Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Those delightful surprises ...

I was completely ‘wowed’ by this discovery as we went for a quick jaunt around Normandy close to Fresville… in a place called Ecausseville, a French airship hangar built in 1916. Airships from this hangar undertook anti U-boat patrols amongst other duties.

The rear of the hangar as you approach it from the road.

It was  a big brute; I couldn't get it all in the camera view.

There was also this little structure at the entrance; not sure whether it dates from the time of construction, or WW2 when the German army used the shed. Suggestions welcome. The Americans also used it as a vehicle store and base after they liberated the area in 1944.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On the beaches of Normandy ...

No visit to Normandy could be considered complete by anyone interested in military history without a visit to some of the points of interest from the 1944 'Debarquement'. So we have spent a day looking at just two of them.

We first visited Ste Mere Eglise 6 years ago. The town is very much as it is painted by the histories, with the 'parachutist' hanging from the steeple of the church tower.

There is a very good museum dedicated to the airborne forces that liberated the area, and well worth a visit. This is the entrance to  one of the two display pavilions, which features a Waco glider amongst an array of other material on the airborne assault on Normandy in the early hours of 6 June..

The other pavilion features a DC3 (humorously described in an otherwise good quality AV presentation as a 'jumbo jet').

As we'd visited Utah and Arromanche beaches on a previous visit, this time we decided that we would visit Omaha Beach. The beach itself is beautiful, a flat sandy beach beautiful to visit on a warm summer's day.

This view looks up from the beach towards one of the 'exits' from the beach that were so necessary to the success of the American landing on 6 June. The beach wall that you can see is I think a post war construction.

Further down the beach from the main entry point by road we found this pillbox, guarding another of the beach 'exits'. There is a small cannon (possibly 37mm) housed inside.

Here you can see the commanding field of fire from the pillbox towards the beach.

At the beach is a Museum dedicated to 'Le Debarquement' at Omaha Beach. The museum contains the usual array of interesting artifacts, displayed in the usual manner, here an Amercian 105mm gun.

I'd have to say though that I found the underlying premise of the AV presentation from the museum to be, in my opinion, perhaps a little more economical with the truth than the facts would bear out. The  AV presentation on the landings describing the loss of American lives on the beach on that first day.

There was no mention of why this happened, no mention of the fact that the American commanders eschewed the offer of specialised AFVs designed to allow troops to clear the beaches more readily. There was no suggestion that 3881 young American men lost their lives because of this decision. Clearly men would have died on that beach that day regardless of the use of those 'funnies', but perhaps far fewer might have died had the offer of Hobart's funnies been taken up. Speculation I know, but speculation that is perhaps more in line with the generally accepted historical views than the presentation would suggest.

The presentation left me feeling dissatisfied with the visit, but at least I'd stood on the beach, and in a German pillbox. However the museum is well worth a visit, especially if you are interested in the hardware, all well preserved and presented.

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