Folie de Plage

‘Folie de Plage’

I can still remember D-Day quite well because I took part in the initial landings on the beaches of Normandy on the 6th June 1944. The landings have been well documented in various publications and my recollections of D-Day are more of a coincidental nature rather than having a military basis.

At the time of D-Day I was serving in Combined Operations on a landing craft, and our objective was to secure the beach and surrounds of a seaside town called Luc-Sur-Mer, which was in the landing area with the code name of “Sword”. The beach at Luc-Sur-Mer was very similar in nature to the one at Westward Ho! with the exception of a pebble ridge but it did have a concrete ramp leading off the beach to the Esplanade above.

After the initial assault had secured the beach, I came up the ramp on to the Esplanade where there was a typical seaside card and novelty shop which, of course, was completely deserted. The shop was called “Le Petit Jardin” (if my schoolboy French serves me well this means “The Little Garden”) which was painted in bold letters on the front of the shop and a battered old picture stand had been left in the porch with a few cards depicting the shop, still in the stand. For some unknown reason I took out one of the cards and put into my pocket possibly with a view to having a memento of the landings on Normandy.

About 40 years later I decided to make a return visit to Normandy and, on sorting through my mementos, I came across the card I had taken from the shop in Luc-Sur-Mer and I took it with me to France. During my stay in Normandy I re-visited Luc-Sur-Mer and there, at the top of the ramp leading up to the Esplanade, was the shop from which I had taken the card way back in 1944. The shop was still as I remembered it on D-Day as it had not changed one iota and the name “Le Petit Jardin” was still painted in bold letters on the facia board. Clutching my old postcard I entered the shop with the intention of explaining to the proprietor my reason for making a return visit to his shop. Sadly my French was not good enough to make the purpose of my visit very clear and I could see he was regarding me as one of those “mad Englishmen”.

However, I did manage to have my photo taken outside the shop clutching my old postcard and now this rests in the Royal Maritime Museum at Southsea as proof of the old adage that “nothing changes” – or does it?.


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