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Gold Beach Diary 2004.....and our plans for 2009

By Geoff leete(©2008)

Some 100 Living History enthusiasts and over 30 historic military vehicles constituted the British Living History Camp at Ver sur Mer, Normandy, between 4th and 8th June 2004.

We chose Ver sur Mer as it was the main landing point on Gold Beach, has good facilities (bars, shops, restaurants, a post office and museum) and spends too much time in the shadow of Arromanches!

Members of the Historical Maritime Society, The Garrison, what became the Gold Beach Living History Group, the Hampshire Regiment Association and others arrived at Ouistreham on the late afternoon of Thursday June 3rd 2004. They moved in convoy from Ouistreham to Ver sur Mer, those who had travelled across as foot passengers being transported by vehicle owners and drivers already in Normandy, who came to help us. A highlight of this journey was the drive along the historic Gold Beach King seafront, followed by the short drive to the camp site through streets of cheering locals.

On arrival at the campsite, after a well deserved beer, everyone set to pitching tents, preparing dinner and getting displays ready for the following day.

Friday dawned cloudless, weather that continued for the rest of our stay. A steady trickle of visitors gave us no clue as to just how many we would see over the following two days. Our brave and hardworking CMP and INT Corps detachment manning the gate counted 12000 visitors over Saturday and Sunday and then gave up counting. They couldn’t count the many that made their way onto the site from other directions!


In the evening we had arranged a free concert by the band of the Devon and Dorset’s and Fiona Harrison. They played to a house packed with both people from the camp and locals, some of whom came from far and wide. A cheap bar was provided by the local football club, who obviously underestimated the capacity of our people as more beer had to be fetched half-way through the evening!

Sunday June 6th was again a scorcher of a day which was remarkable for three things. First the 16 mile “march” by our friends from the Hampshire Regiment association to Arromanches and back to be with their veterans on “the” day. When asked how they got past the roadblocks that were in place to protect President Bush, Jim Taylor explained that they simply did a smart right turn and walked along the beach until the problem was passed! Our MO did a roaring trade sorting out blisters the following day.

The rest of us participated in a Service of Remembrance in Ver sur Mer itself. Helped by two buglers from the Devon and Dorset’s band, the service was attended by veterans and locals – quite a crowd.

The afternoon of 6th June was spent in a football match against the local team, recreating events of 60 years before. Despite various subterfuges including sandbagging our goal, arresting their best player and using a motorcycle on the wing, the “away team” found themselves 0-4 down at half-time. Exchanging a player or two (and their kit) and changing to rugby ensured a very apt 4-4 draw at full time, followed by another bar and barbecue provided by our hosts. The trophy remains in the America/Gold Beach museum in Ver sur Mer.
Monday 7th June, the crowds were somewhat less, it being a normal working day in Normandy. In the evening we were treated to a farewell meal by the commune of Ver sur Mer, followed by a free dance open to the public a few paces away from the beach. We were again lucky to have the Devon and Dorset’s band, this time their swing section, and Fiona providing the music.
On Tuesday morning 8th June, some of us much the worse for wear; we had another short ceremony to close the camp before leaving for the ferry at Ouistreham, fuelling all the vehicles on the way.

Would we do it all again?

You bet, indeed we’re intending to do it all again next year -2009.

This time we intend to leave Ouistreham on Thursday 4th June at 0900, the ferry places are already booked.

From then until Tuesday 9th June, things will proceed pretty much as last time, with these changes.

The camp will NOT be open officially to visitors on Friday 5th June. We’ll encourage everyone to get out of camp on that day, to visit their special places or those of their units.

The camp will be open to visitors on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th June. We expect to have a Remembrance service sometime on the Saturday and a concert that evening.

Arrangements are in train to have a short mock battle on Sunday 7th June, supported by 25-pounder guns firing.

On Monday 8th June the camp will NOT be officially open to visitors. We have provisionally arranged a 50 mile circuit inland with stops at Bayeux and Tilly sur Suelles for those vehicle owners and living history participants wishing to go. It is expected that guns representing 124 Field regiment RA will take a small diversion to fire from 65 years on battery positions near Trungy.

How much will it cost me?

Last time we added up all the costs, subtracted the financial support given by the commune, the local museum and other sponsors, and divided the remainder between everyone attending, whether with rifle and pack, jeep or three-tonner. This came to £150 each. We can’t promise that’s how much it will cost in 2009, but the same principle will be used and the cost to participants will be kept to a minimum.

So, why should I apply to attend?

It might be opportune to remind everyone of the publication of the new regulations governing military vehicle owners and re-enactors in Normandy. For the 65th anniversary, it will be very difficult to be there without the agreement of the local mayor. This has already been obtained by us, and will be also for the communes being visited away from Ver sur Mer.

The author would also like to remind potential participants that our intention is to have a Living History event at which there are vehicles, NOT a military vehicle event per se.

Participation in the event is limited to those representing British military or civilian services during the summer of 1944 in Europe.

During public visiting hours and during Monday’s tour, participants will be in uniform and the authenticity of that uniform will be paramount, as required by the new regulations.

For more information or to apply to attend go to

or email

Geoff Leese, Secretary, Gold Beach Living History Group, July 2008.



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