Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Normandy 2016, Day 4 (Last day)...

The start of Day Four was pretty-much the usual thing: Roll out of bed on hearing an alarm clock. Check the time. Realise it's 05:30 and you're not due to be up for another HOUR AND A SODDING HALF. Mutter dark imprecations, and fail to get back to sleep. So, I grabbed a shower, and got up in slow time manner.

There then followed an episode that I'm not particularly happy or proud about, but which was, in hindsight, probably inevitable. A drama with one of our teams kids came along. The increasingly sulky teenager, who had decided to be an irritating little twit from pretty-much day two, and who had been causing frayed tempers a lot, had been refusing to move out of bed (a sleeping bag on a folding camp bed, both of which had to be packed away before we could make a move towards Bayeux and breakfast). So as we all chuckled about the laziness of youth, I played reveille to her (it's one of the alarm clock themes on my phone!). Everyone but her was amused by this. Not her. She made a VERY ill-judged comment towards me, and got my temper on Dial Setting Five (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_Machine_Angel) with sixty seconds-worth of parade ground-level roar of non-repeated non-sweary English Language from me as a result.

Regrettable or not, it had the desired result, however, as she vanished at high speed to the ablutions immediately thereafter.

And yeah, I apologised to her Dad* once I'd taken a short walk to get a grip again (said kid hardly said a word to me for the rest of the day: Bliss!). Anyhow, that aside, we were packed and ready to go by 08:30, half an hour ahead of schedule!

The CMP Memorial
Close-up of the
CMP memorial
Our first port of call was for breakfast at the café in Bayeux again (Ham and eggs, of course), and we then made our way to the Museum of the Battle For Normandy, where the Liberators service for the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, 2nd Battalion the Essex Regiment, and the Corps of Military Police was to take place.

Staff Sergeant Redpost!
Note that it was still the CMP in 1944; the Corps only received the Royal prefix after the war, in 1946, then becoming the Corps of Royal Military Police (RMP).

It was while we were waiting for everything to get set up for the service, that we ran into our old mate, Staff Sergeant Redpost. Still having his beetroot-red complexion (from all the shouting, while being a 'drill pig', we were led to believe), it seems he's taken up a post-army career as a fire hydrant!

The Essex Regiment
The Sherwood Rangers
Yeomanry memorial

The service, attended by the RBL, the Mayor of Bayeux, and various local dignitaries, was a small affair by comparison to the previous days event.

It was at this service that we laid a wreath on behalf of those who have served, and those still serving, in the CMP and RMP. Notably, given that three regiments have memorials here, we were the only former members of regiments present to lay wreaths: there were no representatives for the Yeomanry or the now-amalgamated Essex Regiment (the Essex Regiment is continued, following several amalgamations, by 'C' Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment), which I thought rather poor show.

Maybe they'll fix that next year. One lives in hope, anyhow.

Hottot CWGC Cemetery
The RBL and local standard
bearers at the Tilly
CWGC Cemetery
After a sort drive into the French countryside, the next service was at the Hottot CWGC Cemetery (many of the fallen from the Bocage lie here), assisting the locals by request.

As you can see from the photo, the sun was really cracking down here, and, as it had been for the last couple of days, it really left an impression. I'd forgotten to pack my sun cream, and boy, were my face and arms starting to burn!

This service was followed by another short drive to Tilly sur Seulles, at the Place d'Essex Regiment, for another similar service by the museum there.

During the war, Tilly came under sustained and repeated attack from both sides, it changing hands over forty times in a matter of days. Little was left of the town by the end of its liberation. In one tragic incident, during one of the many counter attacks, an artillery shell, misdirected by an observer attached to the Essex Regiment, sadly landed amongst sheltering civilians, and the memorial is to both those victims, and the forces (including the Essex Regiment) who liberated the town from the Germans.

Flt Lt
Peter Roper
Flt Lt Roper's Plaque
There's also a memorial to a certain Flight Lieutenant Peter Roper, of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who was shot down over Tilly, in a 'borrowed' Hawker Typhoon - we had the absolute honour and pleasure of meeting this fine gentleman, who remembers everything about that day, and retains one heck of a sense of humour about it too - and mentioned in passing that he hoped no-one sent him the bill for the - ahem - 'borrowed' aircraft!

Then, it was off to Dieppe for dinner, and the ferry home again.

Dinner was taken in a restaurant that had opened that very day, Le Petit Bouchon, at 4 Rue Vauquelin, 76200 Dieppe, France
Menu du Jour,
Le Petit Bouchon,

The meal consisted (as best I could translate and taste):

  • Starter:
    Miniature melon with thinly sliced ham
  • Main Course:
    Chicken in mushroom and onion sauce with green beans and fries
  • Dessert:
    An apple tart with vanilla sauce

I've shown a photo of the menu (menu du jour), in case there are any French speakers amongst you who can translate this for me properly!

The staff were helpful, friendly, and we had a whale of a time. We'll definitely be back there again next year!

The ferry, however, was a rather mixed affair, and put an unfortunate dent in the week. We aimed for the midnight ferry, the idea being that it'd be fairly quiet, and less busy, thus easier to find a decent seat upon-which to crash out and get some much needed sleep.

The situation regarding illegal migrants from France to the UK has been in the headlines a lot over the last couple of years. It's finally hitting Dieppe, and while they've boosted the physical defences for the port (good quality security fencing and razor wire), the security manning at the entrance to the parking/waiting columns and the HGV entrance, is down to one unarmed, unarmoured youngster in a uniform, with a torch made of plastic. So much for either the British or French governments "doing all they can to prevent illegal migration".

We counted perhaps fifty or so of these "illegals", most of whom tried for the heavy Goods Vehicles (easy targets), but a couple made worrying approaches to cars and camper vans in the queues for the check point gates.

The single guard just couldn't cope, and we had to strongly discourage these couple of illegals from making any approach to our vehicles, which in the event was us standing outside the wagons, and suggesting to them that it would be a bloody bad idea to present any kind of perception of menace or threat, given that we had women and kids in the wagons. It seemed to work, as then didn't bother us afterwards, and we got through ticket and passport checks easily enough.

Departing La France - Au revoir, Dieppe!
Once on the ferry, the idea regarding the seating was taken up, and in my case, discounted immediately. Padded? Check. Comfortable to sit in? Check. Good enough to sleep in? BZZ, nope.

I eventually found a pair of chairs against a wall in the lounge, and managed to get a couple of hours of kip in those, but I had a crick in the small of my back, darnit. Those seats just aren't designed to be slept in (it's not an airliner or an overnight train, after all!).

Anyhow, while the trip there was four hours long, the trip back was five hours duration - seems the ferries travel a bit slower for safety reasons after dark. Makes sense.

Rolling off the ferry at 04:00 UK time (Europe is an hour ahead of the UK, remember), we got through the 'UK Border' - a.k.a. passport control, and headed off to Eastbourne, where upon coffee and a rest was had, before the rest of us headed back to points London and north, and home.

We found out, while catching up on the television news, once we got back to Eastbourne, that the EU Court has decided, in their infinite stupidity, that said illegal migrants cannot now be arrested for breaking the laws on border controls between France and the UK. What utter and complete rot and nonsense.

Anyhow, discounting the problems with irritable brats and garretty migrants, the week was a resounding success, we achieved everything we set out to do and more besides, and we're going again next year!

* Given that I have yet to receive an apology from the teenager for the comment she made, I don't feel in the slightest inclined to apologise to her for the parade-ground-level roar in response.

No comments: