Earlier this week, I found myself remembering the events from more than 60 years ago in northern France. I refer to, of course, D-Day.
What springs to my mind is a long-ago coach (read: bus) adventure with a chum while I was living in England. Judy had received two free ferry and coach tickets to France for one day—Friday night to Saturday night. I happily agreed to help carry back the cheap French wine Judy was going to buy.
At the time, we were both living in Dorchester in southwestern England. We got a lift to Weymouth, the nearby port from where the ferry would leave for Cherbourg. The boat headed out at around midnight. We stayed up all night chatting up other travelers of our own age group, arriving in Cherbourg in the wee hours. Then after a crummy coffee, it was off by coach to Caen.
Our seats were at the very, very back of the bus. At first, I didn’t really pay much attention to who else was onboard. Nor did I attach much importance to the route. I only noticed that the other riders were all men of a similar age and that only a few had brought their wives.
By eavesdropping, I slowly realized that this was a coach full of British and Canadian men who’d landed on Sword, Juno, and Gold beaches on D-Day 1944. They were reminiscing as the coach trundled along.
Taking over Caen had been the main objective of those who landed on Sword beach. That didn’t happen, but the Canadians and Brits on Gold and Juno got farther inland than other Allied groups. (This image shows a brigade of the Third Canadian Infantry Division landing on a part of Juno Beach.)
When we got to the actual beaches, the men lingered on the sand, pointing to the still-floating masonry that’s in the English Channel. (The cement pieces are what’s left of the floating harbors that the Allies built.) In low voices, meant to be heard only by their colleagues, they talked about that day, how they dodged and ran, how they saw their friends die, and what relief they felt once they were inland from the beach. I felt privileged to be with them and to listen to their stories. I got so much more out that trip than cheap wine!
Photo credit: Library and Archives Canada