Cadet Trip to Normandy
October 2, 2023

Cadet Trip to Normandy

At the end of the school day last Thursday, 10 cadets and 3 staff from St James CCF left school to embark on a trip to the D-Day battlefield area of Normandy in Northern France, all aboard the school minibus, bound for the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg.

After arriving in Cherbourg on Friday morning, the group travelled first to St Mere Eglise where American paratroopers dropped on the town in the early hours before the D-Day landings took place. The parachute of one paratrooper caught on the bell tower of the church and he had hung there, pretending to be dead, while the battle raged around him. He was captured by the Germans, but later managed to escape. There is a dummy figure of a paratrooper complete with parachute hanging from the church tower.

Visits were then made to locations featured in the television series ‘Band of Brothers’, which was based on the real-life story of Easy Company of the 101st US Airborne Division. These locations included a memorial to those members of Easy Company who died during the airborne landings, and a memorial statue of their commanding officer, Lt Dick Winters.

Following a picnic lunch, we visited Utah beach, the first of the two US landing beaches and the most westerly of the five D-Day landing beaches and the museum there, followed by a visit to the large German military cemetery at La Cambe.

Then it was on to Pointe du Hoc. This cliff top site on a promontory of land overlooking the English Channel was the location of a large German gun battery which dominated the nearby landing beaches. It was a priority target for Allied troops on D-Day to prevent German artillery targeting the Allied landing craft as they came ashore.

A visit to the US Omaha landing beach was next. American troops suffered 6,000 casualties on the landings at Omaha, the highest number of the five landing beaches. Then there was a visit to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer, where over 9,000 US soldiers are buried, including two sons of US President, Theodore Roosevelt.

Visits for the day over, the group travelled to their hotel accommodation in Bayeux, a short walk from the town centre where they enjoyed a pleasant evening meal at a local restaurant.

On Saturday morning, after a hot breakfast, the group travelled next to the British Military Cemetery in Bayeux, and then on to the Jerusalem War Cemetery at Chouain, where they saw the grave of the youngest known British soldier to die in the Second World War, aged 16 and younger than most of the cadets who took part on this trip. He joined up, lying about his age, without his parents’ knowledge.

Visits were then made to German artillery batteries at Longues-sur-Mer, and Merville, and to the Gold landing beach at Arromanches, and the Juno landing beach at Courseulles-sur-Mer. The last visit of the trip was to the Pegasus Bridge Memorial and Museum at Ranville. The capture of the bridges at Ranville was one of the first actions by British forces on D Day. Several gliders of airborne troops landed on a small patch of open ground adjacent to the bridges, taking German troops by surprise, and capturing the bridges which they held until relieved by Allied troops. Lt Den Brotheridge, in one of the gliders, was killed during the assault on the bridge and became the first Allied casualty of D Day.

Following this last visit, the group travelled to Caen to catch the overnight return ferry to Portsmouth, and a return to school on Sunday morning.

The trip was quite an experience for the group and one that I am sure they will remember.

Mr Paul

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