After Pointe du Hoc, Henri took us on another speedy drive through Normandy’s villages and countryside toward Sword Beach. The weather was starting to turn grey and rain threatened, but it didn’t seem to take away anything from the ride. Normandy wore the weather well. What I think makes this area special is how much of it still retains that pastoral, romantic feel despite the World War II influence. It’s the green pastures, the tall, grey stone walls, the narrow roads, the castles and beautiful manors that seemingly appear out of nowhere or around a corner. When things start to feel too heavy, it’s nice to find comfort in the beauty of the land.
We also passed by this Colleville-sur-Mer's church. It was destroyed during the war and then completely rebuilt afterwards by the town.
By the time we pulled into the parking lot at Arromanches-les-Bains and Gold Beach, I was really hungry. It was way past my lunch time and I tend to become a little grumpy when I don’t eat. Ok, I become a bit of a monster. Since the town is so close to the beach, I demanded that we eat.
We decided walk around Arromanches and picked a small restaurant/bar to see if they had anything to eat at such a late hour. Luckily, Henri sweet-talked them into serving us some ham and cheese baguettes to go.
We ate and then walked around Gold Beach with its Mulberry “B” harbor.
There is a museum, the D-Day Museum Arromanches that, unfortunately, we did not have time to go into, but I read it is definitely worth a visit. The website is also great for learning more about the landings. They even have some webcams.
Gold Beach stretches 5 miles. On D-Day, it was the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division’s goal to establish a beachhead, deploy the Mulberry harbor, cut off the road to Caen at Bayeux, and meet up with both the Americans and Canadians.
While bombardments earlier in the day destroyed much of the German firepower, high tides submerged explosives and other barriers on the beach. The effect of the tide kept the engineers from dismantling mines and other blocks which, thus, resulted in the decision not to launch the amphibious vehicles before the troops.
The monument states:
Here at Arromanches, from June 6 1944, close behind the assault troops, a great floating harbour code-named 'Mulberry B' was assembled and operated by men of the Royal Engineers (Transportation) under the command of Brigadier A.E.M. Walter CBE, Royal Engineers.
The concept of a floating harbour, inspired personally by Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain, stimulated the design and construction of the Mulberry Harbours by engineering companies large and small throughout the United Kingdom. After marshalling in mid-channel by the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy, 'Mulberry B' was towed to this Normandy beach.
Having survived the Great Storm of 19 to 23 June, 'Mulberry B' remained the major supply port to the Allied Armies until the port of Antwerp was re-opened on 28 November 1944 thus far exceeding its planned life.
Without 'Mulberry B,' the liberation of Europe would not have been possible. The deeds of those who created, launched, and planted 'Mulberry B' remain unsurpassed in the annals of British Military Engineering.
This monument commemorates the participation throughout the European Theatre of Operations, of Beach, Port, Railway, Inland Water Transport and Movement Control units of the Royal Engineers.
Despite the setbacks, the operation was largely successful. A total of 25,000 men landed with 400 casualties. The 50th Infantry Division established control six miles inland and linked up with Juno Beach, which happened to be our next stop.
As somewhat of a tangent, while searching for some good Gold Beach videos to put up, I found these two videos from Sword Beach vets. The two men in them, Peter and Len, are wonderful. The videos are just too beautiful and important not to see and share.
A little end note: Please excuse the late post, I won some kind of terrible lottery and acquired strep and a cold at the same time. Needless to say, I’ve been out of commission for a couple of days. Half of my face is still leaking, but I am starting to feel better. I have two more Normandy posts to go: Juno and a bunker museum.