In May 2009 the four lads annual trip took us to Normandy and a World War II D-Day guided tour itinerary. I must admit it would not have been my first choice of a tour as I don't have a very deep interest in wars, armies and the likes. But a few friends who had been recently on the trip recommended it so I happy to go along. It was a 4 day trip organised by GTI (Group Travel International) and we had a guide, Les, who certainly knew his World War & political history, and he made a trip a great success and I definitely learned a lot.
Our trip started in Paris with a half day tour by coach and after this we were taken to our accommodation in Caen a very nice hotel that proved very central for our tour. We visited the landing beaches of Normandy including Sword, Juno, Gold Utah and Omah. Along the way there were a number of different memorials and war museums which provided plenty of interesting information and insights into the war and in particular the landings.
What really brings home the enormity of the war are the cemeteries, to see all those that died and how young these soldiers were some hardly more than boys. The cemeteries are beautifully kept and a fitting way to remember those that fell. We visited the English, American and German cemeteries. The American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer is the best known where nearly 10,000 men are buried and where all their headstones face west for home. The setting is a wide manicured lawn peppered with pine trees which looks out over the sea. Thee is a also a visitor centre which opened in 2007 and was designed to complment the cemertery and to relate the significance of the operation Overlord to world peace. The style of the English cemeteries in contrast are designed as English gardens with roses, marigold and thyme, in a sence to represent bringing the fallen soldiers home. Finally, and my favourite is the Geman Cemetery which I felt was understated. Over 21,000 German soldiers are buried here, and there is also an information centre which was established the mid 1990's. It's plan simplicity is what I found so beautiful about it. I must say that after being somewhat sceptical about this trip at first I thoroughly enjoyed it and due in part to the quality of our guide.
Here are some of my photographs: