On May Bank holiday weekend eleven bikes plus three pillions headed off to Normandy early on Saturday morning for a battlefield tour in Normandy. We headed off from Dor-chester to Poole to catch the early morning ferry to Cherbourg.
Our base for the two nights was the Novotel Hotel in the centre of Bayeux with rides to dif-ferent places of interest in and around the ‘D’ Day landing areas on our itinerary. We visited a number of museums, the Pegasus Bridge and a some cemeteries. We generally took the back roads to see a bit of the French country-side and still got back to the hotel each day in plenty of time for a good night out and a few beers.
We didn’t cover many miles. I filled up the large tank on my BMW GSA the night before we left and arrived home on the same tank of fuel !
The weather was good having some really sunny days riding in France, the only rain being on our final leg once we were back in England.
Saturday 3rd May
Saint-Mere-Eglise, Musee Airborne The Airborne Museum is dedicated to the American Paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st divisions who landed in Normandy undercover of night between the 5th and 6th June 1944.
Bayeux Cemetery This is the largest Commonwealth WWII cemetery in France, it is the resting place of 4,648 service men, mostly from the Invasion of Normandy. Opposite this cemetery stands the Bayeux Memorial which commemorates more than 1,800 casualties of the Commonwealth forces who died in Normandy and have no known grave.
Sunday 4th May
Tilly-sur-Seulles Battle Museum From June 8-19, 1944 fighting raged at Tilley-sur-Seeulles between the 30th BritishArmy Corps and the German Panzer Lehr Division. The British forces were able to breakthrough on the evening of June 18 and after severe German counterattacks, Major General Fritz Bayerlein ordered a retreat. The area around Tilly-sur-Seulles changed hands 23 times; finally on June 19 the 50th British Infantry Divi-sion was able to take and hold the area. During the fighting 1/10 of the population of Tilly-sur-Seulles (76) had been killed.. The German Panzer-Lehr-Division lost 124 tanks out of 190 and 5,550 men.
Pegaus Memorial and Museum On the night of 5 June 1944, a force of 181 men, led by Major John Howard, took off from RAF Tarrant Rushton (Dorset) in gliders to capture Pegasus Bridge, and also "Horsa Bridge", a few hundred yards to the east, over the Orne River. The object of this action was to prevent German armour from crossing the bridges and attacking the eastern flank of the landings at Sword Beach. Five gliders landed as close as 47 yards from their objectives. The attackers poured out of their battered gliders, completely surprising the German defenders, and took the bridges within 10 minutes. They lost two men in the process.
Arromanches is the site of the Allied Mulberry harbour, known as Port Winston. By 9 June, just 3 days after D-Day, two harbours codenamed Mul-berry "A" and "B" were constructed at Omaha Beach and Arromanches, respectively. However, a large storm on 19 June destroyed the American harbour at Omaha, leaving only the British harbour still intact but dam-aged, The surviving Mulberry "B" came to be known as Port Winston at Arromanches. Port Winston saw heavy use for 8 months—despite being designed to last only 3 months. In the 10 months after D-Day, it was used to land over 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles, and 4 million tonnes of supplies (There is also a 20 minute film of the story of the Battle of Normandy in the 360 circular cinema.)
Batteries de Longues-sur-Mer was completed in April 1944, was con-structed by the Wehrmacht and formed a part of Germany's Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications. Although constructed and manned initially by the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) the battery was later transferred to the German army. The site consisted of four 152-mm navy guns, each protected by a large concrete casemate casement a command post, shelters for personnel and am-munition, and several defensive machine-gun emplacements.
Monday 5th May
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial The cemetery is located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. It covers 172 acres, and contains the remains of 9,387 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Nor-mandy. Among those buried are three recipients of the Medal of Honor, including Theodore Roosevelt Jr, son of President Theodore Roosevelt. After the creation of the cemetery, another son of President Roosevelt, Quentin, who had been killed in WWI, was exhumed and reburied next to his brother.
Omaha Beach Memorial Museum is located on Omaha Beach this museum has a large collection of uniforms, weapons, personal objects and vehicles.
La Poine du Hoc is a prominent 100 ft cliff and the highest point between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. The Germans fortified the area with concrete casements and gun pits. On D-Day the United States Army Ranger As-sault Group successfully assaulted Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.
Utah Beach Museum Between D Day and 1st November 1944 836,000 men and 220,000 vehicles came ashore at Utha beach. The museum which is built over German bunkers tells the story of the Utha landings.