Austria-Europe trip – Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bonjour! Good evening from Bastogne, Belgium. It has been a long day and we’ve driven a lot of miles traveling from Caen, France to here. But, all in all, it has been a very enjoyable day. It was rather cold when we started the day. It then warmed up to be sunny and about 60 degrees. But later, it clouded up, turned cold and then rained on us a few times while we were driving.

When we left our hotel in Caen this morning we drove a short distance across the city to visit the Pegasus Bridge. This is the bridge over the Orne Canal that British paratrooper Major John Howard and his men seized just after midnight on June 6, 1944. It was a key objective on the first day. After looking at the ground where he and 40+ men landed in glider planes, I think it was a miracle that they were able to accomplish their mission at all. Their glider plane landed just 50 yards from the bridge, and about 30 -40 feet from the Orne Canal on their left and a lake that was about 20-30 yards on their right. After we took a few pictures of the Pegasus Bridge, we headed out for Amiens, France and to visit the cathedral there and then to drive a short distance to visit the Somme World War I Battlefield and the American Cemetery there.

We arrived in Amiens a few minutes after noon and after an extensive search for a parking place, spent about an hour looking at one of the most beautiful gothic churches in France. It was built in 1220 and is currently going under some major renovations. The front of the church is not part of the renovation, so we got a few great pictures. We then drove through Albert, France and Michelle asked me to stop so she could get a picture of the Basillica at Albert, a beautiful old church that we later found out suffered some serious damage in World War 1.

Our next stop was to visit the Thievpal Visitor’s Center and Memorial. This site is actually on the ground where the Battle of the Somme was fought. The exhibit here takes you through each phase of the various battles that were fought here from 1916 to 1918, and contains some great photographs, personal stories, battle plans, and other great information. Over 1 million men lost their lives here. 

We finally drove to the Somme American Cemetery. It took us a little while to find it. It is not marked on most maps and there are no road signs that would give you directions like there were for the cemetery in Normandy. After some effort and a few errors, we found it and parked out front of the visitor’s center. We were met by a nice young man, who is the American caretaker. He is a former military serviceman who had been stationed at our French embassy and when the job came open at this cemetery, he applied and got it. He told us all about the cemetery, how it got started, etc. It has 1,844 servicemen who are laid to rest there. Of those, 138 are unknown. Most of men buried here were assigned to the 27th Infantry Division from New York and the 30th Infantry Division whose soldiers came from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Again, we took some pictures and walked around a few minutes and then head for our final stop – Bastogne, Belgium.

We arrived in Bastogne at about 8:20 pm, checked into our hotel and are now getting ready to call it a night. It has definitely been a long day. Tomorrow (April 14), we will visit the sites from the Battle of the Bulge that was fought here and then travel to spend the night in Luxembourg where we will visit General Patton’s grave the following day.

Well, that’s our report for today. I posted a few pictures for you below. Thanks for letting us share our “adventure” with you. Blessings!

Au revoir!

Fred

  
The Pegasus Bridge. It was attacked and seized at 0016 hours on June 6, 1944 by British Paratroopers.

  
The Amiens Cathedral. Notice all of the many carved figures that are on the front.

  
This is the Basillica at Albert.

  
‘Old Glory’ flying over the Somme American Cemetery

  
The back of the Chapel at the Cemetery. Notice the cannon on the upper right side of the building.

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