It’s been 75 years since D-Day. In honour of such an important historic occasion, I’ve opted to skip ahead to a relevant part of my most recent road trip.
Following on from Stonehenge, I found myself at Lepe Country Park. Lepe is a small place on the Solent, where approximately 6,000 men left the beaches to take part in the Normandy invasion.
Not going to lie though, initially I was looking for a beach, and this just happened to be the one I remembered directions to. Upon arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole host of facilities besides parking, though I’m quitely confident they weren’t there in 1944.
The cafe “block”, equipped with restaurant, toilets and an uncomfortable wall to sit on outside, is home to a number of plaques that tell the story of Lepe and it’s role in D-Day’s success.
Though I don’t have the complete picture here, the plaque above reads:
During World War II Lepe and the surrounding area played an important role, especially in the preparations for D-Day and the Normandy landings in 1944.
The allies developed temporary ‘Mulberry harbours’ to offload cargo on the beaches to support the invasion of Normandy. They were made up of different sections including floating piers, sunken ships, and giant concrete ‘caissons’ – watertight structures which blocked the waves and wind.
Lepe was a vital embarkation point for troops, vehicles, and supplies: around 6,000 men left from Lepe to take part in the Normandy invasion, a key turning point in the war in North West Europe.
The beach was specifically set up for loading heavy equipement, notably the specially adapted tanks known as ‘Hobart’s Funnies’ such as the ‘swimming’ Duplex Drive Sherman tanks.
Today you can still see plenty of evidence of wartime activity such as the remains of extensive concrete and brick structures.
These were used for construction and launching of the caissons using in the Mulberry harbours, and for embarkation of troops and supplies.
If you’re interested in reading a more complete version of history, the New Forest site has a much better account of the impact Lepe had on D-Day.
After grabbing a coffee and a bite to eat I set off on a relatively short walk, though spent a fair bit of time getting sand in my boots, getting sand out of my boots, dusting the sand off my boots, you get the gist. It’s sandy.
It was a glorious day, albeit a little cold and windy, so I took the chance to fool around with the camera and just enjoy the sights. It’d been a long time since I’d visited the coast and I find the salty sea air quite relaxing.
If you’re willing to improvise with seating, there’s actually plenty of dry places to plonk your bottom down. Equally, it’s unusually accessible for a beach that isn’t packed out with tourists.
A little way down I stopped to change my camera lenses and toy with the macro settings. Didn’t work out too well, though I suppose you can still tell that it’s seaweed.
Further still I spotted a small lighthouse, and who doesn’t love a lighthouse? Though I’ve no idea how you actually get to it, which meant grabbing the snaps from the sea front. It could’ve been worse.
At this point I was still blissfully unaware of the significance of the whole place. It wasn’t until I headed back towards the car that I stopped to read a few of the seemingly randomly placed signs along the road.
At that point it dawned on it. A long time ago, a lot of people would’ve been gathered there, saying goodbye, and heading to the front. I found it a sobering thought.