Standing on the cold, windy Utah beach in Normandy , I tried to imagine what transpired here on 6 June 1944 – thousands of young American men landing here, to a barrage of bullets and bombs from the German forces. It seemed so unreal looking at the peaceful beach now, with waves crashing on the nearly deserted sands.
And yet everywhere I looked, there were signs that this had transpired – memorials, monuments and plaques commemorating those young fearless soldiers are found all over the beaches and villages surrounding Bayeux.
Normandy and its D- Day beaches are not high on the list of places to see of the average Indian tourist. Indeed, some of my friends had never even heard of the place, forget wanting to visit. However, hubby and I have both read extensively on the World War and are history buffs.We did not want to miss the opportunity to visit a significant World War 2 site whilst in Europe. The beaches of Normandy were stormed by Allied troops on June 6, 1944 , overwhelming German forces in a military operation that was a turning point in the war. Code-named ‘Operation Overlord’ , it marked the beginning of a long battle to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation.
Bayeux is a small town in Normandy, in the northern part of France. We chose to visit Bayeux as this is the starting point for most D-Day beach tours. Visiting the sites without a guide is possible but I wouldn’t recommend it. Our guide Pierre, from Overlord tours, was very knowledgeable and made the events come alive with his narration. His anecdotes and random trivia made the tour much more interesting and memorable. We were the only Indians on his tour, the others all being Americans – obviously this being a tour of the American sector beaches. In fact, he said we were the first Indians to have toured the beaches with him!
I wanted to also visit the German cemetery, as thousands of young German soldiers too lost their lives in the battle. And not all of them were Nazis. In fact , according to Pierre , most of them were either prisoners from eastern Europe forced to join the German army or young boys from Germany who were forcibly conscripted into the Wehrmacht army. However, I think only a private guide would be able to take you on a tour of the German cemetery as none of the tour companies offer one.
Our one day tour was fascinating and I would like to go back someday to tour the British and Canadian sectors too.