Sunday, 27th July 2014
Knowing I’d be in Caen on Sunday, I’d searched for a church I could join in with for the morning service. It turned out there was one on the Rue Jean Mermoz, L’Eglise Evangélique Baptiste (Evangelical Baptist Church). There were about 100 in the service which followed a similar pattern to one you could find over here – hymns, prayer, Bible reading and a sermon. The only thing different, of course, was the language but this wasn’t too much of a handicap. As usual, I was able to understand at least the gist of what was being said.
Afterwards I drove over to Ouistreham which serves as Caen’s port – there’s a ferry service from here to Portsmouth. There was a convenient car park between the Church of St Samson and the Town Hall.
Opposite the church was a charcuterie, and the family running it were happy to knock up a baguette for me with ham, cheese and tomato even though they’d started to clean up prior to shutting the shop. It was huge, and lasted both for lunch and for my evening meal. I also got a bottle of artisan lemonade.
Afterwards I drove down to the waterfront and beach. Since it was another beautiful day and a Sunday the place was quite busy but I managed to find a spot in the car park on the Place Alfred Thomas almost opposite the Tourist Information Bureau. Again, this was quite busy but the girls were very helpful and I left armed with maps, booklets and leaflets. Of course, the beaches here and to the west were the site of the D-Day landings of 6th June 1944, Operation Overlord, and after only a very short walk from the TIB I found myself actually standing on Sword beach. The scene was infinitely more peaceful this day than 70 years ago:
Further down from the car park, towards the west, was the Musée du Commando N°4 which I was happy to visit.
Outside was the propeller of a Wellington bomber which, the plaque tells us, was recovered from the sea after being shot down.
Again, the museum was quite busy, and besides the static displays there was a video presentation for which all the seating was occupied and there was standing room only.
As you may imagine, there are memorials scattered all along the coast. Further westwards was this plain but profound one:
Beyond it was Juno beach:
Continuing westwards I finally arrived at the busy fishing port of Courseulles-sur-Mer. Here it was, on 14th June 1944, that Charles de Gaulle returned to French soil. A Cross of Lorraine, symbol of the Free French, is a fitting reminder of the day:
At its base is a simple inscription:
Nearby are other reminders:
The image immediately above records the appeal de Gaulle made to his fellow countrymen in 1940, shortly after the evacuation from Dunkirk. It reads:
To all the French people
France has lost a battle!
But France has not lost the war!
The leaders may have capitulated, yielding to panic, forgetting honour, delivering their country to servitude. However, all is not lost!
All is not lost, because this war is a world-wide war. In the free world, its immense forces haven’t yet been committed. One day, these forces will crush the enemy. It must be that France, on that day, be present at the victory. So she will recover her liberty and her grandeur. That is my goal, my only goal!
That is why I invite all French people, wherever they are found, to unite with me in action, in sacrifice and in hope.
Our homeland is in peril of dying. Let us all struggle to save her!
Long live France!
(signed) C de Gaulle
General de Gaulle
18 June 1940
The memorials again overlook Juno beach:
And so, with a last look at the Free French flag, it was time to return to Caen, Flunch and the B&B.