The Longest Day - Normandy Scooter Tour 2009 Part One
H-Hour was upon us - well actually 8am, Fluff and me met up with Danny Proto in 'Churchill' Petrol station.
After synchronizing our watches er.... Mobile phones! And Danny topping up his 58 Lamby series one, we were off!!
We had to rendez-vous with the two Barrys in Salisbury at about 10-10.30.
Well, we managed to leave the petrol station and get about 200yds before the lamby had a refusal!!
So, it was panels off and sort it out time - no dramas, just the old carb full of two-stroke scenario. Five minutes later we were off on our way, chugging along quite merrily up through Burrington Coombe.
'Aye up!! Whats going on here? ' I thought, as I could see Dannys sidestand constantly creeping down, and him having to try and hook it up with his foot ( I must add here, that his mainstand was already cable tied in the 'up' position for the very same reason!!)
So we pulled over and he cable tied his sidestand up too!! Who needs a stand anyway?? Besides this scoot used to have a sidecar attached, so Danny was used to leaning it up for several years after removing the bambini coz he couldn't be arsed to fit a stand!!
Anyway, on to Frome for the next lamby refill. That done and dusted we were off to Salisbury to meet the others. And, would you adam and believe it, we pulled up at the petrol station bang on 10.30 for everyone to get acquainted.
Back onto our scoots and on to Portsmouth. We had not been at the ferry port long, before another three Lambrettas turned up - I thought they were Feckers, but it seems they were just doing their own tour.
Ferry was lovely and empty so we chilled out and had a beer and larf and food and yack yack!!
With Barry 'Cookie' Cooke clock watching, we were constantly informed how many hours to go before we docked (not the urban dictionary version of docked!) - cheers mate!
Anyway, by the time we docked it was about 10pm. We decided to take the coastal route to reach our b+b and it wasn't too long before we turned up - it was still light if I remember!
The Longest Day - Normandy Scooter Tour 2009 Part Deux
The sun was starting to set as we pulled into Arromanches, and as we climbed the brow of the hill the sight of the Mulberry Harbour caissons silhouetted against the sea was inspiring.
Also, there is a particularly nice series of bends preceding entry to the town. Anyway, we found the B+B with not too much trouble, the landlord Adrian already had a sentry out dutifully watching and listening for us Mopedders!!
After downing the customary arrival beers we sussed out our rooms, and unloaded our sacks!
The place itself was the last remaining working farm in the town, but slowly the land had been broken up and sold on. Fluff and me were in a converted stable - renamed the 'bread oven', Cookie, Moggy and Proto were in the 'Blue Room' I think - each room was full of ww2 memorabilia; '44 jerry cans, radio box kites, gas masks etc. we even had an FW190 auxiliary fuel tank in our bedroom!
The scooters were parked under a shelter, with other motorcycles (incl. Fluffs harley) and a Ferret scout car!
Inside the main barn were all sorts of projects from old cars, furniture, motorbikes, a real treasure trove!
We had a few more beers (as it was free!) then retired for bed in the 'wee' hours!
Up like a flash in the morning, I said to Fluff (who was in charge of our bookcase) pass me down that book on Arromanches please I just want to have scan through it. I quickly thumbed the pages but decided to stop on this one particular page with a photo dated 1888 or something, that looks familiar I thought, and went outside. ........ it was only the very same room I was standing in!!!
After a fine eat as much as you like English and continental breakfast, we got on our scoots and headed out back the way we had come in.
First stop Douvres Wurzburg Radar Museum
This was put out of action by naval bombardment on 6th june.
We left the museum and got as far as the end of the road before someone realised Proto was missing in action! A quick double back found him still in the car park with his tools out, lamby had bust a clutch cable!!
I caught bit of vid of lad banter
After a bit of fettling we we back on our way again and onto Hillman Strongpoint.
This took a bit of finding, but it was worth the exploration, we also stumbled across the Normandy Piaggio dealers in a dead end industrial estate too!!
