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Arromanches + 79: Remembering D-Day

On the 6th of June, 1944, began one of the greatest invasions in history. All along the coast of Normandy Allied troops came ashore to break the German stranglehold on France.

The American forces landed at Utah and Omaha beaches at the western end of Normandy while British and Canadian forces landed at Gold, Juno and Sword beaches in the center and eastern end. In the center of it all lies the small seaside resort town of Arromanches-les-Bains. Seventy-nine years ago, British engineers and the Royal Navy created a massive artificial port at Arromanches to support the push inland to liberate France.

All that exists today are the ruins of the “mulberries”, the port sections that were floated across the English Channel then flooded to create the artificial harbor.

Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy.
Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy. Image of the Mulberry ruins by Lyles Forbes, 2016.

When we visited Arromanches in 2016, our friend and guide Stuart Robertson played a short video by Jim Radford. Radford was 15 years old and a galley mate aboard the deep-sea tug Empire Larch. It was over 20 years after the war had ended that Jim visited Arromanches again. He was so moved by the peacefulness of the seaside town that he penned the moving song The Shores of Normandy.

In the cold grey light of the sixth of June
In the year of 44
The Empire Larch sailed out from poole
To join with thousands more
The largest fleet the world had seen
We sailed in close array
And we set our course for Normandy
At the dawning of the day

There was not one man in all our crew
But knew what lay in store
For we had waited for that day
Through five long years of war
We knew that many would not return
But all our hearts were true
For we were bound for Normandy
Where we had a job to do

Now the Empire Larch was a deep-sea tug
With a crew of 33
And I was just the galley-boy on my first trip to sea
I little thought when I left home of the dreadful sights I’d see
But I came to manhood on the day that I first saw Normandy

At Arromanches, off the Beach of Gold
‘Neath the rockets’ deadly glare
We towed our blockships into place
And we built a harbour there
‘Mid shot and shell we built it well
As history does agree
While brave men died in the swirling tide
On the shores of Normandy

For every hero’s name that’s known
A thousand died as well
On stakes and wires their bodies hung
Rocked in the ocean swell
And many a mother wept that day
For the sons they loved so well
Men who cracked a joke and cadged a smoke
As they stormed the gates of hell

As the years pass by
I can still recall the men I saw that day
Who died upon that blood-soaked sand
Where now sweet children play
And those of you who were unborn
Who’ve lived in liberty
Remember those who made it so
On the shores of Normandy

The Shores of Normandy by Jim Radford

On this 79th anniversary of D-Day landings, remember the sacrifices made for the freedom we continue to enjoy.

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