Normandy beaches by Jeep
Day 1 Monday 3rd June 2019Made it to pompey! Left dads at 6am, my jeeps first proper long run from West End in Southampton to Portsmouth, passing original D Day staging areas along the way.
Fast cat to Cherbourg 9am depart for a 12ish arrival, smooth sailing made for a quick trip arriving to port around 12.30pm, straight off the ferry and onto Sainte Mere Eglise and our farm house for the week.
Its 45min plus drive from the port to Sainte Mere Eglise in a jeep averaging 45mph, first long solid drive for my jeep since we finished it so I was a bit anxious …. the day before we left for france we had a cooling/overheating issue and a dodgy thermostat which got removed. Checked when we arrived to find it had over pressurised again, swapped over the cap with dads one and both jeeps seemed to cool fine after that, rad was still leaking a bit but I could deal with that!
The afternoon was spent in and around Sainte Mere Eglise, we have been coming to the same area for many years so know it very well, my best mate Arran came with us and it was his first time ever to Normandy so we gave him the tour.
The main town square was busy as expected so we headed out of town to a little village for dinner and then back into town for some beers and a walk round Camp Geronimo which is always impressive. Followed by more beer we headed home for sundowners and bed!
Day 2 Tuesday 4th June
Weather looking good we spent the day driving around Sainte Mere Eglise to my mate all the sights, my jeep has now covered 100 miles, 80 of which have been in Normandy.
First stop Utha beach, couldn’t park close because of all the set up going on but took a walk around the monuments and down onto the beach, already loads of people there visiting. Then straight on up the road to St Mare Du Mont, a great little village that saw a lot of fighting, right in the middle is a church that you can drive around, there’s a great camp set up there with food and beer.
We then drove down to Quineville for lunch and to check out the little museum there, it’s part of an original coastline defence gun emplacement, the museum was interesting and focused on the German occupation of the area which made a nice change from all of the DDay and airborne museums which tend to be all a bit samey.
Then came the rain!! So we drove up to the massive Azeville battery so we could escape the rain by taking the audio tour of the battery and its original tunnel network that connects them, great place to visit. After there we headed to the Crisbecq battery which has had alot spent and done to it since our last visit although the entry fee price hike stopped us from going in, 15 euros a pop, week before it was 9, we know for a fact because we have friends that live two minutes from it that told us, but i did find from a little stall across the road a ‘43 jerry can for 5 euros so not a wasted trip!
Drove back into Sainte Mere Eglise and parked up in the town square to hang out for a while and enjoy the festivities.
Day 3 wednesday 5th June We were supposed to hit Carentan but a cockup in our planning meant that was the day they had all the dignitaries and as such the police had every exit shut off, so we decided to carry on down past Omaha beach and visit the American cemetery.
We knew from previous years that it would be busy everywhere in and around Normandy but this year was incredible, the sheer amount of people everywhere you went was insane.
The american cemetery like all of them is incredible and humbling at the same time, immaculate grounds and a good visitors center.
We left there and had a quick beer stop at a busy crossroads where we got a very good idea of the massive amount of police that was present!! Hundreds of dispatch riders all over the place. We headed to Pointe Du Hock battery, once in you are greeted by the hundreds of massive bomb creators from the attack on it, how its still attached to the cliff face i’ll never know! Same couldn’t be said to the remains of the bunkers that took direct hits!
Earlier in the day a group of current serving U.S. Rangers scaled the same cliff face just like their unit did 75 years ago.
It’s a long drive back to Sainte Mere Eglise in a jeep but the french roads and their smoothness helps! Back into town for dinner and beer, after another day on our Normandy beaches by Jeep trip. Its staying light till about 10pm here which helps.
Day 4 Thursday 6th June – DDayToday we left the jeeps at home and walked into town as we knew driving anywhere today and trying to park would be a nightmare, also we would be able to enjoy a few beers with everybody while taking in the events of the day.
My brother and my mate braved the crowds of the airborne museum while me and dad walked around town and caught up with some friends.
We had lunch behind the church and were lucky enough to catch a couple U.S. veterans being escorted up the road.
The rest of the day comprised of watching the events in town and making new friends, only to be interrupted by paratroopers landing right in the area outside the church which was cool!
Day 5 Friday 7th
Early start in the jeeps to drive out to Carentan for the military market that was on today, held in a cattle market so it was all undercover which was good with the rain.
Allot of stalls but all selling much of the same clothing etc, hoping that some of the big euro military vehicle suppliers would be there but they weren’t which was surprising and disappointing because i needed bits for mine.
I did find a few little bits for good prices so not all bad. Got out before the crowds descended and went into town for breakfast and caught a airbourne ceremony.
Checked out camp arizona which had a good turnout, lots there and live music going on. We headed to Dead man’s corner museum at around 3pm and they were still queuing out the door so we cancelled that idea and drove to Bloody Gulch and the live display there, small but interesting place.
Day 6 Saturday 8th of June
Last big trip before we head home, today we all jumped in dads jeep and drove the 1 ½ hours or so to Saint Martin Des Besaces, this town was the scene of weeks of fierce fighting between the british and the Germans as the Bocage and hill 309 was an extremely important vantage point that we wanted and the Germans needed at all costs. The british unit assigned to take it was Coldstream Guards which my late Granddad was in and although his particular unit was not involved with this, there is a museum and monument there dedicated to them which we wanted to visit on our Normandy beaches by Jeep trip.
Musee 44 La Percee du Bocage is a great little museum full of information on the battle for the town and Hill 309 well worth a visit.
Day 7 Sunday 9th June
Last day and the day of the main parachute drops which happens in the fields right behind where we are staying.
Hoping for perfect weather all week it came through on the day it mattered the most, sunday for the drops, although it was more of an air show with plenty of action including air display teams, fly pasts and then hundreds of drops from the big C130s and the Daks, I would say it went from about 10am till 5ish, a truly amazing show especially from our own VIP viewing area!!
So ends our trip of the Normandy beaches by Jeep
All in all another great D Day anniversary week had by all and two 77 year old jeeps that didn’t miss a beat! Looking forward to the next one with hopefully a few hundred thousand less visitors!