Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day when around 160,000 Allied troops (mostly in their 20s) along with 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft landed on five beaches of Normandy in the coordinated invasion of occupied France.The land was heavily fortified and the causalities were large but it was undoubtedly a key element in ending World War II. Operation Overlord was a masterpiece in planning and execution. Every rural village seemingly has a story to tell and memorials to mark major events.
Today, the Normandy coast is peaceful with elegant seaside towns, rolling rural landscapes and picturesque beaches. Grain fields, lowing cattle and verdant pastures dotted with farmhouses mask the savage battles that took hold 70 years ago.
But D-Day is enshrined into the landscape. Gun emplacements and bunkers litter key lookout points over the beaches while numerous monuments, markers and memorials mark this significant battle. Beautifully manicured cemeteries packed with tombstones of young men struck down in their prime overlook the sea and area. Tales of Juno, Omaha, Gold, Sword and Utah Beaches entered our lexicon.The sea remains dotted with large concrete blocks which made the artificial Mulberry Harbour – a remarkable technical feat of moving 600,000 tonnes of concrete across the wartime English Channel to act as a port for the landing.
The Normandy beaches and region has a poignant spirituality garnered as you stroll the beaches, museums and rural laneways. And especially so today, as veterans, leaders and others gather to commemorate a key turning point in a war fought seventy years ago.