A worthwhile visit but a shame we weren't able to venture into some of the bunkers, this place is a full on interlinked underground complex with its own reservoir to supply the german forces with water.
The steel gun cupolas were impenetrable and shells from the sherman tanks just glanced off them.
If you look carefully you can see, a naughty bald bloke called Barry 'sheppy' popping his head out of a Tobruk machine gun position
View down inside steel cuppola
After our photos we headed back out toward Benouville for Pegasus Bridge, and to stop for a light luncheon (for Cookie!) at the famous Cafe Gondree, first property to be liberated, and still run today by the daughter of the 1944 owners.
The new Pegasus Bridge
We were patronised by some old Bentley owners at this stage!! We then moved off 200yds to Pegasus Bridge museum. We drove over to new bridge, and down to the museum where the original bridge had been re-situated, along with a replica Horsa glider and other armoured vehicles.
A section of original fuselage, wooden construction, ply+canvas - scary!!
The latest memorial
Shrapnel and bulllet damage is clearly visible on the old bridge.
There was lots to see in this museum, mainly Para. Reg. related equipment and memoirs. Also Piper Bill Millens bagpipes
In the background the new bridge rises to let shipping through
Back on our scoots, and off down the road for another few miles to Merville Battery.
This site features the four gun casemates overrun by the paras commanded by Lt Col Terence Otway.
Each casemate has been converted into a display museum depicting various stages of the gun battery.
There is also a fine Dakota on the site too.
Inside one of the gun casemates
Back on our scoots and back to the B+B for beers and ciders then out for a meal, and more beers ciders and shenanigans until sometime whenever o'clock!!
The Longest Day - Normandy Scooter Tour 2009 Part Trois
Well, after our fairly busy schedule doing Douvres, Hillman, Pegasus Bridge and Merville Battery we were all keen to get back get scrubbed up and hit the town!!
After following Proto back via the coastal road again we soon ended up back at base, sank a few beers/ciders the hit the town - apparently all the restaurants stopped accepting people at around 9pm so we had to get our asses into gear, rather than get gear into our asses - which is what I think Cookie would have preferred!!
After dining out on Steaks, mussels and the like we ended up back at the only bar open till late - thank god, that would have been a disaster for us brits!! The pub was aptly called 'The Mary Celeste' although it was far from empty, it was though, run by a skeletal staff known locally as 'Grumpy Pete' - an ex-pat who deserted Blighty during the Thatcher era.
Well, all was well and we were having a right laugh as we unwound and de-briefed (oo..er.. mrs!)
Can't really remember too much from here on in as it got kidnapped by some French to the upstairs bar - where I practised my best Monsieur Le Hipshaker lines on the locals. Apparently I was gone a while, but I do remember being bought drinks by ugly betty's mum, and a bloke called Pascal. I think someone came up to rescue me but I'm not sure who? Perhaps someone else can remember anything else to add to this!
I think we walked back to the B+B sometime in the dark, consequently, the following day we decided to take it easy in Arromanches for the morning!
Got up a bit woolly in the morning, and I think everyone fancied a stroll rather than a ride so we wandered down into the town for some fresh air after breakie and a mooch around.
The weather was a bit overcast but still very warm, we could see the concrete caissons that made up the manmade harbour walls, remains of the pontoons on the beaches and a section of linked steel bridge were there.
The bridge(es) were tethered by these plough shaped anchors that buried themselves into the sand.
Sheppy recalled the story to us how he worked really hard for the days following D-Day making sure that the anchours were all secure, and that he didn't break anymore of his nails!
Up on top of the hill were the remains of another Wurburg radar station and associated buildings.
Also, there is the 360˚ cinema which we went in - it shows a short film using rare footage cleverly linked with modern footage. There are several screens all around and you are encouraged to crane your neck like an owl to benefit from the whole film.
