Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Arromanches in Normandy - site of the D-Day Landings

Arromanches les Baines is in the middle of the five beaches along the site of the D-Day landings when allied forces invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944. Where we stayed was designated as “Gold”. The other beaches code-named Utah, Omaha, Juno and Sword. With mainly British, American and Canadian forces, there was in fact 3000 Australian amongst the 320,000 forces.


The first troop landings - the floating harbour arrive a few days later after troops secured the beach head.

Most Australian forces were fighting to protect home soil under threat from the Japanese in the south west Pacific.

Arromanches les Bains is the location of "Gold" beach and one of the sites of the successful D-Day landings.

It was cold, wet and miserable when we arrived but nothing compared to June 6. After months and months of secret planning the weather conditions might have cancelled the operation. The flotilla of 7000 vessels made their way across the channel to secure the beaches for a man made floating harbor to follow. Commissioned by Winston Churchill, two of these floating harbours, known as Mulberry A and Mulberry B were landed at code-named Omaha and Gold beaches. The Omaha Mulberry was unsuccessful due to it not being secured to the sea bed however the floating concrete structures survived at Gold (Arromanches) and serviced 500,000 vehicles and 2 ½ million troops in the 10 months of its use.

When we arrived there were very few locals about - mostly tourists like ourselves braving the winter like conditions even though it was spring. Is this what Normandy is normally?
As we came over the beach head on this cold and wet day, the tide was out and you could see the giant metal and concrete box-like structures. Pictures from the time show them as floating roads. We were told at the time of the landing that there was fog that assisted the Allied Forces from being visible. Thinking about the landing today, you wonder how the Germans didn’t detect the operation earlier. It wouldn’t be possible with today’s technology.
After walking out, all rugged up along the beach while the tide was out, we were able to walk around these huge structures that originally made up 15 kms of floating roadways. These concrete monoliths are now home to marine life.


I guess we may have been almost a kilometre out from the village at low tide - behind us was the remains of the Mulberry Harbour.

Look Sue, I don't believe it - they have named this car after me!!
No not the number plate, just above.
 
Part of the Mulberry Harbour is now home to marine life on the Normandy coast.

These huge structures - a floating roadway carried vehicles and supplies to the troops.
As we walked back we decided to enter the war museum overlooking the beach. We joined the rest of the tourists which seemed to ring with the accents of Americans and British. The museum gave a great insight to the history of the this amazing mission and one of the major turning points of World War II.
We only stayed one night at this little hotel on the beach – it was another “must-see” destination on Sue’s list. We ate at the Hotel that night, and there wasn’t much to do in Arromanches les Bains so an early night was in order.


We wandered the back streets of Arromanches with light drizzle falling on us for most of the day. Although the main focus is the beach landings of 1944, there were some interesting homes around the village.

This very fluffy cat was guarding our croissants.
The following morning after breakfast at the hotel, we wandered back towards the beach to discover that the remnants of Mulberry Harbor had all but disappeared with the tide in. How lucky we were to arrive at low tide.  

 
Our destination now took us along the Normandy coast to our three night stay at Honfleur.

13 comments:

  1. Interesting post. A few years ago we cycled with the club from Oxford down to Southampton and ferried across to Cherbourg but we never got to see the beaches of the D-Day landings. The more I see of your posts I realise how much of France we still have to see! Good to have a car named after you :) Diane

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  2. Diane - For Australians, being so far away from Europe, I think we tend to make the most of our travels. We certainly love France and the "Slow Travel" follow your nose method has opened up some marvelous sights and helped us meet some nice people along the way. How fortunate you are to have these experiences at your door step.

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  3. I have been to Normandie many times (particularly Deauville and Villers-sur-mer when I was young), but I have never seen any of the D-Day beaches. It must be so impressive and must bring pride to one's soul.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I found a Velodrome at Deauville and being a cycling tragic, it pleased me to no end.
    I bet the town has changed since your childhood.
    Yes the D-Day beaches from a technology point of view were impressive Nadege.

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