Normandy

The Battery of Longues-sur-Mer

During a recent trip to France, I had the opportunity to spend the day on a guided tour of Normandy.  It’s hard to describe the emotion one feels when standing on such ground, so I won’t try to do so.  What I will do is to show you some photographs of the area, and give you a little back story, beginning with this shot of the batteries at Longues-sur-Mer.

Built in the first months of 1944, the at Loungues-sur-Mer included four 150-mm guns, housed in casements, located in the middle of the assault sector on the top of a 65 meter cliff overlooking the Channel, and with clear line of sight and in range of  Omaha (American sector) and Gold (British sector) beaches.  In the very early morning hours of 6 June 1944, the French cruiser Georges Leygues and the U.S. battleship Arkansas opened fire on the batteries.  The batteries returned fire, forcing the headquarters ship HMS Bulolo to retreat to a safe distance about one kilometer from the shoreline.  The German guns ceased fire briefly, but then reengaged the allies, continuing to fire until 1900 hours (7pm for you civilians).  While three of the four guns had been disabled by the British cruisers HMS Ajax and Argonaut, the batteries, along with 184 men, did not surrender to the British until the following day.  (Creative notes:  For inspiration, I post-processed this photograph and wrote the post while listening to the awesome Band of Brother’s score.  I shot the photograph below as the sun was still rising over Normandy, using my Nikon D700 and my “travel lens”, the Nikkor 28-300 f/3.5-5.6 ED VR.  The shot above, from inside the gun casement, comes courtesy of the Nikkor 14-24 F/2.8 lens.)

 

The desolation of Smaug…

When I was but a wee lad (well, maybe not totally wee), one of my all time favorite books was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  It was written so descriptively that I felt almost as if I were standing right next to Bilbo Baggins as he embarked on his adventure to confront the dragon Smaug.  I was reminded of that wonderful book  last month while exploring the beautiful gothic-styled Le Mont Saint-Michel, in the Normandy region of France.  I was like a kid in a sweet shop, devouring all the Gothic eye-candy I saw.  I could almost imagine what it must have been like for those who roamed the same great halls where I stood that day.  I could almost feel the heat of the flames burning in the many massive fire places I came across, and hear the crackle of the flames and smell the roasted meats cooking over those flames, oh so many long years ago.  I imagine such a place would have been a safe haven from the dark things outside… like dragons!  If you are ever in France, you simply must visit this amazing place.  Did I mention the roasted lamb is to die for?

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