5:00am wake up call so we could take the metro to the train station and then a 2.5 hour train ride to Caen. Mrs. Bayley's cousin lives in Paris and she joined us today. We rented a car and they gave us a Mercedes!!! Our first stop was at the Cdn. cemetery at Beny-sur-mer. It is the resting place of over 2,000 Cdns. Mrs. Bayley's great uncle landed at Juno Beach on June 6, 1944... he died that day and is buried in this cemetery. Mrs. Bayley brought some personal items from home and left them at the grave site. She also made a rubbing of the grave stone. It was quite emotional for all of us.
Our next stop was Juno Beach, the landing area for Canadians as part of Operation Overlord and the D-Day invasion. The education centre is impressive. Lots of exhibits about each branch of the armed forces as well as life on the home front and specific acts of heroism during the war. As we were exiting the museum, I noticed a list of names scrolling by... it was the list of soldiers that died during WW2. There are so many names on the list that it takes 13.5 hours to go through the whole list. Amazingly enough, it was just starting to list the Ds... we had to wait 15 minutes but we did see the name of Mrs. Bayley's great uncle. Unbelievable timing, instead of having to wait 13.5 hours.
We took a tour of the tunnels and bunkers on Juno Beach. These were built by the Germans as part of their defensive efforts. Made of concrete, they were difficult for the Allies to penetrate. While waiting for the tour to start, I heard, "Ms. Ruest!" Again, amazing timing, two former students from Chemainus Sec. were going to be on the same tour as us!! Andrew and Amy had made contact with me a few days into my trip... they were on their way over to Europe, but it didn't look like we would be able to meet up until our trips were over and we were back home. It was great to see both of them after so many years...
In 2002 and 2005 my History and Social Studies classes raised money to help build the Juno Beach centre. We have plaques at the centre as an acknowledgement of our donations. Its very cool to see something we contributed to, half way around the world, and Chemainus Sec. name. Those students helped to keep history "alive" through their fundraising efforts.
As we drove to Bayeaux, we could see the coast line and the Mulberry Harbours (temporary portable harbours developed by the British during World War II to allow the rapid offloading of cargo onto beaches that are still off shore at Gold Beach (one of the two British landing beaches).