We started the day with an early morning walk along the promenade, through the town & up onto the cliffs to the East for a panoramic view of the seafront. It turned out that we had picked a great place for our overnight stop. Arromanches had been chosen by the Allies as the location for the construction of one of the two Mulberry Harbours that were built to enable all the supplies necessary for the invasion. We all have seen the photos & films such as 'Saving Private Ryan' with the assault troops storming the beaches but what most of us have never realised is the tremendous amount of equipment & supplies that are necessary to support & sustain an invasion such as the one on D Day, the 6th of June 1944. Not only the men but their food, ammunition, weapons, tanks, transport, fuel etc etc all have to shipped in. The logistics of such an operation are bad enough as it is but the Allies had no harbour on the Normandy coast where the invasion took place.
Apparently it was Churchill who said that therefore we would have to build one. So the Mulberry Harbour was designed & construction of the necessary parts was started many months before the actual invasion. It was a mammoth task. The plan was to form an artificial breakwater or harbour wall scuttling a number of old redundant ships together with a large number of concrete caissons which were basically great concrete boxes which were floated into place & then sunk. Hard to imagine great big boxes of concrete actually floating & being towed across the channel.
Inside the breakwater massive steel platform was also towed across & jacked up on legs set on the sea bed. This formed the landing wharf which allowed the bigger ships to offload their supplies of lorries, tanks etc the next problem was to get the supplies to the shore & to do this at all states of the tide they constructed jetties consisting of Bailey bridge type sections supported on floating barges. Streams of lorries would then drive onto the wharf along one jetty, collect their loads & drive of to the beach along a Escondido jetty. A third jetty was used to offload smaller vessels.
We spent the morning in the Invasion Museum in Arromanches where they had some excellent large scale models of the various elements as well as a couple of films about all the work involved. Really fascinating & eye opening.
At midday we headed West along the coast road checking out German gun emplacements & any relics we could find. We stumbled across the American War Cemetery at Omaha Beach where we found a really great visitors centre with masses of information about the USA's part in the invasion. There were four main attack fronts code named Omaha, Utah, Juno & Sword. The Americans came ashore on Omaha & Utah in the West, while to the East the British & French came ashore on Sword & the Canadians on Juno.
Some 6,000 American soldiers are buried at the Omaha Beach cemetery & it is a beautiful location with row upon row of white marble crosses & Stars of David all perfectly lined up. One of the plaques that was mounted in the visitors centre recounted the details of four brothers from one family. Three of the brothers were killed in the war & the fourth brother was flown home to his family before the end of the war to ensure that at least one brother survived the war.This was apparently the story on which Steven Spielberg based the film 'Saving Private Ryan'.
It was getting late in the afternoon so we headed off back to the East end of assault beaches area to a town called Ouistreham in the Sword sector where the British landed along with the French. It was dark by the time we arrived so we set up on the Aire beside the ferry port for the night