On the 28th of May 2019, Battlefront Malta members accompanied the Military Vehicle Collectors Club (MVCC) on a two-week journey across Normandy for the 75th Anniversary of Operation Overlord. This commemoration promised to be one of the largest gatherings of reenactors, collectors, enthusiasts, historians and equipment in recent memory and throughout the following article we hope to share our amazing experience of this event.
This journey saw the introduction of our Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) impression. Months of research and development saw the transformation of the Standard Utility (owned by Mr. Stephen Soler) and the Matchless G3/L (owned) by Mr. Martin Stauder), into designated REME vehicles equipped with a range of original tools in anticipation of anything which was willing to breaking down.
Stationed in Etreham, we camped out the entire two weeks in period tents. Withering in rain, battered by wind, and baked by the sun, the tents held up well for the most part. The campground was itself a living museum with countless vehicles moving in and out all day long. Normandy itself for a while ran out of fuels owing to the vast number of fuel guzzling World War 2 vehicles.
Our travels saw us visiting a myriad of museums, burial grounds, beaches, and battle locations. Going east as far as Ouistreham and west as far as Sainte-Mere- Eglise, we visited interesting and important locations such as Arromanches – the site of British landings and the location of still present Mulberry harbours, Longues-sur- Mer – the site of a German coastal artillery battery, and Pointe-du Hoc – site of a German defensive position which includes bunkers and machine gun positions.
Normandy looked to be frozen in time, everywhere one looked was a glimpse of 75 years past (with maybe less bomb damage), it was truly an amazing depiction of history. Parachute drops, beach landings, vehicle columns, and multiple camps depicting the different Allied powers and even an Axis camp, brought to light the willing dedication of thousands of enthusiasts, reenactors and historians in keeping history, and the memory of all those who fought and died, alive.
In the last few days, the events started to die down, vehicles started to depart and slowly the commemoration came to a close, however there was still time for one final activity. A few rain showers during the last week of events gradually turned the narrow dirt and clay backroads of the Normandy countryside into a bocage mud pit. This of course encouraged us to drive the Standard Utility through one particular mud pit where after approximately 6 metres the Standard promptly got stuck and an unsuccessful four-hour digging session ensued. As the evening approached, we conceded defeat and returned to camp on the Matchless as beggars where a noble British land rover owner ate up the opportunity to come join the fun in the mud and pull the Standard out.
Following this last adventure, the vehicles coated in a layer of mud and clay were shipped back to Malta and our amazing Normandy journey ended. We wish to thank all the people we met along the way for the great memories.