Walking In The Footsteps Of Heroes

Colleville-sur-Mer Travel Blog

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The American Memorial just outside of St James

Although I study war - the battles, the tactics and formations used, assault plans and key personalities, I am more of a watcher than a doer.  Having never been in battle, I do not know how I would cope physically and mentally with such a proposition, but I do have the utmost respect for those who do and whether you were fighting along with the Allied or with the Axis Powers, both sides deserve to be recognised for fighting for what they believed in, or were made to believe in. 

 

I can still hear my Oma’s voice saying to me when I was seven when we visited a German War Cemetery in Ysselsteyn, ‘Remember Saskia, not everyone buried here was a Nazi, and not everyone here wanted to fight, but a lot were young boys who had too.’  This always stuck with me, after all my Oma had lived through the war and had seen these young men, not as soldiers, but as someone’s son and loved ones.

  She was a wise woman.

 

So it was while we were in Normandy that we went to pay our respects at an American, a British and a German cemetery.  After all, the boys buried here were just that – boys who, no matter on what side they fought, had families and loved ones who grieved for their passing and were left to pick up the pieces after the war ended.

 

I find it a great comfort that no matter where in the world you are, or which ‘side’ you visit, in every war cemetery the graves are maintained to a high standard and there are usually people visiting at the same time as you.  Furthermore the visitors guest book shows it is a popular place of pilgrimage even after all these years and the wreaths and flowers laid out are a testament to this.

 

The heart-felt messages inscribed on the graves are hard for me to take sometimes – the feelings of pride, love and even anger show this war was hard on everyone.  One young lad I found buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery in Chouain, was just 16 and his inscription made me weep.  ‘God will tell us why some-day he broke our hearts and took you away.’ 

 

It’s hard to walk around this area of France and not be affected by your surroundings.  On the beaches made famous; Sword, Gold, Omaha, Utah you can still find remnants of the war within the water, lying on the beach and up in the hills.


After visiting Sword and looking at the bunkers and the German command post with the view over the beaches, you must wonder, what did they think when they saw the boats coming into land?

 

We made our way to Omaha and attempted to run up from the beach to the high point.

  This was exhausting work and I had to stop often to catch my breathe and watch my footing.  Moreover, I got to do this without having people shooting at me, being wounded and killed around me, without a pack on my back – I struggled now, how would I have ever coped with the reality?

 

Martin Luther King once said “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  These were boys, much younger than I am now who had to leave their families and lay down their lives for the cause.  It happened on both sides, and in the end the cemeteries scattered around Normandy speak more loudly peace.  The boys have found unity in death.  Their silence, their memorials will continue to resonant loudly.

 

We Will Remember Them

vances says:
A moving entry. The thoughts remind me of a quote from an Iranian regarding the current regime --> "we are willing to die for our freedom, but we are not willing to kill for it"...
Posted on: Jan 04, 2011
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The American Memorial just outside…
The American Memorial just outsid…
The German Cemetery - Mont De Huis…
The German Cemetery - Mont De Hui…
In the Jerusalem Cemetary
In the Jerusalem Cemetary
Sword Beach
Sword Beach
Overlooking Sword
Overlooking Sword
On top of Omaha Beach
On top of Omaha Beach
Andrew walking on Omaha Beach
Andrew walking on Omaha Beach
Me on Omaha Beach
Me on Omaha Beach
Bayeux War Cemetary
Bayeux War Cemetary
Colleville-sur-Mer
photo by: Saskia007