Today was our final day of the “battlefield” part of our tour. We discussed the final days of the Normandy Campaign, including the role the Canadians played in closing the Falaise gap. In Falaise, we visited their local museum that considers the civilian experience of war in the city. The impact of the war on civilians in France is not something emphasized enough within the Canadian narrative of the war, so it was interesting to read about it from the perspective of the French. The displays portrayed the message that even though the French, and people of Falaise in particular, were grateful to the Allies for liberating them from the Nazis, it was at the expense of many civilian deaths by devastating Allied bombings.
While we were in Falaise we also had the opportunity to visit William the Conqueror’s castle. Upon entry we received an iPad that, when activated in each room of the castle, showed a 360 degree view of what the room may have looked like. We saw the dining room, a few bedrooms, and the cellar. There was a look out at the very top of the castle with a beautiful view of Falaise and the countryside.
As we neared the end of the day, we took part in one of the CBF tour traditions with a photo op at St. Lambert-sur-Dives. There is a photo of Major David Currie accepting the surrender of German troops at St. Lambert-sur-Dives on 19 August 1944 (see below). We recreated this photo by positioning ourselves as those in the photo were almost 75 years ago, and stood in front of the same buildings that appear in the photograph at the time. We were standing in the middle of the road, holding baguettes instead of weapons, and had to have someone on the look out in case a car came by. One of our tour leaders was a student on the very first CBF tour and reenacted the photo as the same individual he portrayed as a student. I don’t have our version of the photo yet, but will post it once it’s shared with the group.
After a busy last day in Normandy, we all dressed up for a final dinner in Bayeux!