Day Seven - No Blue Bayeux on Gail's Birthday

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December 27th 2012
Published: March 23rd 2013
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Arromanches to Bayeux to Omaha Beach

It Didn't MoveIt Didn't MoveIt Didn't Move

Every morning I needed to make sure the remains of the Mulberry harbor hadn't shifted during the night. Thus the same picture taken each morning.
No worries about freezing in our room last night. The bathroom nuclear zone was keeping not just our room but part of the hallway nice and toasty. We almost didn't need to towel dry after our showers. The water evaporated quickly. Outisde our hotel window the parking lot was dry as well. There was even a glimmer of sun out over the Channel. It looked to be a rather promising day weather-wise.

Now that France was expected to be back to her normal return two days after Christmas, we passed on eating the hotel breakfast. Instead we decided we'd head back into Bayeux and shop at the huge LeClerc foodstore we passed numerous times trying to get out of town. As I started us on our way I spied signs at the edge of Arromanches depicting the German Gun Battery at Longues-sur-Mer. Thinking it was at the edge of town I headed that way. It turned-out to be almost 15 minutes away.

As soon as I parked the car and those of us over 50 got out to take a look-see, rain began to fall. Slowly at first, then growing in intensity as a cloud from England seemed to
Close-up View from Gail's RoomClose-up View from Gail's RoomClose-up View from Gail's Room

No rain so far today. A good time to get a shot of the German 88mm cannon guarding our Renault Clio in the hotel lot.
invade the space above us. I hardly noticed because what we found here was absolutely fascinating.

Additional photos below
Photos: 113, Displayed: 22


It's Still Hard to Picture What This Used to Look LikeIt's Still Hard to Picture What This Used to Look Like
It's Still Hard to Picture What This Used to Look Like

I've looked countless times on the internet for an old picture showing this same view of Port Winston during its operational period. but those old black and white photos don'te really show just how immense the harbor actually was.
Another Interesting DetourAnother Interesting Detour
Another Interesting Detour

I firmly believe that the more mistakes you make on your vacation the more interesting it will become. Instead of going directly to the German gun battery in Longues-sur-Mer I felt it necessary to show I know a better way to get there than the GPS. Naturally we got lost and ended-up on this stereotypical Norman village street.
Now This is What I've Been Looking Forward to SeeingNow This is What I've Been Looking Forward to Seeing
Now This is What I've Been Looking Forward to Seeing

If I were to rate all the D-Day sites we had seen so far, the Longues-sur-Mer Battery would've captured the top ranking. This site was perfectly preserved and very accessible to those with an interest to explore. How much longer the rusting old guns and deteriorating concrete casements will survive should be a matter of concern. A big glass dome should go over the entire area before it is lost for the ages. To the credit of the juvenile delinquents of France, there was very little graffitti or litter defacing the area.
My First ImpressionMy First Impression
My First Impression

When we got out of the car and braved the seaborne rain squall that greeted us the first bunker we came to was this. Although I was thrilled to see actual evidence of what went on here, I was a bit disappointed to see how damaged the fortification was. This damage was not caused by allied firepower on D-day but later when the Brits used the bunker to mount anti-aircraft guns. Ammunition stored inside the bunker exploded killing four British soldiers.
What the Krauts Saw on June 6, 1944What the Krauts Saw on June 6, 1944
What the Krauts Saw on June 6, 1944

Heading for the second bunker I stopped to gaze out at the Channel just a few hundred yards over the side of the cliff. Imagine that horizon dotted with hundreds of huge naval ships as far as they eye can see.
Emplacement Number Two is More Like ItEmplacement Number Two is More Like It
Emplacement Number Two is More Like It

This complex of four major gun emplacements was home to four 152mm artillery pieces that could fire miles out to sea. Along with the big guns, the clifftop was also occupied by machine gun emplacements to defend the complex along with a command post, barracks, ammo dumps and vehicles. Almost 200 men were deployed here. This particular battery was battered intensely by Allied naval gunfire prior to the landings on Omaha and Gold Beaches. However it was largely undamaged and when the landings started it opened fire on the naval armada and landing craft getting off 170 shots during the day. British cruisers Argonaut and Ajax eventuallyput three of the 4 guns out of commission by mid-afternoon. The last gun continued to harass the navy into the early evening. The next day 184 German survivors surrendered to the advancing British. Most of the German troops were older than 40.
In Perfect ConditionIn Perfect Condition
In Perfect Condition

