NORMANDY D-DAY LANDINGS. Part 2. THE FOLLOW UP

(Visual Research Project 2013 In association with the University of Northampton)

Three weeks after reconnoitering the D-Day sites with Paul Middleton (see blog “PART 1. PRELIMINARY SURVEY”) I sailed from Dover at 3.20am on the 27th of June heading for Normandy.

1.25pm, 2 July 2013. Field of poppies and Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. From Mesnil Ridge.

1.25pm, 2 July 2013. Field of poppies and Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. From Mesnil Ridge.

I drove from Calais to Maubeuge to spend a couple of days with my long term friend Xavier Courouble prior to heading south-west to Albert to attend the 1st July Somme commemorations and thence to Normandy.

However, on 28th June, whilst Xavier was at work, I decided to dash up to Messines Ridge in Flanders as part of the preparations for my exhibition of First World War Work at Stafford Art Gallery in 2014.(See account of this day’s events on my Newsletter/blog “An amusing incident with an unexploded shell”)

Leaving Maubuege on 29th I headed South-West to renew my many acquaintances in Arras and Albert. I attended the various ceremonies on 1st July at La Boiselle and Thiepval and made three studies of the great “Memorial to the Missing of the Somme” before setting off for Normandy on 3rd July.

From the 4th to the 14th I undertook  an intensive visual survey of the German defences and the assault beaches Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah.

5.25pm, 4 July 2013. Western end of the Mulberry Harbour remnants.

5.25pm, 4 July 2013. Western end of the Mulberry Harbour remnants.

6.05pm, Headland just West of the Mulberry Harbour

6.05pm, Headland just West of the Mulberry Harbour

7.05pm, 5 July 2013. Shattered German gun emplacement.   Juno Beach.

7.05pm, 5 July 2013. Shattered German gun emplacement. Juno Beach.

7.45pm, 5 July 2013.  Shattered German gun emplacement.  Juno Beach.

7.45pm, 5 July 2013.
Shattered German gun emplacement. Juno Beach.

2.50pm, 5 July 2013. German Bunker at Ver-sur-Mer, Normandy.

2.50pm, 5 July 2013. German Bunker at Ver-sur-Mer, Normandy.

11.40am 5 July 2013. Interior of German Bunker at Ver-sur-Mer.

11.40am 5 July 2013. Interior of German Bunker at Ver-sur-Mer.

For logistical reasons, time limits, area to be covered, distances to be driven, miles to be walked, steps to be re-traced, rocks, fences and hedges to be scaled, I restricted myself mainly to making small (Size A5), on-the-spot drawings carrying only a lightweight kit. Sometimes starting at 7.30am and not finishing until dusk, I completed 37 drawings during this period using combinations of charcoal, graphite sticks, pencil and technical pens. I also made two small gouaches, one of Omaha Beach and one, at Arromanches, of the remnants of the Mulberry Harbour at low tide. For most of the time, the weather was unseasonably cold with strong winds adding to the general discomfort. Time also had to be found for research and visiting various museums with a view to securing an exhibition space. I made studies of the various installations which comprised Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall”, bunkers, artillery batteries, observation posts, range finding positions, machine gun posts as well as some of the targets, such as Pegasus Bridge, which were assaulted and secured by airborne divisions in the hours of darkness prior to the main landings.

6.45pm, 6 July 2013. Pegasus Bridge from the marshes.

6.45pm, 6 July 2013. Pegasus Bridge from the marshes.

8.05pm 6 July 2013. Pegasus Bridge from the marshes.

8.05pm 6 July 2013. Pegasus Bridge from the marshes.

3.15pm 7 July 2013. Pegasus Bridge from the  Cabourg-Ranville Road.

3.15pm 7 July 2013. Pegasus Bridge from the
Cabourg-Ranville Road.

5,25pm, 7 July 2013. Pegasus Bridge from the meadows, In the background is the replacement bridge, installed in 1994

5,25pm, 7 July 2013. Pegasus Bridge from the meadows, In the background is the replacement bridge, installed in 1994

Travelling back and forth along the whole area I became more and more overawed by the enormity of the operation and the absolute do-or-die selfless determination shown by all those involved.
The consequences of failure would have been disastrous.
The weather could hardly have been worse and showed no signs of improving. But to delay more than a few days would have meant that that the cycle of the tides would have necessitated postponement for one month, thereby losing the advantage of surprise and momentum which had been building up.
These factors had to be balanced against the unpredictable, possibly catastrophic, losses which might be incurred by attempting to land troops and equipment in the rough seas and extreme weather conditions existing at the time.
Eisenhower’s dilemma, in making the decision as to whether to go or delay, must have been agonizing.

9.50pm, 9 July 2013. Closer view of German heavy gun emplacement. Eastern end of Omaha Beach.

9.50pm, 9 July 2013. Closer view of German heavy gun emplacement. Eastern end of Omaha Beach.

9.30am, 11 July 2013. German defensive installation.,  Pointe du Hoc.

9.30am, 11 July 2013. German defensive installation.,
Pointe du Hoc.

8.15am, 10 July 2013. Omaha Beach where the Americans suffered horrific losses on the 6th June 1944.       Low Tide. Gouache

8.15am, 10 July 2013. Omaha Beach where the Americans suffered horrific losses on the 6th June 1944. Low Tide. Gouache

8.40am, 13 July 2013.  Remnants of the eastern end of the Mulberry Harbour. Arromanches. Low Tide. Gouache

8.40am, 13 July 2013. Remnants of the eastern end of the Mulberry Harbour. Arromanches. Low Tide. Gouache

9.40pm, 12 July 2013. Remnants of Mulberry Harbour, eastern end. Arromanches (Asnelles) Low Tide.

9.40pm, 12 July 2013. Remnants of Mulberry Harbour, eastern end. Arromanches (Asnelles) Low Tide.

10.05am, 13 July 2013. Remnants of Mulberry Harbour, eastern end. Arromanches (Asnelles) Low Tide.

10.05am, 13 July 2013. Remnants of Mulberry Harbour, eastern end. Arromanches (Asnelles) Low Tide.

9.55am, 12 July 2013. Remnants of Mulberry Harbour.

9.55am, 12 July 2013. Remnants of Mulberry Harbour.

Drawing Board, Guitar strap and borrowed waders (1)  Photo

Drawing Board, Guitar strap and borrowed waders (1) Photo

 

Drawing Board, Guitar strap and borrowed waders (3)  Photo

Drawing Board, Guitar strap and borrowed waders (3) Photo

THE RETURN

On the evening of 14th July I left the D-Day areas and headed North-East along the Coast with the intention (en route for Calais) of “cramming in” a couple of working days around Etretat, Yport and Fecamp, areas much frequented in the 19th Century by pioneer “plein-air” painters who I greatly admire such as Eugene Boudin and Johan Jongkind.

Johan Jongkind  1819-1891.

Johan Jongkind
1819-1891.

Eugene Boudin,  1824-1898

Eugene Boudin,
1824-1898

During these two days I managed to produce six A3 gouaches (four of which are illustrated below) and then, on the 17th, drove onwards towards Calais, stopping off at Wimeroux Military Cemetery, near Boulogne,  to search out the grave of my Great-Uncle, Billy Warren, killed at the age of 19 in the Battle of the Somme, 1916.

I noted that John McCrea, writer of what is arguably the seminal poem of the Great War “In Flanders Fields”, is buried in the same cemetery.

9.40am, 15 July 2013. Rising Sun behind the cliffs at Yport,. A3 Gouache

9.40am, 15 July 2013. Rising Sun behind the cliffs at Yport,.
A3 Gouache

3.15pm, 16 July 2013. Cilffs at Yport, looking towards Fecamp.  A3 Gouache

3.15pm, 16 July 2013. Cilffs at Yport, looking towards Fecamp.
A3 Gouache

12.50pm, 15 July 2013, Sunlit cliffs at Yport,. Low Tide.  A3 Gouache

12.50pm, 15 July 2013, Sunlit cliffs at Yport,. Low Tide.
A3 Gouache

9.25pm,15 July 2013. Sun setting in sea mist at Yport,  A3 Gouache.

9.25pm,15 July 2013. Sun setting in sea mist at Yport,
A3 Gouache.

THE EXHIBITIONS

I had booked the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham months before, so was pleased to be able to incorporate the abstract work of Paul Middleton, Executive Dean of the School of The Arts, University of Northampton in a collaborative exhibition showing the results of our Research Project comparing the methods and methodology consequent to working in on-site and studio-based situations using common source material, in this case, the D-Day Landings sites. The Exhibition was extended in scope by the inclusion of work I had done previously at other Second World War sites including Auschwitz, Oradour-sur-Glane and the Maginot Line. Whilst producing the new batch of Normandy work in July, I also made contact with the Gold Beach Museum at Ver-sur-Mer and on my return liaised with the University in securing an exhibition there at extremely short notice.

THE RBSA EXHIBITION

(Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Gallery)

The Official Opening of this exhibition was an extremely successful event, particularly as the two D-Day Veterans we had met on our initial visit in June had accepted our invitation to attend as Guests of Honour, accompanied by their partners. These gallant people travelled considerable distances in order to join us in Birmingham and made it a truly memorable day. Tony Rampling, aged 89, came all the way from Colchester in Essex and John Wotherspoon, aged 87, from Bonnybridge, Scotland. ITV Central News interviewed them in mid-afternoon for broadcasting the next day.

L to R   Tony Rampling,  Rob Perry, John  Wotherspoon

L to R Tony Rampling, Rob Perry, John Wotherspoon

John Wotherspoon, holding forth. Tony Rampling background left.

John Wotherspoon, holding forth. Tony Rampling background left.

THE VER-sur-MER EXHIBITION

(Gold Beach Museum)

The exhibition at RBSA closed at 5.15pm on Saturday 26 October and so, in yet another race against time, with help from my son James, my two brothers and RBSA Member friends, the exhibition was taken down and packed into the van so that I could set off immediately for Portsmouth where, “by the skin of my teeth” I caught the overnight ferry to Caen in order to be at Ver-sur-Mer by 9.30am the next day to re-hang the exhibition at the “Musee Gold Beach”. During the disembarkation at 7.30am, I made contact with Graham Needham of the University of Northampton who had come over to assist in the re-hang and to represent the University at “Vernissage” (Official Opening) in the absence of Paul Middleton who had been called away on official business at The University of China in Beijjng. At the Opening we were given a very warm welcome by the Mayor, M Philippe Onillon, the Gallery Director, M Jean-Pierre Dupont and Le President de l’ Office du Tourisme, Mme Carole Servais. We were also grateful for assistance throughout by Geoff and Pamela Leese, English ex-patriots living in Ver-sur-Mer.

Exhibition. Gold Beach Museum, Ver-sur-Mer, Normandy. Oct 2013

Exhibition. Gold Beach Museum, Ver-sur-Mer, Normandy. Oct 2013

D-Day & WW2 Exhibition. Gold Beach Museum, Ver-sur-Mer,  Oct 2013

D-Day & WW2 Exhibition. Gold Beach Museum, Ver-sur-Mer, Oct 2013

Rob demonstrating his command of “Franglais” during his speech at the “Vernissage”, Ver-sur-Mer

Rob demonstrating his command of “Franglais” during his speech at the “Vernissage”, Ver-sur-Mer