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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Respect on our Minds

Radar

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Respect on our Minds
« on: October 02, 2011, 08:24:52 PM »
Day 3:  Sun on our backs, respect on our minds

Today it was time to check out the so-called ‘American-sector’ that was a relatively short hop from Raids. On the way we rode past ‘Dead-Mans Corner’ where the US Airborne was involved in some fierce fighting and then to the charming village of St Marie Du Mont. From several kilometres out the village church tower dominates the surrounding countryside, and once we parked up in the market square it was no surprise to discover that the fighting around the church had been ferocious on the first night of the invasion, and it had changed hands several times. If you have watched the mini TV series ‘Band of Brothers’ you will be familiar with the now legendary Easy Company, it was in this very village that they were fighting during the early phase of the invasion. In fact just near where we had parked, there was a stone public water fountain with a plaque next to it...a US paratrooper form Easy had been tucked in here all one night and reputedly shot 10 enemy soldiers in the course of the night. There is a museum here and it contains a load of exhibits crammed into a relatively small area, I found the German equipment of particular interest as in general these are much rarer.


The bikes in the square of StMarie DuMont


Easy company in pretty much the same spot

I took over the Fire Blade from here for the final few kilometres up to the coast. What an impressive bike, especially now the maladies with the gearbox are firmly behind it. The suspension is firm and well damped, the steering sharp and ultra responsive and the engine is grunty and responsive, the after market pipe lending it a purposeful bark. Throughout the trip Ses and I had been filling the bikes up with fuel at the same time and much my irritation his Blade had used less fuel than my FZ1S...now was my chance it dent his figures somewhat! So when we pulled over to look at memorial dedicated to Danish seamen involved in D-Day I saw my opportunity. As we pulled away I absolutely nailed the Blade through the first three gears much to the annoyance of a local cyclist who I seemed to be rather taken aback at my velocity as I flashed past in a blur of balck and yellow! Aha, I thought ...that will stuff your mpg Ses! I had however failed to spot the gaping hole in my plan...he was riding my bike and was right in my wheel tracks the whole time. When we came to fill up later in day, he had maintained his advantage...doh! Incidentally that Fire Blade really flies! 

Shortly after our little clash we rolled into the car park of the recently refurbished and re-opened Utah Beach Museum. It is a large impressive museum and on a much larger scale to anything else we had visited up to now. Greeted by another rather lovely receptionist we managed to blag a free personal guided tour, not sadly from the lovely receptionist but a male maths graduate. Oh well, he gave us some useful insights whilst constantly apologising for his excellent English. Among the things to catch my eye was a small remote control tank that the Germans used to attack full sized Sherman tanks. We also came across a haunting picture of Easy company in the square of St.Marie DuMont in almost the exact we had stopped only an hour or so earlier...


The Imposing Utah Beach Museum


Water Buffalo


All the exhibits at Utah Beach Museum are immaculately presented


A typical landing craft actually used on D-Day


The impeccably restored Martin B-26 Marauder

The centrepiece of the museum is a Martin B26 bomber that has been immaculately restored and is painted in the colours of a pilot who carried one of the last air raids just before the US troops poured ashore. Many years later his sons visited the museum and realising the story told was about their father who had tragically been killed in a road accident only a couple of years after the war had ended. They promptly donated $2,000,000 which funded the purchase of the B26 and the equally impressive building in which it is housed.

Outside the surrounding dunes also contained some impressive and moving memorials. We made our way onto the beach bathed in blazing sunshine, and rather than been hit by the emotion of being in such a historic spot we treated to the sight of stunningly beautiful women in a tiny red bikini sun bathing. In a way this kind of showed that the beach is slowly returning to what it should be…a beautiful place to enjoy in freedom, exactly what those lads who charged on to these same sands were fighting for all those years ago.


Utah beach, now so peaceful


Utah beach now has sights more typically found on beaches

The weather continued to massively exceed expectations as we sat outside to enjoy lunch and a cold bear at the Roosevelt Café just behind the dunes. The biggest shock was Thumper actually having a light salad!


Thumper with an actual salad!!


Just wrong on so many levels...

Next up on our whirlwind tour was a site recommended by the 17 year old son of our landlady who is already into the history of Normandy in a big way, the Batterie D’Azeville a largely complete example of the series of defences built by the Germans. Again we were greeted with a stunning receptionist (what is it with French museums???) in the visitor centre that has been converted from on of the four main gun emplacements. We explored the tunnels and the ammunition rooms and you really could feel the history of the place strongly. I was with Thumper and we could hear Ses’s footsteps echoing like marching soldier through the tight and confined underground tunnels.
One of the four emplacements had taken a hit from a 15” shell from USS Nevada sitting some 22km offshore. It had entered through the slit for the gun, failed to exploded but sliced and ricocheted its way through the emplacement and smashed its way out the back of the building. 15 of the gun crew were killed instantly in the room where we stood. I found it disconcerting to be stood there now as I thought of a human life been turned off as quickly as somebody turning off a light…


The rear of one of the four emplacements


The hole pierced by the shell from the US battleship some 20km off shore. Without even explodiing it killed 15 men instantly in this run. Sobering thought


