Operation Overlord, codename for the Battle of Normandy and Operation Neptune, better known as D-Day or the D-Day Landings, was the codeword for the air and sea invasion that took place on the 6th June 1944. 24,000 personnel from Britain, Canada and the USA, shortly after midnight on that memorable day parachuted into France. The invasion had begun. At 6.30am an amphibious assault force involving a flotilla of almost 7,000 vessels landed nearly 140,000 troops onto the Normandy Beaches. The landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast line that had been divided into five beach areas named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. On that epic day almost 70 years ago in excess of 160,000 troops left their loved ones and friends to cross the English Channel not knowing if they would ever return. History tells us that the ‘D’-Day Landings’ represented the turning point in World War ll allowing us to remain the free people we are today.
On that day, June 6th 1944 I was just 19 days old, a baby living in Scotland with my parents. My father, an Army Captain, was stationed at Cameron Barracks, Inverness, home base of the Queens own Cameron Highlanders as a training officer. Whilst I was languishing in a comfortable, warm cot my uncle, Leonard Wells at 33 years of age, a professional soldier and holding the rank of Sergeant in the British Army was 600 miles south preparing to land on the beaches of France having been one of the last to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk 4 years earlier. What was going through his mind you might well wonder?
In honour and remembrance of those who gave their lives as part of those landings and the ensuing battle Azamara Club Cruises have proudly announced a cruise, visiting those beaches and battle areas, appropriately named, “Past to Present: Normandy 70 Years Later”. This cruise will be many things to many people. It will be very special, with everyone wanting to participate for their own personal reason. To see the areas that have featured in epic films such as ‘The Longest Day’ with its cast of global icons, to the documentaries that have been produced and translated into so many different languages. To me it will be very special indeed. A celebration of my 70th Birthday and 70 years of freedom. An opportunity to visit the beaches where my uncle fought and was one of the few who returned home safely, but so many young men willingly gave their lives in order to secure that freedom not just for me but also for you. An opportunity to bow my head, shed a tear and say ‘Thank You’.
And also an opportunity for me to meet and interview the person who has made this cruise possible, one of my Twitter followers, Larry Pimentel, the President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, who, like me, had relatives involved in this historic event and who had travelled thousands of miles to be part of it.
Join me on this historic 11 day cruise aboard the beautiful Azamara Journey from Lisbon, Portugal to Hamburg, Germany. Did your relatives also fight in World War II? Follow the trail, visit the beaches and towns that have become a place and time in our history that should be remembered and never forgotten.
This article was written for the 70th anniversary of WW2 in 2014. The ‘Past to Present’ cruise has sailed, but do visit the Azamara website for similar upcoming voyages.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Azamara.