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Bits and bobs about my life in my lovely home, Thatchwick Cottage, Pretoria, South Africa.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tuesday, 30 June '09: What passing bells...? Omaha Beach, Normandy is part of My World


Grey and ominous, the silver stainless steel sculpture by French artist, Anitore Bacon, entitled: 'The Braves' commemorates the brave men of the 1st and 29th Infantry Division of the US army who began landing a half an hour before dawn on June 6 1944 at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. A gently curving beach of silvery-pink sand and gentle ripples which occasionally washed up a whelk at my feet hardly seemed the setting for death and destruction on such a scale.

My day visit to the Landing Beaches at Normandy was the highlight of my recent overseas trip. No passing bells sounded from the spires of the grey stone churches of the surrounding villages of Colleville, St Laurent and Vierville (all rebuilt after apocalytic destruction in 1944) for those young men who died here - and at Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold. But, in awe, I paid a deeply felt tribute with my heart.
The main strip of beach is surprisingly narrow, rising to a bank of shingle up against a low sea wall beyond which is a short stretch of grassland, today dotted today with holiday homes. Several of these roofed with thatch.
In the distance you can make out the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.



I was struck, and still am, by the significance of the D-Day landings by Allied troops at the Normandy beaches, code named: Omaha and Utah (US), Juno (Canada) and Sword and Gold (British). The French Resistance, Free French and Polish troops also made their heroic contribution. This was the largest sea based invasion ever launched in history.
One erroneously thinks that once the longest day had ended, things were virtually over. But the ensuing battle of Normandy was savage and relentless. From 6-20 June over 11 000 US men were lost; over 4 000 British troops and a similar number of Canadians. This excludes the thousands wounded. On these beaches where toddlers paddled and holiday makers strolled? In the lush surrounding meadows where well-fed white cows feed?
The Allied flags flutter at the memorial on Omaha beach.

Well you may ask: is this part of Your World? Yes, it is. South African troops fell in North Africa and Italy; South African pilots over the mountains of Yugoslavia and over a beleagured Warsaw. And, of course, the brave men of many other nations.

Visit many other interesting posts on My World this Tuesday. And do join me for the rest of trip to Normandy, Paris and Riga, Latvia in the next few days. I am now back home and will also be dropping my calling card at your front door in the next few days. I missed you all!

20 comments:

jeannette stgermain said...

The tribute that you felt - I wonder that that was what the artist of this steel art work was after - it's huge and hard to overlook! I love abstract art, so i love it!
Thanks for sharing this with your readers, and your pic as well on the side:)

Gaelyn said...

Welcome home Eleanor. The sculpture is an amazing tribute to the fighting men lost at Normandy Beach. A great and informative post. Look forward to more of this journey.

pammiejo said...

My father landed on Omaha Beach D-Day plus 6. He was with an army medical unit. I hope to see it some time before I die! Thanks for the interesting piece on it! PAM

Vicki Lane said...

I'm not always a fan of abstract art but THOSE are stunning! Thank you for giving us a look at a place so important to our world. And how frightening to think if that invasion had not ultimately succeeded.

mkreider said...

What a wonderful tribute to the men who fought and saved people finding themselves in the circumstance of needing to be saved. Brave and frightened men and boys, giving their all.

ladyfi said...

That sculpture of knives is chilling. A tribute that really seems to sum up what those soldiers must have felt.

nadia said...

I love abstract, and this one's different and interesting - it's both stunning and chilling at the same time. Love your pictures; great shots, specially the one you have on your banner.

Mary said...

Eleanor, I've missed you, glad you are safely home with interesting stories to share. This one today is one we are so familiar with - and to think I was just a babe across the Channel when it all happened! The boats left from my town to rescue to many - even little motor boats headed across - what a terrible time in history.

I want to visit the Normandy beaches - it will happen when I at long last tour that area, and Brittany, which I want to start planning for.

Tomorrow I'm off to New England - will visit you again soon.
Hugs - Mary.

Babooshka said...

Something I would like to see in person. A fine tribute and an excellent write up. Envy you traveling through France, my favourite country.

Janet said...

Welcome back! Lovely post. How I would love to visit there!

Arija said...

Wars are truly terrible things. It only the heads of state and maybe generals fought it would save a lot of the innocent enlisted boy's lives. Will mankind never wake up to itself?

Island Rambles Blog said...

Wow they are so huge...wonderful photos of the abstract art creations on the beach and I really like how you captured them...too bad we have to have memorials to war, so many young boys are still lost today.

Jo said...

Hi Eleanor, I've wondered where you were, but I've been away with my dh (who came home from the Sudan for 10 days) Thanks for sharing this wonderful sculpture. Every movie I've ever seen about the Normandy beach landing has been chilling and emotional. So many men (including South Africans) died.My dad fought in Italy and North Africa and by the grace of God, returned home after the war. I thank you for paying this tribute to them. Bless you. Jo

Louise said...

What a wonderful sculpture. Your post is excellent. Thank you for the information and heartfelt words.

Barbara Martin said...

The abstract sculpture is a wonderful piece of art to commemorate those who fell at Normandy. One of my uncles went there with the Canadian Army on the first boatload and came back safe, but scarred from his experiences.

Leanne said...

Amazing sculpture. Shame we haven't learnt anything after all this time.

SandyCarlson said...

This was both moving and humbling. This spirit that launched the attack that ultimately turned the tide on that horror was the spirit of hope as it lived in the hearts of so many very young men.

Thanks for this post.

Greyscale Territory said...

Amazing, soul-stirring photos of a beach that has just been a name in the history books for me! Those steel sculptures are simply shaped yet very artistically organised! Lovely post!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

What a lovely tribute! It brought tears to me eyes.

XO,

Sheila :-)

Anonymous said...

That visiting Normandy was the highlight of your trip is deeply moving. Thank you for your beautifully eloquent tribute.