Henley Visitors to Normandy


A party from Henley has returned from a long weekend with families in Falaise, on a visit arranged by the twinning committees of the two towns. The weather was great, not least providing warm sunshine for sitting on deck while cruising to and from Caen and enjoying the excellent catering of Brittany Ferries.

Visiting the town’s newly opened Civilians in Wartime Museum proved an emotional experience. This is the first museum of its type in the world, commemorating the 45 million civilians killed, and the 30 millions displaced, during the Second World War. Among much else of interest it provides a graphic reminder of the startling fact that there were more civilian deaths in that conflict than military victims.

Captions to the display are in English and German as well as French, and the Museum illustrates the considerable impact on civilian life during the German occupation as well as following the Allied invasion, inevitably involving physical destruction.

A Saturday evening reception and dinner for all involved took place in one of the village halls with which that locality seems well-supplied. This enjoyable event included musical entertainment provided by our hosts but more than amply complemented by the contributions of two talented ladies from Henley.

The following day the group visited Monet’s garden at Giverny, a magical experience in the best weather of the weekend. The universally known lily pond attracted most attention, but there is much of interest in the rest of the garden, the part which the painter worked with for longer.

Returning home, the group diverted via St Pierre sur Dives for a little light shopping in the very extensive market taking place there on that day, both within and around the massive mediaeval market hall. An almost infinite range of foodstuffs and delicacies, as one would expect, but also many other offerings, sometimes incongruous, from beds to broomsticks!

Getting off the coach in Henley at bedtime the verdict was that it had been a tiring but enjoyable expedition.

1 comment
  1. John Whiting says:

    Henley/Falaise Twinning Trip -14 May 2016

    Earlier in the year the Chairman of Henley Falaise twinning group approached me saying that this year was the inaugural opening of the Falaise Musee des Civils, to commemorate the trials and tribulations of the people of Falaise during WWII.
    The Mayor of Falaise had asked if Henley could contribute anything to show what the people of Henley had endured in WWII. A similar request had been made to Henley on Thames Council and other Henley groups.
    Coincidentally Henley Archeological & History Group Journal 29 featured wartime memories and it was decided to donate two copies of the Journal to the exhibition at the Musee which were forwarded to Henley Twinning Group – no acknowledgement was received.
    My visit to Falaise was a private one which happened to coincide with the twinning group’s visit and we were invited to the opening of the Musee. Nobody within Henley Twinning knew anything of the whereabouts of our Journals. I spoke to the curator at the Civic reception and he in pidgin English and me in pidgin French learned that they had been gratefully received but as they had not a specific reference to Falaise they had been archived in the records at Caen – until they could be included in a display.
    We, Henley Archeological & History Group, were specifically thanked at the Civic reception but it was obvious that nobody else had bothered to contribute – quel domage!
    Falaise Museum is really an annex of the Musee des Civils at Caen. This and the exhibition in Falaise are well worth a visit showing the hardships of Falaisians, who were bled white by the German occupation and then had the town razed courtesy of the RAF and USAAF.


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