When diving meets history, D-Day

“Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne blessent mon cœur d’une langueur monotone”.

Numbers of American para troops in the vicinity of Sainte-Mère-Eglise in Normandy had to cut the road between Paris and Cherbourg. At the same time, in many ships on the way to France, thousands of young soldiers are preparing, fearfully, to live their longest day. Wreck diving Normandy D-Day gives you the chance to feel a bit of this history.

On June 6th, Operation Overlord unfolded and saw soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy.  Americans reached the beaches of Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. Beaches of Gold, Sword and Juno were invaded by the British and Canadian troops.

The broad bay stretching from Saint-Vaast to the Pointe du Hoc is the scene of fights as impressive as murderous.

Victim of German shelling, many boats will never reach the beaches carrying with them their crews and their cargoes in the deep-sea making a lot of wrecks.

There are many diving spots around the world that allow everyone to dive “as I wish”. For leisure. To experiment TEK aspects, to go in search of archaeological treasures, to teach, to work.  And Even if there are so many that I would like to visit, one of them has been a constant for a long time and affects me especially.

Every year and without ever derogating from it, I drop my activities a few days around June 6th to go with friends to dive into history.

Remains of a painful past are offered today to divers by allowing a mix of diving pleasure and duty of memory.

Indeed, some discover the history by visiting museums.  Others explore important places of the landing beaches of Normandy. I decided  to explore the seabed of this part of the Channel. Staying at Ravenoville, to understand the realities related to this event. Wreck diving Normandy D-Day is what I love !

It is true that the Normandy dives contain little nuggets that just need to be discovered. What a pleasure to dive the USS Meredith III. To explore the Norfolk with its strange atmosphere, the TSC 523 where schools of pouts are evolving around upside down tanks. The ammunition barge and its boxes of shells almost intact or Sherman tanks frozen for eternity.

Some wrecks sunk during the landing or by the effect of mines have been severely damaged. You need a little imagination to recognize the different elements that compose them.  Others lie on the bottom peacefully seeming to almost await our visit. As we are not pirates, we do not bring anything to the surface. We look at these remains of the past thinking also to the pleasure that others will have to admire them in future dives. In this way, the divers of the younger generations will also be able to discover D-day Wreck diving in Normandy.

Finally, an important point to emphasize is the accessibility of the spots for most divers. The d-day wrecks all lie within thirty meters of depth. Sometimes, the visibility can be great. I have repeatedly tested the D-day Wreck diving Normandy in spring, summer or autumn. I have always seen a “Normand” visibility with a lot of plankton and sometimes current but never impeding the pleasure of rediscovering my favorite spots.

As the water at the beginning of June is at a temperature around 13 ° C (sometimes up to 15 ° C) it is very comfortable to dive with dry suit and dry gloves. Of course this makes our Norman hosts smile. They evolve under water using wet suit and sometimes with mittens instead of gloves.

Wildlife enthusiasts are not disappointed either by diving in Ravenoville. All these wrecks have long been the shelter of many species such as lobsters, sea spiders, seahorses, sea bass, conger eel,  … and the famous scallop. In addition, it’s not unusual to see small dolphins when returning from a dive. Far off  we can also see the “Pointe du Hoc”, the cliffs and the huge beaches.

It would be unfair to forget to mention that the swell and sometimes capricious weather of Normandy can prevent us from putting ourselves in the water. This gives us one more opportunity to visit the special atmosphere of Sainte-mère-Eglise with its commemorations and its famous bell tower (where the paratrooper John Steele was suspended).

It’s then possible to celebrate with our Norman friends and discover their specialties like an excellent cider or a fabulous Calvados of Omaha Beach served with shrimp or whelk. As we are in France, the evening apéritif include kirs, beer (brought by Belgian divers) or the Ti-Punch reminding of spots a little further away even if very French. The friendly meals close with the cheeses before discovering that we still have to taste a portion of “Teurgoule”.

Norman trips are not recent. What initially was a warm welcome from the diving club of Bernay; discovered by chance by one of us; and whose marine base is in Ravenoville, has become over time a true story of friendship.

Mimo, Henry, Béa, Catherine, Doudou, Lulu, Olivier, Bruno and all the other members of the Bernay Plongée Plaisir club share their knowledge of the place, their experience, their local cuisine and many moments of fun.

The evenings can sometimes end with midnight baths followed by a hot pepper warm wine, fighting in Sumo costumes (be careful not to slip inside), battles of pillows (Some teeth remember) … but always end in a convivial and festive atmosphere.

If the Normandy dives are very clearly worthwhile to be highlighted and (re) discovered, this annual exploration represents, in my case, a real duty of memory to all these young guys that courageously came from the USA, Canada, England or elsewhere and never went back home.

Allowing us to live today in a free world.

Helene

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