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Normandy Beaches and Fitness, led by James Aitchison D-Day, 6 June 1944, has gone down in the archives of history as the greatest of all air and seaborne invasions. After four years of Nazi occupation, Operation Overlord launched the Allies’ offensive to liberate France on the fiercely defended beaches of Normandy – Sword, Gold, Juno, Omaha and Utah. An extraordinary event, it was undoubtedly pivotal as a turning point in the Second World War. This special remembrance tour combines military-style fitness sessions with comprehensive sightseeing tours that give fascinating insight into how the day unfolded, the initial airborne and seaborne assaults, the successes and the losses. We’ll hear heroic stories and learn how, by the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold on the French coastline. Visits to memorials and war cemeteries are a poignant reminder to the scale of human cost. You have the chance to pay your respects to those with a personal connection, and together we’ll honour all who made the ultimate sacrifice during a private Act of Remembrance. ### Fitness Sessions with James Aitchison The three Fitness Sessions on this tour are led by James, who is an experienced Fitness Instructor. Each session, which takes place outside in natural surroundings, is a military-style workout and starts with a 10-minute warm up. This is followed by 40 minutes of exercise including bodyweight exercises, partner exercises, games, relays, speed and strength training. At the end of the session James will lead you through a 10-minute cooldown and stretch. Exercises can be adapted so they are suitable for all levels of fitness and you will be encouraged to work out with others of a similar level. Those wishing to join the Fitness Sessions will be asked to complete a health form confirming their fitness prior to travel.
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Independent travel to Bristol to join our private coach for the drive to Portsmouth where we take the mid-afternoon ferry crossing to Ouistreham. Upon arrival we’ll drive to Arromanches and check-in to our seafront hotel for a 4-night stay. \*Should you prefer, there is an option to join this tour in Bath, or at the ferry terminal in Portsmouth.
Breakfast is served in the hotel each morning. Codenamed Operation Overlord, the Normandy landings and associated airborne operations began in the early hours of June 6th, 1944. This morning we’ll look at the planning and execution of the first assault of the D-Day Landings. At the iconic Pegasus Bridge, we learn about the glider-borne operation of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry whose mission was to seize the bridge and hold it until relief. We visit Café Gondree, the first property in France liberated by the Allies. Our tour then focuses on the assault on Merville Battery by the 9th Parachute Battalion, who were tasked with taking over and destroying German artillery that threatened the main landing force at Sword Beach. Many of those who lost their lives in the airborne assaults are buried at Ranville War Cemetery. Amongst them is Lieutenant Den Brotheridge, who was the 1st Allied soldier killed by enemy fire on D-Day. We visit the cemetery and pay our respects to him and all of the fallen. Sword Beach represented the eastern flank of the Allied amphibious attack in Normandy. The first of our fitness sessions will take place on this stretch of coast under the watchful gaze of the bronze, life-size statue of piper Bill Millin, who played the pipes as Allied forces stormed the beaches on D-Day. Dinner is served in the hotel restaurant.
In keeping with military routine, the second of our fitness sessions takes place before breakfast on the beach in front of the hotel. Today’s full day tour explores Operation Neptune with a special focus on the landings by British and Canadian forces. We’ll learn about Hitler’s Atlantic Wall as we return to Sword Beach to discuss its importance as a gateway to Caen. We visit Juno Beach where Canadian forces suffered 50% of their losses in the first hour. Almost 25,000 men of the British 50th Division landed at Gold Beach on June 6th. They included Stan Hollis and during our visit to the centre beach of the five designated landing areas, we’ll learn about the only man to be awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions on D-Day. On a hillside above Gold Beach, we visit the British Normandy Memorial inscribed with the names of 22,442 servicemen and women who lost their lives on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy. We pass the remains of the portable Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches before driving to Bayeux to visit the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France. Bayeux War Cemetery contains 4,144 Commonwealth burials, 338 of them unidentified. Opposite the cemetery, the Bayeux Memorial bears the names of more than 1,800 men of Commonwealth land forces who died in the early stages of the campaign and have no known grave. Here we join a special Act of Remembrance honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This evening’s dinner is served in the hotel restaurant.
Surrounded by steep cliffs and heavily defended, Omaha was the bloodiest of the D-Day beaches, with some 2,400 US troops killed, wounded or missing. During our visit we’ll look at how the Landings unfolded and explore how close they came to being cancelled. We remember the fallen at the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, which sits atop the bluff overlooking the ‘Easy red’ sector of Omaha Beach. Our tour visits Pointe due Hoc where we learn about the actions of US Army Rangers, who scaled 100-foot high cliffs to capture the guns that were able to fire upon Omaha and Utah beaches. In Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first town of Cotentin in Normandy liberated by Allied forces, we hear how paratroopers landed in the town square under heavy fire before fighting their way towards the coast clearing enemy positions that threated the Allied exit from the beaches. We’ll see plaques and monuments erected in honour of the liberators including the ‘zero milestone’ opposite the Town Hall, which symbolises the starting point of the ‘path to freedom’. Our final visit is to Utah Beach where the US 4th Infantry Division came ashore. Here we take part in our final fitness session.
This morning we check-out of the hotel and drive to Ouistreham to catch the early morning ferry with breakfast on board included. Having arrived in Portsmouth in the early afternoon, we’ll continue our drive via Bath to Bristol.
**Due to a late arrival at the hotel, dinner is not included on the first evening.