The beaches of Normandy Part 2: D-Day beaches, a sombre day remembering an important part of History
Updated: Nov 1
The main reason why we chose Normandy this year, aside from wanting to go abroad, was to visit the D-Day Beaches. It is something my husband and I always wanted to do and we had said that we would wait until our children start learning about the war. The time had come. Our eldest had just finished learning about World War II so we saw our chance to make this a destination to extend on that learning. I have always felt very passionate about 'lest we forget' and the importance of the English input into the world war. My Grandparents lived through it, it resonates quite closely in our family history with what our grandparents had to go through and we must ensure our children and so on and so on respect what our grandparents did for our country.
However, we also had a 6 year old in tow. I heard that in Arromanches-les-Bains there was a circular 360 degree cinema that shows the battle of Normandy in film, so I thought that would be a good place to start to put some context behind the sites we had planned seeing that day. The film was informative, emotional yet not gruesome, so perfect for all of us.
Arromanches has in important part in the war especially from the British perspective as it was the landing for Britain on a man made harbour transported from Britain, and affectionately became known as Port Winston, and dotted along the shoreline and in the shallows are some remains of this harbour. The harbour allowed heavy artillery shipped from Britain to disembark onto the beaches to help storm Normandy in the allied efforts. There is also a D-Day memorial garden, dedicated to our British soldiers, it's deeply moving when you read the inscriptions on the stones.
We had dedicated a whole day to D-Day landings, and there is much to see, however I felt our choices seemed most relevant to us. I would have loved to see more but we are saving those for another time. Our next stop had to be Omaha Beach. After watching Saving Private Ryan I had to see Omaha Beach, such a level of life lost in the first hour is incomprehensible. I found it a bit bizarre that people were playing on the beach like any other, personally I felt it too raw still to do that, however this is what freedom is and what our forefathers fought for, so who am I to judge?
There is a huge sculpture there, that is called the Wings of Hope which is dedicated to those that gave their lives for french freedom. You have to walk quite far along the golden sand to reach the shoreline. Walking back is sobering when you put yourselves in the shoes of those young men landing and under fire with such a long stretch of sand ahead of them.
This day had to end at the Normandy American Cemetery, to see the thousands of pristine white crosses of the fallen. What struck me was the beauty of this place, poignantly overlooking Omaha beach and the serenity and symmetry of the place leaves you quite breathless. It makes you pause to think, which is exactly what you should do here. An added leave of poignancy is the Star of David headstones in and amongst the crosses, given what World War II was about, it's good to see religions and men standing side by side in death as the had done in life.
A sad day but I am glad I have been able to see this with my children. We ended driving home talking about what mine and my husband's grandparents did in the war, really with the knowledge that we probably don't know even the half of it, but the little that we do know we must keep passing forward. Remembrance.