Tuesday, 26 May 2009
I promised I'd post a few more pictures of my short break to Normandy, but rather than just show the album, I wanted to add a few personal thoughts as I flashed the snaps. This link is to an article, headed by a photograph taken on June 6th 1944. It is of an American "Higgins Boat" landing craft and it has just delivered the soldiers who can be seen wading into a living hell. In the background is Omaha Beach, Normandy. The high ground in the far background is a heavily defended German position. Before the day closes over 2,500 of the troops will be casualties. This theme is very relevant at this time, as we will be commemorating the 65th anniversary of the start of the liberation of Europe in just over a week. The photograph at the bottom of this post is a section of that same beach, taken on May 12th 2009. There remains the same high ground in the background, except today that high ground is an American cemetary containing over 9,000 graves from the Normandy campaign and beyond. The top and left pictures I lifted from Google Earth. They are of that American Cemetary. If anyone needs a reminder of the combined beauty and beast that is humanity, they should visit that place. Please click on the pictures to see where heroes lay. If our military had to tackle the same task today, Omaha Beach would still be a right bastard. It occurred to me, as I stared up at the heights from that tranquil beach, that given all the knowledge we now have at our disposal as well as the modern tactical and strategic weaponry, we probably wouldn't tackle Omaha Beach by frontal assault as it would just be too costly - a regular `Charge of the Light Brigade`. Which leads me nicely into the picture 2nd row on the right; Arromanches. (I airbrushed myself out of the picture). Arromanches is just up the coast from Omaha Beach and is at the edge of Gold Beach, part of the British and Canadian beaches. The village is quite small, but for the duration of the Normandy campaign it was to become the busiest port in the world. Hard to believe when you see it now, but there was no natural harbour in Allied hands that was big enough to support and re-supply the invasion and so Churchill decreed that we would build our own and tow it across the channel behind the main force. Arromanches was the chosen site and "Mulberry" was the name of the harbour, an idea of simple genius. Those dark objects in the sea, near the horizon, are some of the remaining 24 breakwaters out of an original 120 or so that formed what became known as "Port Winston". The largest one weighs around 7000 tons. In order not to have to deal with the chaos and damage of a frontal assault, Arromanches was taken by flanking manouevers, because of the top secret use to which it would be put. "Mulberry" is, even 65 years on, a truly remarkable concept, brilliantly designed, constructed and deployed, the latter during the height of the biggest military invasion of all time. Ever the optimist, I hope that, somehow, my generation can leave a legacy that doesn't have to emerge from the point of a gun, from the weak being subjugated by the bully and from mankinds inhumanity to it's fellow human beings trying to share the space on this fragile planet of ours. Right then, I'm off on me bike. More pics of Normandy later.