The Germans had just installed these guns the month before the invasion. While the preliminary allied bombardment failed to knock out the guns themselves, the gunfire did damage the German communication cables. Thus the German spotters in a communication tower closer to the water were unable to relay the coordinates of the enemy to the German gunners. Instead they had to "guestimate" when firing. No allied ships were hit by the Geman battery.
You'd Never Guess How Awful the Weather WasYou'd Never Guess How Awful the Weather Was
You'd Never Guess How Awful the Weather Was

It was raining pretty hard at this point. I took shelter inside the bunkers. Smarter folks in my entourage wore raincoats.
Getting Them in My SightsGetting Them in My Sights
Getting Them in My Sights

In the much busier summer season the kids probably line up for their chance to play with these huge cannons. The 152 mm guns were built by Skoda for the German navy but were often used on land instead. A well-trained crew could get off 6 shots per minute but the old coots at Longues-sur-Mer wwre not nearly that competent.
Inside the BunkerInside the Bunker
Inside the Bunker

My flash makes it look much more cheerful than it actually was inside the concrete casement. Little rooms off to the side were blocked off so the only exploration I could accomplish took me through the main corridor. The inside looks to be holding up pretty well after almost 70 years.
The Fourth and Final BunkerThe Fourth and Final Bunker
The Fourth and Final Bunker

By now the ladies had gone back to the car. I had to keep looking. In truth, all 4 bunkers were virtually identical.
Designed to Keep Prisoners Locked-Up?Designed to Keep Prisoners Locked-Up?
Designed to Keep Prisoners Locked-Up?

Nope. This is to deter the over eager WWII nerds like myself from getting into places where they might injure themselves or get their fat butts stuck. German soldiers were a skinny lot.
So Peaceful TodaySo Peaceful Today
So Peaceful Today

The French have really done a good job of preserving the D-Day sites. Judging from the signs put up at these protected areas a lot of American money has helped defray the costs, but it's still nice to see that not all French people are arrogant and self-serving.
What I SaidWhat I Said
What I Said

The sign tells the same story I told previously about the gun battery. At this point the rain was intense. Once I got back in the car I was soaked. I was rather uncomfortable all the way to Bayeux and was still dripping when we went into LeClerc's to buy our breakfasts to go. Again, Cassie and I went for the prepackaged chicken sandwiches. Gail and her mother kept with the fruit diet along with rolls.
Bayeux's Notre-Dame CathedralBayeux's Notre-Dame Cathedral
Bayeux's Notre-Dame Cathedral

It wasn't just the D-Day beaches that I had wished to see for so many years, but also the Bayeux Tapestry. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it to be all that exciting, but it was on my semi-official bucket list just because it is so famous. Today would be the first day the museum housing it would be open since the day before Christmas Eve. Even though the place I chose to park had plenty of signs in French warning about parking restrictions we chose to ignore them and parked close to the museum.
This Must Be the PlaceThis Must Be the Place
This Must Be the Place

Maybe that parking spot wasn't so close. By the time we found the home of the tapestry we were all feeling the cold for the first time on the trip.
It's Got Royal ApprovalIt's Got Royal Approval
It's Got Royal Approval

Since the Royal Couple circa 1987 gave their ok to this museum I knew it would be worth every Euro they charged. 36 Euro ($47) later with audio guides in place, we saw one of the truly most historic documents I've ever seen. The size, 70 yards long, is incredible when you consider all the needlework was hand done at a time when needles were made of bone and thread was extremely rare and fragile. In the a time where there were no video records, no newspapers nor many people that could even read, the giant mural that the tapestry is served as a kind of comic book history of the events leading up to and culminating in the Norman conquest of England in 1066. In a nutshell, England's king died without an heir. He had promised the throne to a cousin named William in Normandy, but Harold of England grabbed the crown after King Edward died. William, a descendent of Vikings that had settled in France, crossed the English Channel, killed Harold in battle and seized the throne. Thereafter English kings and their courts operated in French only. In fact, all laws were recorded in French as well. The Anglo-Saxon language merged with this French influence to eventually bring about the English language.
And On to the Gift ShopAnd On to the Gift Shop
And On to the Gift Shop

Like almost everything else of interest nowadays, no photos are permitted. The museums and churches claim the works of art or historic interest can be ruined by cameras, but that makes no sense. Instead they just want to sell THEIR pictures and memorabilia in their well-stocked gift shops. And the Lunds bought into the whole scam. We walked out with all kinds of merchandise. Viva la France.

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