Access to the gun turrets is still possible and in remarkable condition


Thumper and Ses checking out the emplacements


Most of the network of tunnels still survive

Just around the coast we also stopped briefly at a sister Batterie De Cribecq. Here an emplacement had taken a direct hit for a shell that had exploded and the damage was massive. It must have been like living through hell on earth for the crews of these guns as the huge guns of battleships and cruisers from the sea, and fleets of heavy bombers from the skies constantly bombarded them for hours on end. The defences that had taken years to complete resisted the Allies for a matter of days at best and in some cases only for a matter of hours. However they inflicted a heavy toll on the invaders in places, nowhere more so than on the infamous Omaha beach at Vierville ser Mer and Mon les Moules. This was the last place we visited and perhaps the most moving. Here literally thousands of young Americans had been killed or wounded as they desperately tried to land on wide open beaches overlooked by steep slopes and sheer cliffs. The thought of trying to fight your way ashore, soaking wet, laden with kit and under a hail of fire is a sobering one. The beach now is breathtakingly beautiful and this somehow just to the poignancy of the moment. I walked along the beach feeling a little humble and lucky to be able to enjoy a freedom these young men had given so much to ensure.
We spotted a bar and restaurant overlooking the beach and ate here as the sun set not just on the evening but a fantastic two days. I know I have not written much about the bikes, or the roads or how fast or slow we went. This was a biking trip where this was not really important, but in fact trivial when considered in the context of the history all around us and the debt we all owe to the British, American and Canadian troops (amongst many others) who fought for us all on these beaches and fields.


Imagine having to scale these cliffs, soaking wet weighed down with kit and facing withering incoming fire


Had to imagine the gravity of what happened here on Omaha beach so tranquil is it now


Plenty of evidence of the ferocious defences still remain



Ses and Thumper enjoying a contemplating drink as the sun sets on Omaha beach

The next morning we up early and headed home on the slower Ferry from Ouistreham. The sun was still blazing and the channel was deep blue. As we came into port at Portsmouth we passed HMS Victory and inwardly I saluted all the brave lads who fought for us. Now those who survive are old men, but we should never forget what they did for us. In an age when the word hero is banded about perhaps a little too easily these are the real heroes, factory workers and bank clerks turned soldier, pilot or sailor. 


Bikes back on the ferry for the journey home


Bye bye Normandy


Enjoying the sunshine on deck


HMS Victory at Portsmouth

So ends a brilliant biking trip and a big thanks to Ses and Thumper for being great company and riding so well all weekend. It was a memorable trip that seemed much longer than just a few days. If you ever get the chance to do this run take it, you wont regret it. 
« Last Edit: June 05, 2019, 03:44:30 PM by Radar »



katana

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2011, 09:53:52 PM »
great write up and pictures as always Radar

ses310

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2011, 10:36:56 PM »
Thanks again guys for an amazing trip, looking forward to the next!
Great write up again, I believe you have forgotten the pic of you as the german lookout!

Radar

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2011, 11:19:46 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by ses310

Thanks again guys for an amazing trip, looking forward to the next!
Great write up again, I believe you have forgotten the pic of you as the german lookout!



Your wish is my command...


Wot invasion fleet? I see no ships...I think the german look outs must of been taller than me!

ses310

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2011, 07:21:04 PM »
I think thats got to be my fav pic!

Champs

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2011, 10:15:27 AM »
Great writeup and pics, sorry I missed it. Where are you going next year? :)

Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2011, 04:03:19 PM »
Yep, excellent stuff guys, disappointed to have missed out on this one.

Why did you put the black hood on the lady on the beach? Is it like a "Reader's Wives" kind of thing or did she look a bit like Shrek?

Radar

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2011, 12:05:55 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by Champs

Great writeup and pics, sorry I missed it. Where are you going next year? :)

Assen for WSB

Champs

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2011, 10:24:18 PM »
OOOH!!!!

Thats near my 30th birthday! :)

ses310

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2011, 01:52:43 PM »
Will be a nice b'day present for you then :)

Radar

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2011, 04:26:20 PM »
We have the beginning of a plan!

Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2011, 07:41:19 AM »
Lookslike a fantastic trip. Top write up and pics. Very sobering to see how difficult it would have been for our troops to just make it accross the beaches

Digger

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2011, 02:55:05 PM »
Great write up and piccs mate.

Radar

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Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2012, 12:37:03 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by Digger

Great write up and piccs mate.



Cheers Digger. I love riding abroad to be honest and i am really looking forward to the trip in May to follow team After Dark in the 848 challenge...welcome to come if you want

Radar

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Re: Normandy Run Days 3&4 Pictures!
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2014, 07:09:46 PM »
Watched a TV documentary called D Day 360 that focussed on the forces that attacked Omaha beach. The road that approached the town and beach was the scene of some of the hardest fighting. The first wave to hit the beach suffered 92% casualties...

Where we parked the parked the bikes in this picture was the emplacement that inflicted the most allied losses and was among the last to be silenced




Where we had our drink seems so peaceful, makes you think in this month of remembrance



Lets hope we never have to do this sort of thing ever again

   
« Last Edit: November 16, 2014, 07:12:39 PM by Radar »