Day 51: Wednesday, October 25
woke early and walked down the narrow main street of
Arromanches. There was a little pub that was open for
breakfast. We ordered the breakfast special of coffee (tea
for Kathryn) and baguettes. Our waitress had to leave us
and run down the street to the bakery for fresh baguettes.
We went down to Gold Beach in front of the hotel and had one
last look at the remains of Mulberry Harbour Winston. It
was the start of an emotional day for us.
Ken on Gold
drove a couple of blocks uphill east of the hotel and found the
Arromanches 360 cinema.
Arromanches 360 is a striking
modern movie theater with a circular screen -- actually nine
curved screens synchronized to show an 18-minute film titled Le
Prix de la Liberté (The Price of Freedom). The film, which tells
the story of the D-Day landings, is a mix of archival and more
recent footage from major sites and cemeteries. More intimate than the vast IMAX
screens, we stood in the center of the cinema
and watched scenes unfold around us. Images are projected onto the nine
wraparound screens, producing the sense of being in, rather than
watching the action. We were most impressed with the quality of the
1944 footage. For example, in one sequence, taken aboard a
landing vehicle approaching the beach, we looked all around us
in a complete circle, viewing the men in the boat, the
coastline, and the other
360 Program Cover
landing craft. During a sequence
showing tanks moving through village, the entire theater rumbles
and vibrates with the sound of the engines. There is no
narration or music, only sounds that would have been heard that
day. Evocative music and sound effects serve as dramatic
substitutes for spoken commentary. Interspersed with the scenes
of battle are images of the same areas taken recently. A meadow
in 1944 strewn with bodies morphs into a pasture with grazing
cows, or a view of a street lying in rubble changes into the
same street today. It’s an extremely affecting film,
particularly the images of the troops.
then drove east along the coast to Juno Beach where the
Canadian forces landed on D-Day. We spent two hours in the
Centre Juno Beach at Courseulles-sur-Mer, the only
Canadian museum on the D-Day beaches. It was a very moving
experience. We went down to the beach to take Ken's usual
photo on the beach. Even though it was chilly, Ken decided
to take off his shoes and go in the water. He was very
moved to be standing in the very place were so many young
Canadian soldiers gave their lives for our freedom.
Ken On Juno
We then drove 10 km inland to
Reviers. The men who fell on the beaches and in the
bitter bridgehead battles are buried in Beny-sur-Mer Canadian
War Cemetery which, despite its name, is near the village of
Reviers. The cemetery contains 2,049 headstones enclosed by
pines and maples(2043 Canadian, 4 British and 1 French). These
mark the dead of the 3rd Division and the graves of 15 airmen.
The mayor and people of Reviers take a special interest in the
cemetery for, although it bears another name, they feel it to be
their own. Fine hedges decorate the entrance, and the flanking
registry buildings have
Cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer
platforms from which the visitor
can see the whole area and appreciate the skill and devotion
that has gone into the planning and design of this superb
cemetery. Heavy casualties were suffered in the fighting
inland from Juno, and the majority of the burials here are men
from 3rd Canadian Division. Among them are nine pairs of
brothers - a record for a cemetery of the Second World War.
Incredibly, one family had a triple bereavement in Normandy.
This was unknown in the British Army, as the practice of placing
men from one family together in a unit had largely been
discontinued after the First World War. The gleaming granite
slabs, each etched with a maple leaf and the name, rank and
regiment of the soldier who lies beneath. Some also bear
personal inscriptions, messages from family who hold them dear.
"We do not forget you/Nor do we intend/We think of you often/And
will to the end," said one. "He is not gone he is just
away" was actually a fairly common one. What moved us the
most was reading the ages of these "men" - most were really boys
under the age of 21. One thing we did notice was that
there was no Canadian flag flying on the flagpole.
Anyone who’s seen "Saving Private
Ryan" is familiar with the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer.
There’s that final scene, when the surviving veteran comes to pay
his respects; the camera pans through the cemetery, across row upon
row of perfectly aligned white crosses, intensely green grass, and
reverent stillness. We had arrived just at closing time the
previous day and could not get in. Ken really wanted to
see it in person and so we took and hour to drive 45 km back to
Colleville-sur-Mer. This is much larger than the Canadian
cemetery. There are 9,386 graves at the site overlooking
Omaha Beach on
Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer
French soil granted in perpetuity to the United States.
Knots of people gather at
individual graves, but others, like us, simply wandered, bereft
of speech or purpose. We are struck by how pristine the graves
are, how flawless the lawn, and how precisely deployed the
marching rows of headstones. Despite the open vastness of the
grounds, everyone speaks in a whisper, as if in church. We
walked to the focal point of the cemetery, the memorial
featuring a bronze statue "The Sprit of American Youth Rising
From The Waves." It’s flanked by two enormous maps of the
European Theater of Operations.
Aerial view of
the US cemetery copied from the Internet
We drove an hour
back to Caen for the night. Kathryn found us an excellent
hotel, the Kyriad Caen Centre, right downtown. We
checked into the hotel and then went out to the Caen Memorial
Museum. We only had 90 minutes to explore this
fabulous museum because we had arrived in Caen late in the day.
We could easily have spent and entire day and more in this
museum for Peace that gives an overall history of war from 1918
to the present day. It is split into many different sections
starting with a journey into history in the aftermath of WW1 and
then moving on to various aspects of WW2 including the
front of the Caen Memorial
French Resistance and D-Day.
Sections on the world and the Cold War and the world for Peace can also be
visited. The attention to detail in the exhibits and the layout
of the museum is first class.
The film at the War Memorial
Museum in Caen is unforgettable. It is a must see. It is approx
30 min and shows a split screen of German and Allied forces
actual war footage. It is unbelievable. No words, no language
barriers, just music and harsh reality. Everything you have ever
heard, seen, or read pales in comparison to this.
We went back to our hotel and
strolled around the lovely downtown area. We found a bank
machine and had a very good meal at an Italian restaurant.
Contrary to France's reputation, the service was excellent.
Click here for a slide
show of Day 51 photos.