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It's a long while since I've been to Normandy and I have to say, the last time the 'American End' was showing signs of becoming a 'circus' with a Classic Car Club and the Harley Davidson Owners Club in attendance on the day I went...What with the 'tat' shops selling even Vietnam era militaria and general commercialism I felt the essential message was being lost...
Fast forward to Netley Marsh just gone when I met up with a couple of the chaps who had been over this year...They showed me some pictures of the monstrosity (IMO) of a museum that has been built on the car park right in the center of Arromanches...Not only does this reduce/eliminate easy access to the middle of the town but it also looks completely out of character with the historically important town ...Did they really need another museum instead of the existing and less obtrusive one?
Additionally, it appears access to Battery Longue is going to be restricted and it is to become a 'pay to visit' venue...Likewise with Merville Battery where it has already happened...It makes you wonder how long it will be before Point Du Hoc and some of the other 'sights' get the same treatment...
These tales are what was related to me by these two chaps and along with other issues they were beginning to feel 'the good times have gone' and the area is slowly becoming a theme park with an entry fee...
An extreme view?...I don't know, I have yet to experience it but if it's true maybe it's time to find a 'path less travelled' to commemorate the events of the time...
Any comments from the 'regulars'?....Ian
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I have to agree about the "carbuncle" in Arromanches that was currently under construction last June.
We've also given up visiting St Mere Eglise as they shut the town off and you have to park in out of town car parks. We met a friendly chaundarme a few years back who let us through the barrier on our bikes, but as soon as we parked up by the church, his mates moved us out of town.
Point Du Hok has already got the theme park treatment, with a visitor center and raised walkways around the bomb craters and gun emplacements.
Battery Longues has been dealt with vehicle restrictions for a number of years, but so far we've always managed to ride up to the guns and "look out" bunker.....But I think those days are numbered.
Be quick Ian while there are still things to do. I guess restrictions on the 80th will be bigger than previous big anniversaries.
Our greatest pleasure now is riding in the countryside....Like visiting Don Fife!!
God save the King! Ron
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I remember coming back from my first Normandy (1994 the 50th) and talking to some of the older Military Vehicle enthusiats here in the UK about what a great experience it had been for me and several of them said we don't bother going anymore it was much better in the old days.
Everything changes sometimes for the worse but also sometimes for the better, there is a new British Memorial now which I would like to see and I still haven't seen Bill Millins statue so I intend to go again, probably on a quieter year which I now prefer.
But I would recommend to anyone who hasn't been before to go to see for youselves.
email (option): robmiller11(a)yahoo.co.uk
My first Normandy experience was in 1984, and in many ways one of the best ones, and agree with the above sentiment.
But will keep going every year regardless, have several friends who are living in the area, and always have a good time, and know many paths and little roads, to avoid the campervan invasion.
Here 2 pictures of the terrible new museum building, that covers about the whole parking space, I believe it's an addition to the existing museum, not a different new one.
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I could not ride down to the foot of the cliff at Longues sur Mer last June as was possible until a few years ago.
We stopped at the pavement near the guns and riding towards them would have been possible but being on our own (wife and me) I did not want to push it. Area has totally changed from what it used to be.
Unfortunately it happens everywhere.
The Ginkelse Heide and Oosterbeek area is clearly becoming a circus making it look like some fair. Although I did not attend this year (on the couch with Covid) it was clear from the pictures I saw.
I must say however that the boys of the Oosterbeek casualty station made an extremely impressive performance this year.
I really think its all about commercialisation now since there are basically no veterans attending anymore.
It does take away the special feeling I had for many years.
I really cherish the events of the 90ties and early 20 ties.
Maybe I am just getting old??
email (option): wd16H@telfort.nl
I completely agree with your view.
Even though I have been to Normandy just 3 times I've also noticed the change of 'atmosphere.'
Here in the Netherlands we have many WW2 related events which have 'grown' to gatherings with much more publicity around it to attract more and more visitors. 'Keep them rolling' is the largest club of WW2 vehicle owners and they use all possible ways to publish their events.
Since we all want our history to remain alive, especially now the number of WW2 veterans is decreasing rapidly, we enter the 'grey area' if events change more and more. I have witnessed 'professional history knowers' telling incorrect stories about vehicles, uniforms etc and bragging about their 101st or 82nd Airborne Jeep (no offence to real Jeep owners!) I feel the urge to at least show what the British motorcycles have looked like in WW2.
And for that reason I will keep on attending commemorative events on historical places as long as possible.
Just remember that the north European part of the war was quite small and obviously won by the Americans. The resulting history is very corrupted. It is not my intention to upset anyone who served there or their families. You don’t have to work very hard to discover another history. Even researching war graves can tell another story to Hollywood.
Much of the early history is all but gone. The liberation of Abyssinia during the Italian war for example. The dismissal of the role India, without whom’s help the outcome would have been very different. In fact the whole British Empire coming together to save the world. I know this sits uncomfortably with some, but somehow this little country ran by idiots at all times managed to pull this off. In fact the war could have ended earlier, but that’s a controversial story.
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I had a relative who was killed on D Day and I generally visit his units memorial on every trip to Normandy....He has no grave, only a record on the Memorial wall at Bayeux cemetery as his body was not recovered from his knocked out tank...
The war overall is indeed a 'bigger picture' and the sacrifices made to liberate Europe were not confined to Normandy by any means...
However, the commemorations in Normandy each year are focused on that small part of the campaign and that short period of time...
My point really is that what is being commemorated is the events of D Day, the liberation of the area and the sacrifice of life that was needed to achieve that...Bearing that in mind and particularly the last point, I personally find the rising level of commercialisation and the dilution of the commemorations with unrelated events both distasteful and disrespectful to those that paid with their lives and that as a consequence the essential message of commemoration is being lost....
I think for me I'm now more likely to visit Normandy at a completely different time of year to avoid the growing 'circus'....Ian
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On my first few trips over there with the Matchless (2004-on), there were loads of veterans doing the tour who were always up for a chat. That totally made the Normandy experience for me and now that generation is fast fading away, I really have lost interest in going over yet again. Our generation of course had fathers who served in WW2 so we still have that direct link, but succeeding generations see the battle as just part of history and the Normandy coast as a WW2 theme park. Not really sad, just inevitable.