30 years ago today: Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc and a chance meeting with Leon Bourse.


Previously: 30 years ago today: Bayeux and the fabled day on the Mulberry beach at Arromanches.

Day 101 … Saturday, July 25
Bayeux. Bob departs. Omaha Beach, Pointe du Hoc. American Cemetery.

In spite of the wine intake on Friday, we must have gotten out of bed fairly early on Saturday, presumably to bid farewell to Bob as he began traveling in the direction of his flight home.

Barrie and I were to be going toward the coast again, but first we stopped for a look at Bayeux’s cathedral.

The site is an ancient one and was once occupied by Roman sanctuaries. The present cathedral was consecrated on 14 July 1077 in the presence of William, Duke of Normandy and King of England. It was here that William forced Harold Godwinson to take the oath, the breaking of which led to the Norman conquest of England.

After damages in the 12th century, the church eventually was repaired and rebuilt in intervals from the 15th through the 19th centuries.

At this juncture there was a change of film. I had mostly Kodak film and also two or three rolls of THAT OTHER BRAND, which in this instance proved to be an unwise idea. I’ve applied some fixes and filters to these in order to punch them up a bit.

We continue with Bayeux’s cathedral.

Bus schedules were more sporadic on Saturday, but we made do. Our drop-off was near Pointe du Hoc, and judging from the order of the photos, we must have jumped another bus in the direction of the American Cemetery. We were near the Omaha Beach landing sites throughout, although I can’t recall descending the headlands to the actual beaches.

The World War II Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument is located on a cliff eight miles west of Normandy American Cemetery, which overlooks Omaha Beach, France. It was erected by the French to honor elements of the American Second Ranger Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. James E. Rudder. During the American assault of Omaha and Utah beaches on June 6, 1944, these U.S. Army Rangers scaled the 100-foot cliffs and seized the German artillery pieces that could have fired on the American landing troops at Omaha and Utah beaches. At a high cost of life, they successfully defended against determined German counterattacks.

In one of the many tiny hamlets dotting the venerable, manicured fields between Bayeux and the ocean, we found ourselves stranded in mid-afternoon, waiting for the bus connection home.

There was a bar.

We’d had nothing to drink all day, but a few cool beers seemed merited. Reasonably assured of the bus’s arrival time at the stop near the bar, we retired inside for what Barrie quickly dubbed as Cancerbrau, a merely serviceable golden lager.

There was a church across the street, and just before the bus was due, I walked over and had a look. The first thing I saw was this grave marker.

“In memory of my son and our dear brother, Leon Bourse, who died for France on Sept. 25, 1915, at the age of 20 years. Pray for him.”

You have no way of knowing what items will pass unnoticed, and which of them will tear at your heart and nestle into your skull, never to leave. The unfortunate Leon Bourse’s grave is one of the latter, a reminder of the war that came first, setting into motion events that brought Barrie’s dad (and uncle) to the beach only a few kilometers away.

Of all the sites I saw in France in 1987, this is the one that made an indelible impression. You can’t ever tell.

Next: A ferry ride from France to Ireland, with the help of Super Valstar and Guinness.