Sunday, 29 May 2011

The beaches of Normandy... how far we've come

Today's European Union evolved from the European Coal and Steel Community, set up in 1951 to bring together previously warring nations and make further conflict "unthinkable and materially impossible", as described by its French proposer, Robert Schumann.

If you ever find yourself driving along the road from Caen to Cherbourg, in north western France, you will be just a few kilometres from the beaches where Allied forces landed on D-Day on the Sixth of June in 1944. There, you can still see the Nazi fortifications - if that is the right term, as they were largely manned by Wehrmacht conscripts, either too young or too old, and captives from Hitler's Eastern Front.  Not a Waffen SS man in sight.

These things were built to last.  Even when they took direct hits from heavy calibre naval shells they remained pretty much intact.  The poor buggers defending inside would be killed, deafened or driven to insanity by the concussion caused by the impacts. 

Then there were the other poor buggers (many of them Irish - despite official indifference) jumping, diving and driving off  their landing craft, onto beaches defended with barbed wire, mines, and hails of shells and bullets. 

Apart from the remnants of the bunkers, pill boxes and fortifications, still stubbornly trained on a now peaceful beach, you could be in Dollymount -  cleanliness aside. It's amazing to reflect that all this happened relatively recently in historical terms, but seeing these things  really brings it home.  It shows how far we Europeans have come too, in so short a time.

The pictures you see were all taken on a snatched visit to Utah Beach when we briefly left the N13 (empty at its northern section, see clip) to venture forth to the beaches.

Well worth a visit.


Bernd said...

GM, I know you like "weird" ... may I add that amongst those manning the bunkers were some arch-enemies of the British Empire? See this image. My, one could almost imagine Frank Ryan and Francis Stuart doing their patriotic bid here as well ...

On a related note - you might want to explore the banks of the Boyne as well - near Oldbridge Estate you'll find a load of bunkers, as you will in Butler's Bridge and other assorted Cavan places. These were built during the "Emergency" ("There is a war on? Noooo, Ted ...!") to repel any invaders, be they Axis or Allies. Note that the firing ports are all directed roughly towards the North ...

The Gombeen Man said...

Great pic, Bernd.

And I had NO idea about the bunkers of Butler's Bridge and Oldbridge Estate.

You are a veritable treasure trove of wisdom, my good man!

Bernd said...

Information ... just information. The jury is still out on "wisdom".

Will post some pics on my blog next week ...