It was good, but to be honest there was too much going on for me and I couldn't really focus on anything specific. One thing I do remember though was being inside a sherman tank manouvring through an orchard, Sheppy constantly farting and walking away innocently, and Cookie suffering from extreme motion sickness as the helicopter we were travelling went up and down and round and round!!! You alright now Cookie?? Lol
We left there and went to a café for light refreshments ie un hamburger et un café au lait!
The museum at Arromanches obviously is mainly about the Mulberry harbour, and there is a not only a large working model, but the original conception model on display - but no-one took any photos of it!
There was however a Higgins boat (landing craft) engine, mines, and a Typhoon engine that had obviously hit the deck quite hard judging by the casing, amongst other artefacts. A good museum and well worth a visit.
Back on scoots now to find petrol and try to visit Mont Fleury battery, this proved difficult, and by now it was getting hot.
After we fuelled up (this is a bit of a problem away from the main towns) we down to the beach at Graye sur Mer where there stands a Churchill tank nicknamed 'one charlie'
The tank had slid down a bank into a flooded culvert filling the tank with water and the crew scrambled out.
They sheltered behind a sand dune but three of them were killed by mortar fire. The two remaining crew were evacuated back to England. The sunken tank was incorporated into the exit road - where it stayed until 1976.
The AVRE 'One-Charlie' at Graye-sur-Mer in the shadow of the Cross of Lorraine. It was recovered in 1976 and put on display in 1984 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of D-Day.
290mm pie Mortar Bombard. It only had an effective range of about 100 yards, but the 20kg explosive charge - which the British crews nicknamed it the "Flying Dustbin" - could demolish enemy bunkers and strongpoints, and was even known to disable the fearsome German Tiger tank.
Front view with driver's vision hatch on the left, and 7.92mm Besa machine-gun on the right (the unmodified Churchill IV had another mounted coaxially next to the main turret gun.
We gave up trying to find Mont Fleury, it was overwhelmed by houses over the preceding years.
And ventured on to Crepon to visit the Green Howards war memorial, stopping first at a large building selling memorabilia and workshop specialising in Jeep restoration.
We stopped at the cafe down the road and had a beer, where we met an old soldier with his grandsons doing a small tour which i thought was nice.
He showed me his book which described exactly where the Mont Fleury battery was d'oh!!
We took a different road back to Arromanches and started drinking - of course!! We had arranged prior with the landlord and he greeted us back with loads of meat and ciders for us to have a barby - BANG ON!
He also made an exceptional salad for us 8) 8)
Mine and Cookie's favourite pic
Actually........... I think this may be Cookie's favourite picture!!
more pics to follow
The Longest Day - Normandy Scooter Tour 2009 Part Quatre
Sunday morning, after the obligatory full breakfast and copious fluid intake designed to null the ill effects of alcoholic indulgence we got ready to head off into Bayeaux.
The plan was to visit the museum and memorials there, then meander through the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery there to pay our respects to those who fell.
We saddled up and headed on out of Arromanches, the opposite way to what we had been accustomed.
Once again we were greeted by traffic free roads with a lovely road surface, why can't the UK be like that!
We more or less winged it straight to the site, with only one stop to check to see where we were lost this time!
My compatriots and I were most impressed at the way all the grounds were so well kept showing the respect due to the fallen heroes.
In the museum grounds there were several tanks:
Churchill Crocodile - flamethrower
M10 Tank Destroyer
The museum itself is mainly full of American hardware, but there are some unusual pieces in there, including bombs, bofors guns, and a radio communications truck.
Sheppy and I went in to the cinema to watch a short film, we just needed to sit down as the effects of the previous nights revelling were starting to rear their ugly heads again.
Whilst the film was very good, I found my eyelids wanting to close as we sat in the darkened hall. I glanced over at Sheppy to see that his head had rolled off the back of his neck and he was happily snoring away!! A quick poke to the rib-cage soon sorted that out haha!
