A medal, a Beach, a Band of Brothers and Azeville Battery’s painted bunkers
An eclectic day finished off our last full day in France.
As we were right on UTAH breach, I decided to go and take some photos as well as taking a jar full of sand I know it is wrong and if everyone did it that there would be no sand left but as this was my first time at UTAH beach, I thought that I might get away with it!
Then I took
a few photos of the medal that Peter had been awarded on Saturday before saying goodbye to Peter and Eain as we set off for the Azeville Battery.
Band of Brothers
Many of you will be familiar with the TV series Band of Brothers which follows the exploits of Easy Company of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. Drawn from interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as their journals and letters, Band of Brothers chronicles the experiences of these men from paratrooper training in Georgia through the end of the war. As an elite rifle company parachuting into Normandy early on D-Day morning, participants in the Battle of the Bulge, and witness to the horrors of war, the men of Easy knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear – and became the stuff of legend. Based on Stephen E. Ambrose’s acclaimed book of the same name.
On our way through to Azeville, we passed the memorial to Major Richard “Dick” Winters, their CO and then past Brecourt Manor where, on the morning of 6th June 1944 the, then, 1st Lt Dick Winters led a small group of men to take out a 4 gun German battery that was firing onto UTAH Beach. This Assault is often cited as a classic example of small-unit tactics and leadership in overcoming a larger enemy force
Eain had mentioned this a couple of times and so, as neither of us had ever visited it before, it was as good a place as any to visit.
Built by the Todt organisation between 1941 and 1944 close to Ste Mère Eglise the Azeville Battery was seen as a vital part of the Atlantic Wall. Equipped with a complete defense system and impressive underground complex it was one of the Allies’ prime objectives on 6th June 1944. It saw some of the first action of the Landings and bombarded UTAH Beach for the first three days. It was finally taken after fierce fighting on 9th June.
Casemate Number 1 was seriously damaged and the gun crew killed when a second 14-inch shell from the USS Nevada went through the gun shield
, through the back wall into the plotting room, bounced off the floor & exited through the rear machine gun port. The shell was found outside in 1994. The first shell had exploded outside & the damage can still be clearly seen today.
What is fascinating about this battery & as far as I’m aware, unique to all of the Atlantic Wall defences is that the gun casements were painted in an attempt to disguise them as damaged French farm buildings; as the site was opened up as a museum, these were repainted on the walls to take them back to the condition they were in 1944.
And homewards… sort of… with a planned diversion to a final brewery!
So, for our final evening in France, we were staying, as last year, at St Omer… but this time it would be better as Glyn had found the brewery, so it would be a quick drop-off of bags and a short walk to the beer… at least, that was the plan…
… but do you ever have one of those days that starts brilliantly, but then goes downhill?
Yup, we arrived at the hotel… took our bags inside & tried to book in… however, “today” was the 11th June & some useless pillock (ahh… that would be me!) had booked us in the hotel for Tuesday the 4th… whoops!! And, of course, to make matters worse, the hotel was fully booked!
Fortunately, the young lady on the reception desk was really helpful & once we’d been able to explain that we didn’t really want a hotel that would cost more than three times what we had planned to pay, found us a hotel in Arques… about 10 minutes drive away… or so we thought… brief tours around Arques eventually saw us arrive at the hotel some 1/2 hour later… mind you, the young lady on reception was worth the wait!!
Anyway, food then called & we went into the town centre & found an absolutely fantastic little restaurant where some of our drinks were paid for by one of a party of diners when we swapped where we were sitting to allow their friends to move a table & join them… what a wonderful gesture… of course, others would look at that as we were paid to move away!!