The sandy shoreline of Utah beach on a blustery day.

The D-Day Landing Beaches, Normandy, France

In En-Route, Europe, France, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

A poignant time for reflection

One of the reasons Gary and I wanted to return to Normandy, was to visit the D-Day Landing Beaches of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno & Sword and pay our respects along the way.

A view of a sandy beach in Normandy, France.  This stretch of beach was known as 'Juno' and was captured by the Canadians in the D-Day Landings of 1944.

The Normandy Landing beaches

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"Pop"

My grandfather had been fighting in North Africa & Italy during the Second World War with the 8th Army, and I am eternally grateful that my 'Pop' survived, but for him, as he got older the memories became more painful.

Stories of his recently made friends 'for life' from a Welsh battalion singing “Land of My Fathers” was unbelievably moving. I still remember exactly when & where we were sitting when he told us of the horrific atrocities that befell them.

A black and white picture of Pop posing in his uniform in the street somewhere
Pop in uniform
Row upon row of the white portland stone headstones of fallen Commonwealth Servicemen in the Bayeaux British military cemetery in Normandy.

Peace at last - Bayeux Commonwealth Cemetery

We should never forget the immense sacrifice that men and women from many nations laid down before us. Gary and I wanted to remember, and we wanted to be reminded.

Pegasus Bridge

Our journey started at Pegasus Bridge the east of the D-Day Landing Beaches.

This was where soldiers first set foot on Normandy soil, late on 5th to 6th June 1944 and where Operation Overlord began.

Remembrance wreaths placed under the sign for the Pegasus Bridge in Normandy.

Monument to Pegasus Bridge

Bénouville Bridge was captured within 10 minutes by the 6th Airborne Division and as a tribute to the British Troops became known as Pegasus Bridge. The original bridge is a memorial in the museum.

A stone monument in front of the now relocated Pegasus Bridge in Normandy.

Pegasus Bridge

The museum is very touching; there are some incredible personal stories told by young and old.
A row of stone monuments, each with a Remembrance wreath, the Pegasus Bridge is in the background.

Pegasus Bridge in its new home

What was very encouraging to see was the number of families here, parents ensuring that their children also learn, and remember, why we have the freedom we do today.

Tempted to?

Discover more of Normandy on a road trip, you'll be amazed how easy it is to tour around by car with. Like us you can create your own adventure and visit Caen, Rouen, Alençon, Honfleur, Giverny, the ruins of Jumièges Abbey, Beuvron-en-Auge and Mont Saint-Michel.

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Sword Beach

Sword Beach is one of the two beaches that British Troops landed upon on 6th June 1944, prior to them capturing the nearby towns, close to Pegasus Bridge.
An image of the memorial "La Flamme"; a large metal flame housed on top of a German bunker.

Monument at Sword Beach

A memorial on Sword beach in Normandy.  The stone monument flanked by two flag poles, the Union flag atop one, the French Tricolour the other.

Monument to the fallen - Sword Beach

It’s impossible to imagine the thoughts that were passing through the minds of the soldiers that descended on to these beaches. The impending assault was just moments away.
A grassy mound on the sandy beach, codenamed Sword during the D-Day Landing, in Normandy.

Sword Beach

Juno Beach

As we headed west along the Normandy coastline, there are memorials all along the way and strong reminders of the past.

An artillery gun, mounted in a pillbox, at the edge of 'Juno' beach in Normandy.

A pill box - Juno beach

Juno Beach was the point of entry for the Canadians, and a very hard battle was fought here, with them losing 50% of their forces in the first hour of assault.

The giant 'Cross of Lorraine' memorial on the edge of 'Juno' beach in Normandy.

The cross at Juno Beach

The sandy dunes that we stroll along today hold so many poignant stories, particularly for the 10 Platoon “B” Company The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, as the bunker/pillbox that was captured by them was named after their Lt. W. A. “Cosy” Aitken.
The edge of Cosy's Pillbox, on Juno Beach, Normandy with a view out to the sea on an overcast day.

Cosy's Bunker - Juno Beach

Gold Beach

The shoreline and bay of Arromanches from on high.  You can view, both on the beach, and out to sea, the remains of the 'temporary' mulberry harbour constructed for the D-Day landings.

