Today 21st May we went to our 1st 70th Anniversary Ceremony… I felt the emotions starting & the tears started, (note to self must pick up plenty tissues next time at the supermarket!). We were invited by a very dear friend who is serving with The Royal Marines to come and see the 1664 Challenge in Port en Bessin here in Normandy. 350 years ago in 1664 The Royal Marines were founded, so to mark this anniversary what better way to mark the occasion than take 6 men, ski across the Arctic Circle for 1,664 miles, then get on a yacht and sail 1,664 miles through the roughest seas down to Cadiz in Spain, then cycle 1,664 miles to Port en Bessin where the 47 Commando had a huge battle June 6th & 7th 1944 mark that with a ceremony, jump in Kayaks and paddle across the Channel to Eastney, Portsmouth just a mere 100 miles across open sea and then when on dry land run round Great Britain 1,664 miles! Port en Bessin was a crucial point for the success of the Invasion as it was the link between Gold & Omaha plus the point for PLUTO the pipeline under the ocean for fuel to keep the troops going. However the Germans had dug themselves in good and properly over the 4 years of occupation. 47 Commando unit landed on Gold 12 miles away and suffered casualties there, made their way to within 2 kms of the objective by nightfall on the 6th June 1944 when there was another fierce battle with even more casualties, local people helped the wounded that night and in the morning the 7th June 1944 the local Gendarme Henri Gouget acted as guide, the ensuing battle was fearsome with many casualties to include Captain Cousins killed leading his men in the last assault bringing the surrender of the Germans. The Royal Marines had battled machine gun nests, concrete bunkers all surrounded with barbed wire and flame throwers, 46 men killed & 65 wounded. Today’s ceremony was poignant and very moving, we were stood in the shadow of the bunkers they fought so hard for with The Mayors speech really reflecting the bravery and solidarity of the Marines along with the heartfelt thank the town still feels for their liberation. A very gracious and moving tribute, it brings it home we are still in living history especially with 2 Royal Marine veterans in attendance. 92 years of age, ramrod straight, bright as buttons in their British Veteran uniform of grey slacks, blazer, beret, polished medals & highly polished shoes! Make me very proud to be British.
When you take this 1 story in just one small town here in Normandy and start to equate how many towns and villages there are, with a story, believe me every single one has a story, you start to ‘get’ the size of the Invasion…when I see in front of my eyes old ladies becoming a young woman again giving kisses and flowers to the liberators and the veterans becoming the conquering heroes again, it is incredibly moving…Living History. I feel privileged to be witnessing it. We have just seen the weather forecast for the Channel, it is the worst anyone could have feared…I am thinking of these young men, the 6 keep going, the support do 2 hours on 2 hours off on the support boat. As I head to my wonderfully comfortable bed tonight and snuggle down under my quilt I shall whisper safe crossing & good luck…I may even take my iPad upstairs with me to check in now & then as there is a live link to them see http://www.1664challenge.co.uk