9. Jun, 2022

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THURSDAY 9-06-22

Well it was a peaceful but windy night up on the cliffs at Arromanches, with the added bonus of having been able to enjoy the sunset over the sea last night. Today was planned to be a busy day, with the uncertainty of where we'd end up tonight, though the plan was to spend it at the Camperstop at Honfleur. Because of the uncertainty we hung on to our water and skipped a shower, as we knew the dump station on the cliff-top Camperstop provided dumping facilities but water had to be purchased for two Euros. It's not about the money. It's just that after you pay the money the machine dispenses 100 litres of fresh water with no stopping.

As we left we could see there was a short queue for the dump station, and having seen must how slow some of these old codgers are when using it, we gave it a miss.

Our first stop was the British Normandy Memorial, 13 Avenue Paul Poret, 14114 Ver sur Mer, opened by Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron about three years ago, was then officially opened by Prince Charles on 6th June 2021.

The Memorial site (N49.336903° W0.527021°) www.britishnormandymemorial.org was only about five miles down the road in Ver-sur-Mer and didn't take too long to get there. I wanted us to get there in good time because having seen how busy this  Normandy coastline has been this week, I was fearful we wouldn't get a parking space. I needn't have worried, there was plenty of it. In fact there were even eleven good sized parking spaces allocated for motorhomes, and we occupied the second one of the day. There is a daily parking charge of three Euros for each vehicle which goes towards the upkeep of the Memorial site.

So a bit about Ver-sur-Mer:

As well as its beach, the village has a bakery, pony club, sailing club, shrimp fishery, small supermarket, tennis court, and youth hostel. It is also home to the America Gold Beach Museum.

Ver-sur-Mer lighthouse, still active today, was built in 1908 on the heights above the beach. During World War II, Canadian troops swiftly seized the lighthouse; however, it was badly damaged and had to be restored after the end of the war. Ver-sur-Mer's church, which was constructed between the 10th and 12th centuries, is dedicated to Saint Martin.

On 1 July 1927, Commander Richard Evelyn Byrd was forced to crash land his plane, America, in the sea off Ver-sur-Mer after his attempt at the first mail-carrying flight across the Atlantic failed.

On 6 June 1944, D-Day, the British 50th Infantry Division landed at Ver-sur-Mer as part of the Normandy Landings invasion, Operation Overlord. In 2021, the British Commonwealth of Nations soldiers who participated in the landing were commemorated with the British Normandy Memorial near the village.

The sky looked a bit threatening and so we decided to crack on while it was still dry.

I was a nice memorial, and a very fitting one, long overdue to commemorate all those young lives lost on D-Day and the following campaigns to break out of the area and push towards Paris. I particularly wanted to see the name of Harry Billinge up on the wall. Harry didn't die in the D-Day campaign, but lived to return home. He was one of those who campaigned and raised money to make this memorial a reality. Accordingly Harry's name appears on the wall recognising the memorial's benefactors. Harry didn't raise millions. It was something like £12,000, but he did it the hard way, sat in his wheelchair collecting outside shops and supermarkets, dressed in his parachute regiment beret and wearing his medals. Harry died recently aged, I believe 97. There'll never be another generation like that one, and we'll be a poorer nation because of it.

To top it all Harry had a seat dedicated to him at the Memorial, and I made a point of sticking a poppy to it using plasticine. I did also, against all the rules, stick it to the side of his engraved name on the wall, but unfortunately in my haste to do the wicked deed didn't get all of his name in the picture.

After wandering around it was time for lunch, which we had in the car park before having another quick look around, this time with The Chef armed with her iPad.