The bay at Arromanches

Further west we arrive at Gold Beach the second beach to be captured by British soldiers. What the troops achieved here in the bay of Arromanches is astounding.
The remains of the Mulberry Harbour, constructed for the Normandy D-Day landings, out at sea.

Remnants of the Mulberry harbour - Arromanches

As Gary & I stand high above the bay, we see the magnitude of the artificial Mulberry harbour that was created in a 5-mile arc. In 100 days, the new “Port Winston” landed 220,000 soldiers, 39,000 vehicles and 530,000 tons of supplies, amazing!!!

A barbed-wire fence in the foreground, on the cliff-face above the Arromanches shoreline, with remains of the Mulberry Harbour out at sea.

The Mulberry harbour - Arromanches

Bayeux War cemetery

Founded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Bayeux cemetery is the last resting place for over 4,000 soldiers. Amongst the manicured graves are not only British troops but also Polish, Russian, Italian, Czech & French.

The 'Stone of Remembrance', with the 'Cross of Sacrifice' in the background, flanked on each side by headstones, at the Bayeux Commonwealth Military Cemetery in Normandy.

Their name liveth for evermore - Bayeux

We were amongst just a handful of people that were showing their respects, and the peacefulness was just occasionally broken by chirping birds.
Rows of inscribed white headstones, punctuated with red roses, in the beautifully kept Bayeux Commonwealth Military Cemetery in Normandy.

Portland headstones at the cemetery in Bayeux

The age of these young men was astounding, so many lives unlived. No matter what their rank or background all these soldiers lay side by side with their comrades.
A headstone, in Bayeux Commonwealth Military Cemetery, to a Polish soldier, constructed of the same stone, but with a soft pointed top.

Polish and Russian Allies remembered - Bayeux

Two headstones, almost joined together, in Bayeux Commonwealth Military Cemetery, to aircrew from the Royal Australian Air Force who perished together.

An Aircrew - together - Bayeux

Omaha Beach

A view of the shoreline of 'Omaha' beach in Normandy, featuring a grassy mound, a thin strip of sand, and the ocean beyond.

The coastline at Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach is probably the most poignant of the American beaches as a heavy loss of life was brutally taken here.
The view of 'Omaha' beach from the Normandy American Cemetery

Omaha Beach

For the allies to conquer Omaha Beach they had to combat the cliff-like slope facing them, this exposed them immensely to the enemy.

Normandy American cemetery

Positioned high above Omaha Beach, the Normandy American Cemetery literally does take your breath away.
A field of headstones in the Normandy American Cemetery.  The cross of Frank D Peregory is decorated with a gold star and Medal of Honor inscription.

Frank D Peregory - Medal of Honor, Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

When you see lying before you, row after row, after row, of symmetrical white crosses, the magnitude of the ultimate sacrifice that our loved ones undertook, stops you in your tracks.

It is unbelievably moving, standing in front of the headstones of 9,387 fallen soldiers.

The reflective pond in front of the memorial at the  Normandy American Cemetery.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Try not to be rushed here; time needs to be dedicated to respectfully wander amongst the thousands of names.
The 'Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves' statue in the centre of the memorial garden at the Normandy American Cemetery.

The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves - Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

It's the little things

You'll notice the British & Americans headstones differ in the person they remember.

The British record
Regiment emblem, Service number, Rank, Initials & surname, Regiment, Date of death, Age at death

The Americans record
First name, initials & surname, Rank, Regiment, Home State, Date of death

No Names, No Remains

What I found most heart wrenching, were the memorials to the Soldiers with no names, but remains and to the Soldiers with names, but no remains.
A marble cross in the Normandy American Cemetery to an unknown soldier with the inscription.  'Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms know but to God'

The Omaha Beach D-Day Memorial

The Bayeux Memorial, at the Bayeux War Cemetery, which commemorates more than 1,800 casualties of the Commonwealth forces who died in Normandy and have no known grave.

To those who have no grave - Bayeux

A useful guide

We love visiting France and each region so different from one another. I find the DK Eyewitness Guides really helpful in planning a trip and so often find interesting little snippets of info.

Take a peek at this revised Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide and see what you can discover.


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Have You?

Visited the region? Or is it something you'd like to do? We think it's important to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and their friends who carried their memories.

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Inspired to visit the Normandy Beaches?

We visited from Caen, but Bayeux would make an equally attractive base to explore the area.

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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