Tag Archives: france

Europe, the Wehrmacht and USSR

“The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented, unmerciful and unrelenting harshness.”

– Adolf Hitler March, 1941

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen visiting Normandy it is important to pay your respects to the French, British, Polish, Canadian and American forces who were involved in the Battle of Normandy and the D-Day landings. However, it is also important to remember those who lost their lives elsewhere during the Second World War. Of course, this is all stuff you have learned at senior school or “high school” (for those of you who are joining us from across the pond!), but I was surprised at how much I didn’t know… or have forgotten since I dug out my History 101 textbook.

For example, the Wehrmacht attacked the USSR in the summer of 1941. By the time the leaves fell, the Germans and their allies (Finland, Hungary, Italy and Romania) were occupying territories just short of Leningrad and Moscow. For Nazi Germany, the invasion was a crucial conquest for vital space, in addition to being an ideological war and an annihilating racial war against the threat of “judeo-bolshevism”.

What really surprised me during my visit to Normandy this year was the number of soldiers and military personnel who came from all corners of the world to visit Normandy to pay their respects. I was touched by this act of affection and appreciation. I was also pleased to see so many young soldiers visiting and taking the time to visit the region. It’s sometimes easy to forget just how many families and individuals were affected by the war and continue to be affected today.


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The Falaise-Chambois Pocket: Summary

In August 1944, after 72 days of fighting, the Allies encircled the German army in the Dives valley.

The “Falaise-Chambois” pocket formed and the German army’s retreat from this pocket would become the last combat of the Battle of Normandy.

The pocket reunited 6 nationalities (German, American, British, Canadian, French and Polish). Between the 19th and 21st August, the Allies closed in a total of 100,000 German soldiers. 50,000 of these soldiers escaped, 10,000 were killed and 40,000 were taken prisoner.

More to follow…

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Mémorial de Caen: Gypsies and the Holocaust


What I think makes Mémorial de Caen such an excellent museum is the variety of exhibitions the museum has on offer. One of which details the persecution of the gypsy population in Normandy in the years prior to the D-Day Landings.

Genocidal massacres of the gypsies were carried out in several areas of Europe, in a similar manner to the Jews. However, this extermination was not systematic and not a result of the Nazis’ racial policy. Instead the destruction of many gypsy communities occurred on a local level, and this means not much is known. It is difficult to establish an accurate estimation of how many individuals were killed in these attacks, particularly at a European level. The death tolls vary from about 50,000 murders to 200,000.

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#DDay70: The taking of Merville Battery (Part two)

If you think they will come when the weather is fine, take the most direct route and let you know in advance, you are wrong. The Allies will land during the worst weather, and take the longest route. The invasion will happen here in Normandy.
Fieldmarshall Erwin Rommel

During the night of the 5th to the 6th June 1944, a group of paratroopers of the 9th Battalion was dropped on the village of Barneville-la-Bertran near Honfleur. This was 20 miles away from their objective; the Merville Battery.

These men belonged to a section of the Battalion’s mortar platoon, commanded by Sergeant Edward Smith and seconded by Corporal George “Tug” Wilson.

During the morning of D-Day, villagers took four of the paras into hiding. They also gathered the heavy arms which had been dropped in containers. A few days later, resistance underground fighters moved the paras out of the village.

On the 18th and 19th June, German troops arrived in the village and arrested the inhabitants of Barneville-la-Bertran, accusing them of having helped British paratroopers. All were deported to the concentration camps of Neuengamme and Ravensbrück in Germany.

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