I always think back on this day – the anniversary of the allied beach landings on the Normandy coast – about a trip that I did with a good buddy of mine, Andy Wootten, a few years back. (I want to say 2004, but my memory is shocking and that could be wrong).
Andy’s Dad took part in the Normandy landings as part of the British/Canadian landings at Juno Beach and we set about following in his footsteps and also having a good look around the entire landing site and surrounding areas. Andy had some photo’s of his Dad taken in the area and we managed to find the exact spots the pictures were taken and take our own, modern versions of the photos, which was fantastic. To this day it is one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on. There is history and stories every where you look, from bunkers to gun emplacements to war cemeteries, memorials and of course the beaches themselves. Just standing on the beach, looking out to sea, and then looking at the coast and still seeing bunkers and guns and knowing that just a few short years ago, men (actually most were mere boys) actually walked up that same beach you are standing on with what felt like half the German army lobbing bombs, shells, grenades and machine gun fire in their general direction. There are not many places in Europe like it. You can almost taste it in the air when you breathe.
The American cemetery above Omaha Beach is one of the most moving places I have ever been, Pointe du Hoc is awe-inspiring and some of the gun emplacements are just mind-blowing. If you have never been, I strongly urge you to go and visit – it is a remarkable piece of France.
I have been asked a few times if I would have liked to have been there as it was all kicking off. It is an interesting question. Part of me is perhaps a little bit jealous of these men that they witnessed at first hand, indeed were intrinsically part of, such an important historical day. They must all have amazing and often sad personal stories and memories. I am not sure I would have behaved so impeccably, so calmly, so professionally as these guys did. I would probably have become hysterical with fear and no good to man or beast. Perhaps if I could have been invisible so the Germans couldn’t shoot me then I would give it a go.
All of the soldiers and men from the Allied forces who took part in the landings should be remembered today – the anniversary of D-Day. They are all heroes. All of them.