06/06/15 TNS439 Arromanche
Today was a non-travelling one on board Tenacious. We were woken unusually, by a bugler playing reveille, a nice touch on this, the 71st anniversary of D-Day. Breakfast included a crumpet, which had to be explained to our token American crew Bob.
Later in the morning we took part in a moving short Service of Remembrance on deck, accompanied by the Last Post. Jim’s birthday was celebrated with a stunning cake showing the Normandy coastline and beaches. delicious. Congratulations to the ship’s cook Hammy for a job well done. He then opened his telegram from the Queen… We were then fortunate to witness a Spitfire and a Mustang chasing, swooping and diving over Arromanche. Packed lunches were issued for the rib trip into the harbour. I felt very privileged to be arriving on the beaches on the anniversary of this memorable achievement. Both DOTIs were pressed into service, following a recce trip into port. Eventually we were set down a short paddle from the sand. We had travelled right through the remains of the concrete caissons still standing proudly and forming the outline of the temporary Mulberry Harbour that was so essential for the outcome of the war. They reminded me of entering the jaws of the enemy, through the remains of a set of badly decayed teeth.
The town was buzzing. Thousands of people packed the colourful streets, many in a variety of military or civilian forties attire. Authentic jeeps, half-tracks, tanks, guns, motor cycles and other period vehicles were placed at every available street corner. Music was playing from every café, bar or from the specially erected stages. The two? Andrews Sisters were very good and the two different marching pipe bands were excellent, apparently French, not Scottish….
After a little while, some of the crew who had landed in different locations along the coast, joined up for the short, but steep, walk up the hill, to where the Royal Engineer memorial was situated, commanding superb panoramic views over the bay and our own Tenacious, bobbing quietly on the sea some mile and a half away….
Another moving ceremony followed, led by Nigel, and a wreath was laid at the foot of the monument.
A twenty minute film show in the 360 degree cinema adjacent to the memorial was extremely moving and well presented, a must if you are next in the area. We then made a visit to a fantastic authentic military antiquities dealer, tucked up a side street where we had our chance of buying a choice of machine guns and stick grenades, together with a huge variety of less lethal merchandise. A couple of French lagers were consumed in a quaint little bar owned for the past 26 years by an Englishman. This was full of British veterans festooned in medals, accompanied by their loved ones, again very moving. We then made our way to the beach for our return journey to the ship. This time it was low tide, exposing vast expanses of sand and a slightly livelier sea state. An exhilarating trip back resulted in us all getting soaked to the skin, and my iPhone suffering from severe water ingress!
A hearty dinner of pork chops with apple followed after the ribs had been returned to their cradles. Fee then opened the extensive shop of JST goodies, which were well received. I unfortunately missed the showing of Saving Private Ryan and a talk by Callum as Anchor Watch was scheduled for 20.00 til 22.00. I also managed to miss the ‘Green Flash’ as the glorious sun set over the distant horizon.
What a day…. Congratulations to all for making this such a memorable occasion, culminating in such a special few hours. To have been able to follow in the footsteps of those thousands of brave souls, and to actually land in the surf as they did, not too long ago, was truly inspiring. The memories will remain with me forever. Thanks so much…
Mike, Aft Port Watch