Wednesday, 27 May 2009


On June 6 1944, thousands of Allied soldiers invaded Normandy in an act which contributed to the end of World War Two. Equally momentous, on June 6 1994 I sat in my PJs and watched The Longest Day in my Ashhurst lounge (put on by TV1 to mark the 50th anniversary of the landings ) and wrote in my diary that I would love to go to Normandy one day. Last weekend, I finally made it. Yay!
Tane looks at the NZ graves
We visited Omaha Beach first, the place where the Americans landed and home to the cemetery shown in Saving Private Ryan. The whole experience was a bit surreal however in that I really didn't feel as moved as I should have. I am not sure why, possibly a combination of not feeling like it was my history (given the number of American flags I almost felt like I had no right to be there at all) and the number of loud Americans hanging out at the site.
Omaha Beach
The next day we visited the Commonwealth Cemetery, which was much more what I had been expecting. The atmosphere was more sedate, and the cemetery more tasteful. It was very moving finding some NZ graves there, serving as a reminder that D-Day was about people from all corners of the earth.
A German grave
The most moving thing for me though was seeing a small section of German graves. This was the first time I had ever seen some, and if the names and dates inscribed on them were anything to go by the Germans that perished seemed to average about 18 years old, making them all of 7 when Hitler came to power. Should you ever visit the D-Day sites yourself I recommend visiting Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery. However I also recommend that you do what very few others seem to do - visit the Commonwealth sites as well, and see the German graves. As well as being interesting, it gives the experience some perspective.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Oh my goodness, when you come here we are so going to see the biggest German military cemetary in France. Bodies were brought there from all of the greater north-eastern part of France after the war and all grouped together in 1 place. It's just beside a tiny village near Toul and Nancy. I discovered it the other day and P isn't interested in going so that's a date for when you're here.