Honestly, I don't know what people must have thought of him - the shame!
At this juncture we met back up with Proto. He was busy charming an old lady's knickers off and wasn't pleased to see us, thinking we would want some of his prize!!
We crossed over the road and walked around the cemetery, if this site doesn't hit home the harsh realities of war I don't know what does.
The Bayeaux War Memorial
Time was looking good, and we were going to visit the Underwater Wreck Museum at Port en Bessin but decided to head out to Pointe du Hoc to visit the site - this is were it all went Pete Tong!!
Leaving Bayeaux on the E46, the road we came in on, we followed it in the general direction of where we needed to go - but these silly French road signs have a nasty habit of making fools of us Brits!! And we found ourselves on a dual carriageway in the searing heat. Well, we pottered along at about 50-60mph, until I could see that this road was never ending and opened up my GTS a bit - Barry (on his GTS) and Fluff (on his Harley) stayed with me for the blast. We sailed past the first exit then realised that the other two were not in sight, so pulled over in a lay-by to wait for them to catch up, thinking that they may have exited.
No show, then I had a phone call, it was Proto 'Barry has a problem with his scooter, no compression'
'Ugh!' I knew what that meant. Danny had whipped out Cookie's spark plug and could see a small hole in the piston crown.
We decided that the best thing he could do was to start stripping down the head whilst we came back to them.
So, it was race down to the next exit - er.... Another 5-6miles, then double back to the exit where we got on, er.... Another 10 odd miles, then get back on to the dual carriageway and ride the 3-4 miles until we saw them at the side of the road.
Sheppy, had been bragging about this roadside triangle thing that he had - where you put your crash helmet inside this inflatable type triangle, so he got this out of his luggage. Not sure if he used it though!! And none of us put on our luvverly high-viz vests either!! Old skool us!
We started to strip Cookie's top end apart.....
Cookie, incidentally is not mechanically literate so is incapable of doing anything other than either eating, drinking, telling the time or working out dartboards!! He still managed to don a pair of latex gloves though, perhaps he was going to direct traffic like a dancing New York cop, or try to fist one of us - who knows!!
And, with a bare minimum of tools we filed out his hole until it was more circular in shape, robbed a flywheel cover bolt and proceeded to painstakingly try to cut a thread into the hole using this bolt.
After about 30mins the bolt was loctited in and the engine back together.
Would it start??? It was down on compression, but we did manage to get it to start by the kickstart.
But I think it was me who turned it off !!
Someone suggested that Cookie started riding the scooter downhill first so as not to put too much strain on the bodge, we wanted him to keep the revs down as the bolt was only held in on a prayer!!
So, off he went, helmet on, in the blistering heat, pushing his scooter, and his belly, up the long long hill to the crest where upon he could casually kickstart his steed and potter off.
Eventually, after a lot of huffing, puffing, panting, pushing, swearing, sweating - and of course laughing our fucking tits off!! He made it to the top, but it wouldn't start!!
'Bollox!' I thought, but we managed to bump start it and we were off.
Off at the next exit, and putted back 25miles ish to the B+B at very low revs - luckily the roads are empty eh!!
We left Cookie's scooter at the B+B.
Had a quick drink, wee etc. and got back on our scoots, Cookie rode bitch on me, a little disheartened... but after some not too subtle piss-taking we managed to convince him it wasn't the end of the world - shit happens!!
And we headed back up the coast to Longues-sur-Mer, German naval gun battery.
Incidentally, it is around about this time that we realised Sheppy had left his amazing roadside triangle ....... AT THE ROADSIDE
These guns were commanded by the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) initially as opposed to the Wehrmacht, which on the Normandy coastline mainly consisted of captured field artillery from other theatres of war often worn with varying calibres making munitions' supplies tenuous.
But, later they were transfered to the responsibilty of the Wehrmacht.
