Normandy American Cemetery & Omaha Beach
Located on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. it is situated on the top of the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach. The cemetery site, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of american military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
Monet's Garden - Giverny
Claude Monet noticed the village of Giverny while looking out of a train window. He made up his mind to move there and rented a house and the area surrounding it. In 1890 he had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings were of his garden in Giverny, famous for its rectangular Clos normand, of about one hectare, Monet made a garden full of perspectives, symmetries and colours. The land is divided into flowerbeds where flower clumps of different heights create volume. Fruit trees or ornamental trees dominate the climbing roses, the long -stemmed hollyhocks and the coloured banks of annuals. Monet mixed the simplest flowers (daisies and poppies) with the most rare varieties.
In 1893, Monet bought the piece of land neighbouring his property on the other side of the railway. It was crossed by a small brook, which is a diversion of the Epte, a tributary of the Seine River. and established his water garden. In this water garden you will find the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, other smaller bridges, weeping willows, a bamboo wood and above all the famous nympheas which bloom all summer long. The pond and the surrounding vegetation form an enclosure separated from the surrounding countryside.
Visit to a local Calvados House
A little light relief when the group took time out to visit (and sample) a drop of the locally distilled Calvados made for Normandy apples.
The second day took us to the Pegasus Bridge the site of a major objective of the Allied invasion troops of Narmandy on 6th June 1944 during the second world war. A unit of Glider infantry of the British 6th Airborne Division commanded by Major John Howard was to land, taking the bridges intact and hold them until relieved. The succesful taking of the bridges played an impostant role in limiting the effectivness of a German counter-attack in the days and weeks following the Normandy invasion.
It is difficult to imaging as you visit the peace village of Arrromanches and look out on the remains of the temporary Mulberry harbour out at sea that this area know today as Gold Beach was the central of the five areas of the Allied invasion of German occupied France in the Normandy landings. Gold beach is located between Port-en-Bessin on the west and La Riviere on the east. High cliffs at the western end of the zone meant the landing took place on the flat section between Le Hamel and La Riviere.
The objective of the landing were to secure a beachhead, move west to capture Arromanches and establish contact with American forces at Omaha, capture Bayeux and the small port at Port-en-Bessin, and link up with Canadian forces at Juno to the east.
Normandy - May 2015
Not quite on the same scale as the invasion by allied troops on the 6th June 1944 but this was the NLWGA associations version of the invasion of Normandy. Following months of planning by our leader Margaret Dickinson we left our base in Newton at some ungodly hour on Thursday 14th May, with the objective of establishing our forward base in Caen, France before nightfall. Head of our logistics team was squadren leader David Hatton (coach driver) with his second in command Billy who were already heavily armed for the trip with a range of options including - teas, coffees, hot chocolate, toast, toasted teacakes, pies (with or without sauce), sandwiches, soft drinks, and enough beer and spirits to feed a gardeners association on the move.
Arriving at our first objective the Ibis hotel in the centre of Caen several of the party immediately started a reckie of the city and occupied a number of the local bars and restaurants a number for several nights running.
On the morning of the 15th May and the next two days we began our advance into the local area visiting Monet's Garden at Giverny. Beautiful but as it was a public holiday in France that day rather busy. Also the landing beaches of Omaha and Gold as well as the site of the first action of the landing on 6th June 1944, the renamed Pegasus bridge originally called the Beauville Bridge after the neighbouring village and captured in the opening minutes of the invasion by Major John Howard and his troops as a key strategic location to prevent a counter attack by German troops over the coming hours and days of the invasion.
A busy schedule but we also found time to visit one of the local Calvados distilleries and wine warehouse for anyone wanting to stock up on wines and spirits before our long journey home.