One reason for visiting Honfleur was to photograph the Vieux Basin. As the angle I wanted lent itself to an early morning shoot, I was up and on location before sunrise on 3 different mornings. While the light wasn’t what I would call spectacular on any of the mornings, here is one of the shots that I liked.
Another reason for visiting Honfleur is that it is in Normandy, relatively close to the D-Day Beaches. I wanted to learn more about what occurred on June 6, 1944 and to fit things together geographically in a way that only visiting sites can do. We spent two days of our time in Honfleur doing just that.
The first day we drove through the beautiful French countryside to the Pegasus Memorial at Ranville. The Benouville Bridge and a nearby bridge at Ranville were taken just before midnight on June 5th by British Paratroopers and troops that landed in gliders. By taking the two bridges a counter-offensive by the Germans against the Allies at the Normandy Beaches was made more difficult. The Benouville Bridge was renamed the Pegasus Bridge in 1944.
One thing I didn’t fully appreciate until visiting this museum was the size of the gliders.
Our next stop was the museum at Juno Beach where the Canadian troops came ashore. The museum tells the story of the Canadian troops who captured Juno Beach then continued inland to meet up with British troops. Of the five Allied landing beaches, the Canadians at Juno Beach had advanced the furthest inland by the eve of D-Day.
We finished off the day by visiting the Beny-sur-mer Canadian War Cemetery near Reviers. Here is the final resting place for over 2000 Canadian soldiers killed in the early stage of the Battle of Normandy, most at Juno Beach or on the drive to take Caen. It is a beautiful and peaceful tribute to those young men. It is also an emotional place as you walk along and see the ages at which these young men made the ultimate sacrifice.
The following day began with a short walk on Omaha Beach then a visit to the American Cemetery just above the beach. Entered through the visitors center, the cemetery and grounds are beautifully maintained. Like at the Canadian Cemetery, one tends to get quite somber while walking amongst the grave markers of these brave young men.
A short distance away is the Overlord Museum which we visited after lunch. This museum, similar to the other museums, tells the story of D-Day with emphasis on the American landings at Omaha and Utah beaches. Within the museum is quite a display of both Allied and German equipment and vehicles. It was quite something to get an up close view of things I had only seen in movies.
After establishing themselves in Normandy, the Allies needed a way for supply ships to land vehicles and supplies until they could eventually take control of harbours along the coast. After their landing on Gold Beach, the British quickly took control of Bayeux and nearby Arromanches for the purpose of building an artificial harbour. Our last stop of the day was at Arromanches to view the remains of the artificial or “Mulbery” harbour and to see the film 100 Days of Normandy at the 360 degree theatre. The movie was a good summation of our visits over the past two days.
It is one thing to learn about history in books and films. But I think have found you get a far greater appreciation of it when you visit historical sites and get a feel for not only what happened but also the local geography. For me the D-Day Beaches are no longer just names but real places and I have a better understanding of just where they are. The countryside is so beautiful it is still hard to imagine what took place here.
On the drive back from Arromanches I was struck by the town of Reviers. I had to stop and wander the streets with my camera for a while.
Our final two days in Honfleur were a little quieter and will be the subject of my next post.