One part of our trip we planned in advance was our visit to Normandy. Allan is very interested in history, especially wartime history so coming to France without visiting Normandy wasn’t going to happen.
We started with a stop to Caen where the national museum dedicated to WWII is located. Caen was an important command city during the fight against Germany. In front of the museum was a statue of the iconic picture taken at the end of the war. It symbolizes the great relief when the war ended. Inside, the building was broken up into sections. It would have taken weeks to actually see and absorb all there was inside. There was a section dedicated to the buildup to the war; how the war unfolded and ended. It was well laid out, detailed with artifacts, videos, images and and audioguide throughout. There was so much to take in and of course, hard to watch. This was the section we saw. Other sections included the aftermath of the war and how we move forward from our history. There was a theatre as well as a library. For anyone wanting a comprehensive explanation of WWII, the war museum at Caens is the place to go.
This was good preparation for our next visit, the cemetery for the Canadian soldiers killed in Normandy at the Battle of Juno Beach in WWII. I found this quite sobering. Most of the soldiers at this cemetery are my children or my children’s friends’ ages.
Next was Juno beach where Canadian soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy. Theirs was one of several beach fronts attacked on D-Day. It was amazing that the offensive was successful as it was given the amount of open territory they had to traverse. The German bunkers were on higher ground amongst the sand dunes giving them an advantage to see and annihilate their enemy. The Canadian casualties of approximately 2000 men was still considerably less than the tens of thousands of American men who died along the beaches. Imagine going across a wide open space with no protection against the onslaught of German weapons.
Walking the beach, it was hard to imagine so many battles being fought there. Today, generations later, we saw children playing on the beach, a testament to the resilience of the human race. But also very close by were the bunkers used by the Germans during WWII, retained to remind us that we must not forget what we are capable of. The incredible loss of life in these battles in this war should have taught men and the governments that lead them something. Unfortunately common sense dies on beaches like Normandy. Our visit to Normandy was a solemn but powerful day.