Day 44 of Summer Trip 2014 – Ouistreham to Caen

From Ouistreham you can take a trip up the canal to Caen. The canal takes you through 3 bridges from memory. The trick is to arrive at the first one at the designated time, and then the subsequent bridges open up one at a time thereafter.

I really enjoyed the trip up the canal. It was the first time I’ve taken Excalibur along a stretch of non-tidal water. We slapped on some sun cream, put on a shirt, left the lifejackets in the locker and cranked up the new speakers to the sound of classical music, whilst sipping on some french cider I picked up the day before. Total bliss!

We came to the first bridge, Pegasus Bridge. Here’s a excerpt from Wikipedia, it’s worth a read and sums up the historical significance of the bridge better than I can.

Operation Deadstick was the codename for an airborne forces operation by the British Army that took place on 6 June 1944[4] as part of the Normandy landings. The mission's objective was to capture intact two road bridges in Normandy across the River Orne and the Caen Canal providing the only exit eastwards for British forces from their landing on Sword Beach. Intelligence reports said both bridges were heavily defended by the Germans and wired for demolition. Once captured, the bridges had to be held against any counter-attack until the assault force was relieved by commandos and infantry advancing from the British landing zone.

The mission was vital to the success of the British airborne landings. Failure to capture the bridges intact, or to prevent their demolition by the Germans, would leave the 6th Airborne Division cut off from the rest of the Allied armies with their backs to the two waterways. If the Germans retained control over the bridges, they could be used by their armoured divisions to attack the landing beaches of Normandy.

Responsibility for the operation fell to the men of 'D' Company, 2nd (Airborne) Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, part of the 6th Airborne Division. The assault group comprised a reinforced company of six infantry platoons and an attached platoon of Royal Engineers. They flew from the south of England to Normandy in six Airspeed Horsa gliders. Through what was later described as the "most outstanding flying achievements of the war", the gliders delivered the company to their objective. After a brief fire fight, both bridges were captured within minutes of landing, then successfully defended against tank, gun boat and infantry counter-attacks until the company relief arrived.

There was quite a crowd at the bridge, and as usual no one answered the VHF when we arrived, I really don’t know why I bothered.

The trip up the canal was a glorious sedate potter, just what we needed after our failed trip to Cherbourg. Our speed matched some joggers which was quite amusing, whilst they were sweating away in the midday heat we were sipping chilled cider to Mozart.

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We arrived at Caen marina and the bridge opened without any response once again from the VHF. We moored up like ninja’s, no fuss.

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The harbourmaster was the nicest French guy I’ve met on the trip, whatever he was on the rest of the nation should probably follow suit. If anyone visits Caen marina, you’ll be sure to have a chirpy happy reception.

The log book read:

12:55 left (Ouistreham)
15:00 arrived (Caen)

24 hard earned miles added to the log!

With the cooker still out of action I dug out the suitcase gas bbq, seems like such a long time ago I bought it at a petrol station in Dover thinking it might come in handy one day. I don’t always think of every eventuality, but when I do have a backup in times like these I do feel like a smug git.

Garlic shrimps with a little bit of chilli for lunch. Yum!

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A happy Ben!! (the foliage is just for show)

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We had a quick scout around, and found a restaurant named (obviously) after a friend called Carlotta, so it seemed only fair that we went there in the evening.

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Ben got very excited to see a jet propelled plane in a model toy shop. Cue more Coca Cola branded shots…

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We went all cultural and had a look around William The Conquerors gaff, also known as The Château de Caen. The castle was built in 1060 and is well worth a visit. I’m not sure the horses are original though. Ben also kept up his deal with the devil to spread the good word of Coca Cola.

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In the evening we went back to Carlotta’s for a slap up meal, and took as many pictures of Carlotta branded menu’s as we could in honour of Carlotta 🙂

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Trip Stats
Miles: 24
Total Miles: 378
Author: Tim Butler

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