In the May half-term break 35 Year 9 and 10 LGS boys launched their regular invasion of the historical sites of Normandy.
After leaving LGS at a ridiculously early hour we made our rendezvous with the early morning Portsmouth to Caen ferry and the next 6 hours passed pleasantly thanks to multiple opportunities to buy rations and to visit the cinema for a morale boost.
First stop in France was a guided tour around the Pegasus Bridge museum and the highlight was a walk on the original bridge and a look at a recreation of a Horsa glider that paratroopers used to cross the channel before securing the bridges in the vicinity of the D-Day beaches. After a long first day of manoeuvers our arrival at the Château du Molay for sleep was much appreciated by the boys. The Chateau has an interesting history, and in the context of our trip, it was intriguing to learn that both Rommel and Eisenhower had stayed here during 1944.
Day two began with a trip to the British Cemetery in Bayeux where the boys discovered the internationality of the Second World War due to the vast numbers of nations that have men buried here. Teachers were highly impressed with the length of time that boys spent in the cemetery, the acute interest they had in the historical aspects of the site and the maturity they showed in a place of remembrance.
Next stop was a visit to the medieval wonder of Bayeux and after some time visiting the boulangeries and crêperies of the town we went to see the spectacular Bayeux Tapestry. The boys enjoyed an audio tour of the Tapestry and some of them spotted the slightly racy additions that don’t appear in the school textbooks. In the afternoon we returned to the Chateau and the boys had a break from history to enjoy an afternoon of archery and survival skills. Day three saw us first visit the beautiful town of Arromanches, most famous for being the site of the Mulberry Harbour that became crucial in the battle for Normandy in 1944. A visit to the excellent 360° cinema telling the story of D-Day was followed by a guided tour of the Musée du Débarquement where an LGS connection was discovered when boys came across a signed portrait of legendary OL Johnnie Johnson.
After free time to buy tacky gifts and explore the remnants of the Mulberry Harbour on the beach we made our way up the coast to the Longues-sur-Mer gun battery, Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery at St Laurent, Pointe-du-Hoc gun battery and the German Cemetery at La Cambe. It was a fantastic afternoon where the lads were able to explore restored gun emplacements, re-create the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan by walking up the dunes of Omaha Beach to the American Cemetery. They located the graves of Medal of Honour winners, the Niland brothers and the sons of President Teddy Roosevelt and, as a contrast, were taken by the different approach to remembrance (and the lack of land given by the Allies) in the German Cemetery.
An evening of Karaoke singing followed and although some boys soon decided to play football about 10 hard-core singers remained to belt out some pop classics. On the final day of the trip we visited the highly impressive Caen Peace Museum before having time to explore the shops of Caen before retreating to Britain.
The trip couldn’t have run without the support of Dr Walker, Mr Murphy, Dr McKay and Miss Jenkins and the boys were appreciative that they gave up the majority of their break accompanying them to France.