Anchored off Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight.
So! The trip of a lifetime is drawing to a close. The voyage crew made up of young and not so young, (War Babies) have learned a great deal. To the not so old, it may have seemed that the war babies were still relishing the war time; that, friends, was not the case. Having the benefit of the lectures from Bjorn and his wealth of knowledge gave us all an in depth appreciation of what it must have been like. Even as I type this blog we have had the sight of a Spitfire flying overhead with the Merlin almost drowning Bosun Tom’s words during a lecture of sail setting. Sadly TOM’S talk came to an abrupt halt. Great sight! Now back on track. Approaching the Cherbourg peninsula and sailing by Utah, Pointe du Hoc, Omaha, Juno Sword Gold beaches along the Normandy Coast and through the lock at Ouistreham Canal onto the Ca, left all of us in total amazement of the momentous task our great Invasion Armies had to endure. The sacrifice of all those who died, were wounded, maimed for life, and of course those who still live and continue to pay respects relive the horrors of their experiences were vividly brought back to reality by what we have seen and heard. What a privilege then to be able to make what was personally and no doubt to other voyage crew a Pilgrimage to the success of D Day 6th June 1944. As part of the voyage along with many voyage crew, especially Royal Marine Nigel Williams who despite being left with disabilities resulting from various campaigns with British and NATO actions was determined to walk to Pegasus Bridge along the tow path from Caen. Undoubtedly this was a considerable ‘yomp’ for him and only under great pressure took to the wheelchair for a short part of the way. ‘Great Man’.
On arriving at Pegasus Bridge we were overcome by the presence of so many veterans and family members assembled for the annual commemoration at this wonderful place. Having read a great deal of what had happened at that place it was fitting that we should sit down and take stock! So we did! The name of Madame Arlette Grondree is known to all and what an amazing occurrence to be able to actually meet her and talk to her at some length. Nigel and I were totally overcome with emotion, with tears streaming over our faces, and moved this great lady to give a combined hug. We will never forget that. To be told of the experience of having 45 enemy soldiers in your house and your parents having, with great reluctance to put up with their presence must have been extremely difficult to bear. Little did they know that Madame Arlette and her family were actively aiding the ‘resistance’ and intelligence agencies. Indeed the family had been persuaded by intelligence to move out prior to the invasion but declined. What a moment it must have been for them, the first family in France to be liberated. What a momentous moment for us to be able to meet and relive that historic moment. The Café Grondree and the Grodree family will live for ever. This was not an all tears and heartache event. Can you imagine Paratroopers and Marines mixing? It does not work friends never has, until last Sunday. Nigel actually put his green beret on the head of a passing Paratrooper who saw the funny side of it. He had the last laugh, so I think, because returning with the Regimental mascot, a Shetland pony in hand, the Paratrooper actually allowed the pony to s..t at the foot of Nigel’s wheelchair. What a laugh that was. So now in a reflective mood as write, there have to be thank yous. Thank you all to you brave men who committed so much for our today. WE WILL REMEMBER THEM! To Captain Darren, and all his permanent crew; The Jubilee Sailing Trust a very big thank you for having made this voyage a most memorable event possible. Many Thanks. Dai Rees A/P WL