4th June – Picauville in a field near Sainte-Mère-Église, Normandy
A fitting finale to our winter spent in Normandy before we return to our beautiful Musetta!
We were advised as to where the best place would be to watch the spectacle of masses of parachutists landing on the marais at Picauville, re-enacting the events of 73 years ago….
We drove to Picauville, close to Sainte Mère Église and followed the signs to park in a field overlooking the parachutists huge drop area, a birds eye view indeed, thank you James! There were quite a selection of jeeps in the field and their occupants all dressed in either military/airforce uniforms or clothes of the 1940s. There was even one lady sat in the back of one of the jeeps fully costumed up and knitting socks! We saw her later on her way into Sainte Mère Église still knitting, very authentic!!
11am The First Drop
At almost exactly 11am the first plane came over us and dropped 12 parachutists.
The first plane overhead complete with it’s and it’s cargo!
The plane returned three times, dropping 12 airmen each time. They all had round parachutes which I gather it is not possible to steer to the landing site? There is therefore a high dependancy on the pilot gauging the approach, taking into account the wind speed and direction, with pinpoint accuracy so that the drop is successful.
1pm The Main Display
The Hercules aircraft lining up their approach to the drop zone, quite a sight!
Now it was time for the main display when six Hercules aircraft at a time came over, each dropping 12 men! It was an incredible sight to see the sky filled with masses of parachutes, this time there were round, square and rectangular chutes, the latter which are infinitely more steerable and therefore potentially able to achieve the desired landing site!
They just kept coming and coming. What a spectacle!!
The saddest and most moving part was the knowledge that many of these parachutists jumped to their deaths back on 6th June 1944 due to the Germans having flooded the marais to make life difficult for the French? They were supposed to be dropped closer to Sainte-Mère-Église in order to secure the town and command the main route north/south which gave access to all the beaches where the military landings of “Operation Overlord” were to take place. This road is known now as the N13, running between Cherbourg and Caen.
Sainte-Mère-Église – The hub of the Commemorations!
We left the drop zone and made our way into Sainte-Mère-Église, passing a group of jeeps parked up to inspect this memorial at Picauville en route.
The town (Sainte Mère Église) was thronging with people mainly French of course and many of whom were dressed in the uniforms of the forces they chose to represent on the day, walking around with their families who too were dressed in clothes from the 1940s. There were also Americans, Germans, Belgians and Dutch as well as us Brits!
This one is a Frenchman dressed in American uniform with his wife and daughter totally entering into the spirit of the commemorations! There was piped 1940s music everywhere which just added to the atmosphere.
Some more images from the D-Day Festival of Normandy which we came across during our stroll through Sainte Mère Église.
As we all know the actual day of the Anniversary this year is 6th June 2017 but we can see the Festival marking the 73rd anniversay spans a whole month! The French are always ever grateful for the freedom afforded them by “Operation Overlord”, like us they will never forget all the sacrifices made by so many for all of us.
We will return to Musetta on Wednesday this week and after some work to her standing rigging is complete we will be off again to explore the beautiful region of South Brittany and beyond. Watch out for the posts….!