75 years after D-Day: visit the festivals and commemorations
On Thursday 6 June 2019 it will be exactly 75 years since the Allied troops set foot on the Normandy Beaches. D-Day. A military operation that would change the world and which marked the beginning of the end for the Nazi regime in Western Europe. If you plan to go camping in Normandy between 25 May and 16 June it will be almost impossible not to notice some of the commemoration and festivals. I’ll give you a few advance tips so you won’t miss anything.
However horrifying the reasons for D-Day were, and despite the shocking number of victims who fell on both sides, we still benefit from the final outcome to this very day. A liberated Europe where anyone can go where he or she wants. And that’s something everyone should be aware of. The complete programme of festivities is impressive and I have highlighted five of them for you!
1. Firework displays on the landing beaches
Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach. These were the code names for the five landing beaches where the Allies planned to come ashore. The French Ministry of Culture has applied to have the beaches officially registered as UNESCO World Heritage sites, To support this initiative, firework displays will be organised on Sunday 9 June at eight important D-Day locations along the coast!
The shows start at 23:30 in Arromanches, Bernières-sur-Mer, Lion-sur-Mer, Longues-sur-Mer, Luc-sur-Mer, Ouistreham, Port-en-Bessin-Huppain and Vierville-sur-Mer. If you want to be there I advise you to arrive well in advance to find yourself a good spot
Campsite tip: Campsite Port’Land
2. Parachute drops above Sainte-Mère-Église
Sainte-Mère-Église is probably the most famous French village for the Americans. The first American paratroopers jumped from their planes above this village during the night of 5-6 June 1940. The church tower on which parachutist John Steele was caught up is famous throughout the world. He came under fire but survived by pretending to be dead. A parachute still hangs from the church tower as a memorial in honour of him and many others. The stained glass windows are also a memorial to the parachutists.
There will again be parachute drops during the weekend of 8 and 9 June, but this time of a very different kind. On Saturday 8 June the drops will take place in and around Sainte-Mère-Église and on Sunday 9 June they will take place a bit further on in La Fiere. The streets will be closed off in the evenings for military parades and concerts which will conclude with a firework display.
Campsite tip: Campsite de Sainte Mère-Église
3. Film festival and Band of Brothers actors
Have you seen the Band of Brothersseries? The series produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks follows the role played by the American Easy Company during the 1944 invasion. Several actors from the series will travel back to Normandy for the Normandy WW2 International Film Festival All types of events will be organised between 2 and 7 June, mostly in the vicinity of Carentan and the various museums in the area.
While the actors sign autographs in the Utah Beach Museum, films will be screened in the Salle du Théatre in Carentan and special film castings will be organised. A concert will be organised in the theatre on 5 June. Some events, such as the concert, are free of charge. There is an admission charge for some other events. Any money raised during the festival will be used to support the foundation and to preserve the veterans’ stories for future generation.
Campsite tip: Flower Camping Le Haut Dick
4. Dakotas fly over Normandy
The Daks over Normandy project will be held in honour of the allied parachutists. Old C-47/DC3 Dakotas will fly above Normandy on 5 June. The aircraft come from all over Europe and will fly from Duxford Airfield to Carpiquet Airfield, just as they did in 1944. On board will be hundreds of parachutists wearing Second World War style of uniforms and they will drop over the historic landing zones.
If you are an old aircraft enthusiast, be sure to go to the airfield near Caen. You can see the old Dakotas from close by during the open days and you can even take a look on board!
Campsite tip: Campsite Sandaya Côte de Nacre
5. Picnic at Omaha Beach
The invasion proceeded fairly well in some places but the Allies suffered their greatest losses at Omaha Beach. An emotive spot and not a place you would expect to enjoy a picnic. But that’s exactly what will happen here on Saturday 8 June. Hundreds of people will meet here in the evening with their picnic hampers to enjoy an evening meal on this historic piece of ground.
The evening will be accompanied by many festivities, music and games. A wonderful evening to see Omaha Beach at its best, to enjoy the activities and of course the beautiful sunset. If you’re going to this picnic, be sure to take your camera!
Campsite tip: Campsite Des Pommiers
Part 2: historic locations
You are in the best place to celebrate freedom and to enjoy the historic festivals. Part 2 of this article will follow next week. I will mention five places that played a big role during D-Day and which to this very day are still worth a visit.