The guns at Longues featured more sophisticated range finding and observation equipment, and were primarily aimed to fend off battleship attack rather than offering fields of fire to cover any beach landings - as the Wehrmachts guns generally provided. They were however, capable of targeting both Omaha and Gold beaches.
This small gun was at the entrance to the site, which was free by-the-way!, it has had its breach destroyed to disable it.
Fluff remembers this well, it was right by where he purchased not 'Just one Cornetto', but about three in succession.
It also seemed like a popular place for these nutters to hang about too!!
Situated a few hundred yards infront of the guns is the forward observation bunker, which is technically out of bounds due to coastal erosion - but health and safely isnt as daft in France as the UK, so basically it wasn't out of bounds!!!
Father and son!!
We wandered back to our scootys to prepare ourselves is readiness for another night on the lash!!
The Longest Day - Normandy Scooter Tour 2009 Part Cinq
We arrived back and got freshened up etc to go out for a meal. Had beers ciders etc. and it all started to become a bit blurry. Either way, Cookie, Proto and I ended up back in 'The Mary Celeste' with Grumpy Pete and his wife.
We ended up playing darts, and Cookie, who pretended to be crap - was actually bloomin' good!!!
Anyway, it can't have been all bad as we played darts with Grumpy Pete on Cookie's side, and his Mrs on mine and Proto's (I think!).
We were joined by some nice locals (my new mates!) later who later befriended me and tried to smuggle me back to their maison !! Ah! Monsieur Dan!
We left here, or rather got booted out between 3-4am!! And started to walk back to the B+B, but Proton forgot his gay jumper, so nipped back to get it. Me and Cookie stood back from afar laughing as we watched Proton trying to get their attention by knocking profusely on the door to get back in - Grumpy Pete was being true to his name and refusing to open the door to this cidered Phil Collins lookalike!
A familiar sight to those who know this drunkard!!
Eventually, Pete succumbed and let him retrieve his beloved Haircut 100 style jumper. Proto, remained calm and casually practised Le Jog up the darkened silent street to catch us up.
The sun rose on another beautiful morning, and what was to be our final full day in France.
We had agreed that as we had an early ferry the following morn that we should try to limp Cookie's scoot to Ouistreham (ferry) and leave it there overnight so as we didn't have any hang ups - fortunately, our landlord had said he knew a mate and would arrange a van to take it there. He assured us all would be ok so we didn't fret about it!!
So, after we had had our usual morning feast and got sorted we set off for Pointe du Hoc.
This is a peninsula between Utah and Omaha beaches, site of a particularly threatening gun battery that was carpet bombed heavily prior to the invasion.
Obviously by now we had come to expect that petrol stations and filling up weren't easy so we took it steady and kept a close eye out for anything that resembled a roadside petrol pump!
As we pottered along the coast Cookie took photo's as he was perched on the back of my seat - he did incidentally keep rubbing his inner thighs against my ass in a rather over-friendly manner as he contorted and twisted his body around to shift position for the shots - in other words I had a jelly hippo as pillion!!
We pulled into one petrol station thinking 'great sorted!' only to find that the forecourt was having some alterations, so unless we wanted to fill up our mopeds with sand and cement we had to look elsewhere.
Not to worry I thought, I could remember driving past a station that I knew wasn't too far in front - by now Proto was really starting to panic as he chucked his scoot from side-to-side in order to swish a few more slurps into the pipe. As luck would have it, as we approached said garage ... it was ferme!!
We carried on, thinking any moment now we are going to lose the Proto, we went round this corner and started to plunge downhill - it was at this point where Proto actually ran out of fumes and started to coast............ round the blind bend and................... Onto the forecourt of an open petrol station!!!!
After all filling up, we set of again..... well some of us did!! Proto decided to re-enact his famous oil in the carb trick as he frantically tried bump starting his Lamby.... But to no avail!!
After the hilarity we rode off laughing and were at the Pointe du Hoc site in no time. This area has been preserved as best as possible, but again, due to coastal erosion some areas were out of bounds - really!
