My Own Normandy Invasion

war cemetery
Crosses as far as the eye can see at the war cemetery in Nomandy
US jeep
From left to right, Georges, Me, Claudine with Antoinette in front and Rose in the abandoned US military jeep in the farmyard

When I was fourteen years old, I went on a French exchange. Antoinette, the girl I was paired with,  lived on a farm in a small hamlet in Normandy, called Ste. Croix sur Mer. I had a wonderful time in France and got on very well with Antoinette, her sister, Claudine and their parents. In fact, we repeated the exchange for several years and I am still in contact with them.

One of the places they took me, was the war cemetery at Arromanches. Of course, I’d heard of the D-Day Landings but my knowledge of the events was sketchy to say the least and I was completely overwhelmed by the rows of pristine, white crosses. It made a big impression on the dizzy fourteen-year old me.

The other thing I remember was the US military jeep that was used on the farm as a run around car. I even remember Antoinette allowing me to drive it on the fields, going up and down the ruts – it wasn’t allowed on the roads and especially, not in the hands of a fourteen-year old!

It wasn’t until I went back to visit the family with my husband, son and parents about twenty years ago that I realised what a large part the family had played in the D-Day Landings. Apparently, there was a temporary air strip set up on their land and I understand that the celebrated British ace “Johnnie” Johnson, who served with the RCAF 144th Wing landed there.

I wish I’d known more about the war and what happened in Normandy when I was staying there. I wish I’d been able to appreciate the history and to have recognised the landmarks and understood the significance of the farm or even to have spoken to Antoinette’s father about his experiences of occupied and liberated Normandy.

I hope to go back one day to visit Antoinette’s family again and to find out more.

I wonder if they still have the jeep?