In July, a group from Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School took a school history trip to Normandy, to learn about D-Day. Find out how they got on in this, their school trip diary!
On Sunday 5th July 2015, we set off early for Normandy, with 38 students and 4 members of staff. The trip has proved so popular in previous years that we were keen to take a new group for the third school visit to the WW2 D-Day beaches and museums.
We stayed in superb accommodation, right on the beach and just 10 minutes from Pegasus Bridge, where D-Day began. The accommodation was clean and comfortable, the food good and there were plenty of possible activities.
It was just after midnight on 6th July 1944 when five gliders, each carrying 30 soldiers, successfully landed within 50m of the Bénouville Bridge near Ouistreham. Their crews secured the bridge over the Caen Canal and liberated the town. The students enjoyed an excellent guided tour of Pegasus Bridge and the museum before looking at the actual landing sites of the gliders.
On the first full day, our students visited the Canadian Juno Beach Museum, which was superb. In particular, its thought-provoking film, “They Walk With You”, brought tears to many an eye. It was then on to the Arromanches Landing Museum on Gold Beach, where students learned about the construction of the incredible Mulberry Harbour, as well as how the weather almost thwarted the plans.
Omaha Beach was where the American forces landed; here the students read an account of the day written by an American soldier, which really brought home to many of them what it was like to be involved in D-Day. We then moved on to the American Cemetery where, movingly, all the headstones face towards America. Here, we located the graves of the Niland brothers, who inspired the film “Saving Private Ryan”.
Tuesday was another full day and a favourite with all the students was Pointe du Hoc, where the American Rangers tried to secure a foothold between Omaha and Utah beaches. We also visited La Cambe German Cemetery and compared it with Langemarck, which we had all visited last November. Finally, we visited Sainte-Mère-Église, where the US paratroopers landed to secure the western flank at the same time as the British paratroopers landed at Pegasus Bridge. The film, “The Longest Day” was based on events at this town.
Finally, we visited the Bayeux Tapestry and were able to compare the Norman invasion of 1066 with the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944: “We, once conquered by William have now set free the Conqueror's native land."