Cookie deep in thought
Sheppy with his funny walk!!
The pictures don't really do the place justice, the scene of absolute devastation is overwhelming, you look around and see huge bomb craters everywhere and disintegrated concrete and steel - some soldiers obviously still buried under the rubble.
We left here and headed back via Omaha Beach. Because of the topography of the land, primarily high bluffs, the beach invasion was centred around three main draws off the beach. Colleville, St.Laurent, and Vierville. So our first stop was Vierville, site Dog One in Saving Private Ryan.
As we descended down the narrow road (the draw) toward the seafront, there was a large section of the pontoon bridge used at Vierville-sur-Mer for the floating causeway.
We parked up at the memorial, built upon the main gun overlooking the beach. Sheppy did his utmost best to block the pathway for oncoming pedestrians, but Fluff took the blame!!
Time for some refreshments, a light luncheon was enjoyed by all - although Sheppy did give the poor mademoiselle some shit for not letting him have any ice-cream!
Bullet damage in the gun casement opening
A distant hillside gun sited to shoot the lenght of the beach
We had a small wander on the beach, weird sand!
And Cookie spotted some bird with her norks out - he was made up after that!
Sorry no piccies !!
Back on our scoots and pottered along the fine sea front toward as far as we could to the next draw,
but a closed road meant us heading back on ourselves and off to visit the Omaha Memorial and vast cemetery at St. Laurent.
Where did all these people come from? Obviously the cemetery is a major focal point for anyone visiting Omaha to pay homage to the deceased, but with the roads and beaches so empty it just came as a surprise at how many people were concentrated in this area alone.
View from Cemetery
It was bloomin hot! I can tell thee so we were eager to get back on our scoots just to cool down - this was short-lived though as our next stop was only a spitful away....
WN62 the main resistance strongpoint of the atlantic wall for the Colleville draw, and the site where hundreds of American soldiers were slaughtered.
Didnt really have much time left and there were several museums around Omaha beach that we could have visited - maybe another time.
We rode back to the B+B where we loaded Cookies scoot into the back of the van, which, Adrian the landlord had measured up and said that the scooter would fit in vertically!!
Anyway, we got it in and Proto and Cookie, and Adrian, took it to the ferry port for the night so as we didnt have the worry of getting it there first thing in the morning.
We then had to pack up our stuff in readiness for our journey home, I dont quite know anything about this piccie!!!
The following morning we were up like we had wet the bed, we had to be at the ferry port for 7am, so we loaded up and set off about 6am.
I have to say, we had a top stay at this B+B and would definitely use it again! Very good value and friendly relaxed atmosphere
On arrival at the ferry port we tried to get Cookies bike started so as he could limp onto the ferry, and although it did fire up it just wouldnt catch and kept dying - but it was tres tres funny watching a very sweaty Cookie keep bumping it with all his luggage on, the poor bugger!!
In the end Proto came to the rescue with his old steed and towed him on, good show 8)
We had another nice empty ferry and several coffees, and before we knew it we were back in Blighty, where upon Cookies dad had come down in the van to pick up him and his moped.
We said our good-byes and got back on our way, well until we went wrong - but that another story!!!
We lost Sheppy somewhere on the A303 and tried to find a route back that didnt consist of dual carriageways and was more sympathetic to Protos Lamby 8)
Eventually, after several stops and talks to locals, we finally sussed our way back.....
Via Amesbury, and Stone Henge - what better way to finish off this trip 'The Longest Day Normandy Scooter Tour', around the summer solstice at Stone Henge 8)
And, after a nice ride back over Salisbury plain we were shortly back home.
I'd like to thank Danny Proto, Barry Shepperd, Barry Cooke, and Aaron Fear for being such good company and such a good laugh - a top top long weekend! 8) 8) 8) 8) 8)
⚠️ Last edited by stoker on Sun, 02 Aug 2009 17:22:27 +0000; edited 2 times