Sunday, 5 June 2016

Normandy 2016: Day 2...


This was written following our return to England...

Day two was supposed to start at 07:00.

However, for some strange reason, I woke up at 06:00.

Still, it let me move in a slower manner than I otherwise would have needed to, and this set the routine for me, for the remainder of the visit.

We were hoping to take breakfast in a little café in Rots, but they were closed on Sundays. That wasn't really too much of a surprise, as unlike England, Sundays in France are fairly quiet, and very few places open for business. McDonalds was open, though.

Their breakfast menu was completely different to the English one, though. We wound up having Bacon McMuffins and coffee. Note that their McMuffins are about a THIRD smaller than ours, if you visit. Forewarned is forearmed, of course.

By 08:30, we were outside the Rots Church, and ready to do our bit for their commemorations. Being the only former RMP there, we were asked to assist by providing an honour guard to their memorial monument, which we were more than honoured and happy to do (there are no photos of this, I'm afraid, as I was not in a position to take them!).

Then, it was off to the 46 Royal Marines Commando memorial.







Rots was a bloody battle; the members of 'A', 'B', 'X', and 'Z' Troops, 46 RM, faced the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, and it was apparently a meat grinder of an encounter.

Supported by artillery, the RM moved in, and it went house to house, with the RM eventually dislodging the SS, who withdrew. An expected counter attack never happened, thankfully, but the RM suffered nasty losses in the battle. 22 of their number fell, never to return home. The monument and plaques remember their ultimate sacrifices to freedom.

On a more close to home note, one of the audience for this service was a former redcap, Roy, who suffered a dizzy spell, fell over, and had to be carted off to the local hospital for checks. I was one of those who rushed to his side as he fell over, and aside from some grazes to his leg (he caught a chair as he went down, but his head never hit anything, which was a relief), he appeared fine, if slightly irritated and surprised. We followed this up on Monday, and he was kept in for observation through Sunday and Monday. Our hopes and best wishes went with him, and we hope he returned home, safely (we'll be following this up privately, as we weren't able to check on him on Tuesday as we were running around like mad things).

The afternoon found us taking a detour to Pegasus Bridge, which was busy with traffic, and Merville Battery, which was hosting a memorial to 9 Para.

Merville was one of the first combat parachute drops of the war, and the mission for 9 Para was to destroy the armoured and bunkered artillery pieces there, that were threatening the allied armada in the English Channel. There's a good accounting of this on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Merville_Gun_Battery.

Three former members of 9 Para were inducted to the Ordre national de la Légion d'honneur at this remembrance service, which is one the highest French military honours, for their roles in this action.

There were also some Air Cadets present, and they were there to show the flag; their colour party was alongside the other flag bearers there, which I found to be a nice touch.

Unfortunately for them, it was a rather cold evening, and when they'd disembarked from their coach, it was apparently blazingly hot, so their parade party was in ATC Tee Shirts. With all the prolonged oratory from the many distinguished visitors there (read: Politicians), they were shivering rather worryingly.

So, not for the first time this visit, we were helping to provide immediate first aid to those needing it. Three of their number, the first being their Flag bearer, the poor lad, had to be taken to the warmth of our car to prevent exposure injuries (warmth from a car vent blowing at high speed, a blanket around them, and a hot cup of sweet tea down the throat works wonders). I'm happy to report that they were fine again within half an hour. Their OC was present, and was not at all amused by the long period of standing around they had to endure; I can't say I disagree.

After Merville, it was back to our accommodations, and dinner. Which in the event turned out to be McDonalds again.

And that was Day two... day three to follow...!

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