935 British headstones, as well as 181 Canadian, 17 Australian, 8 New Zealand, 1 South African, 25 Polish, 3 France, 2 Czech, 2 Italian, 7 Russian, 466 German & 1 unidentified.

The streets of Bayeux were too narrow for most military vehicles, and so the Royal Engineers and Pioneer Corps constructed a ring-road round Bayeux soon after D Day. Several military hospitals were established here, and many of the burials in the Bayeux cemetery are from these.

Bayeux Streets today

This week in Normandy every town we visited or drove through were flying flags of America, Britain, France & Canada. Every town seemed to be holding some sort of celebration. There was The Liberty March (above), a D-Day Landings BookFair, a Parachute jump (700 military parachutists from America, Britain, Germany and France), a Fireworks display, A giant picnic on Omaha Beach, Concerts of 1940's music, A Liberation Ball, and a re-creation of a military camp. These celebrations take place every year in Normandy and when you see the amount of young lives that were lost in order to liberate France, you can see why.

We did also visit the Bayeux Tapestry while we were there - A piece some 1000 years old that tells a story of another battle. However, that is another battle and another story!