Taking up the Walking Our War Graves: Normandy Challenge

Follow one Commonwealth War Graves team member’s journey taking on the Walking Our War Graves: Normandy fundraising virtual walk.

Walking Our War Graves: Normandy

Alec Malloy is one of the team here at Commonwealth War Graves. To support the Foundation, and to get out and about, Alec has decided to join in on the Walking Our War Graves fun.

Over to Alec.

Normandy and its mythical place in Second World War history

British Commandos exiting a landing craft on Gold Beach, Normandy 44.

Image: British Commandos spring from their landing craft on Gold Beach, beginning their journey through Normandy (© IWM (B 5245))

For history enthusiasts, particularly those with a keen interest in the World Wars, Normandy has some almost mythic significance.

It was here, 80 years ago in June 1944, that the Allies launched Operation Overlord, storming Normandy’s beaches on D-Day, before digging in for months of tough fighting in the region’s fields and hedgerows, picturesque villages, and historic towns.

From the beaches to the bocage, Normandy was a tough, tough battle. Casualties were high with the geography, a tangled network of small fields flanked by thick hedges, studded with towns and villages, peppered with hilly ground, favouring defence.

By the campaign’s end, the British had suffered some 65,000 casualties with 11,000 or so killed. The Canadians took around 18,500 losses. Just over 5,000 would never see home again.

In some instances, battalions were taking casualties at a rate higher than that of those who fought at the Battle of the Somme 30 years before.

But their losses were not in vain. By the end of August, Paris was in Allied hands.

While we cannot forget the fighting and harsh conditions undertaken by Commonwealth troops in other theatres of combat, such as Italy, for many, Normandy is the first concrete step towards the liberation of mainland Europe from Nazi control.

95 kilometres to cover

Man with shaggy hair holds a hat while standing up the top of Snowdwon.Image: Alec Malloy, CWGC staffer taking on the Walking Our War Graves: Normandy Challenge

So, to the virtual walk!

Throughout May 2024, Walking Our War Graves: Normandy is asking participants (like me!) to cover 95 kilometres in the footsteps of the Allied forces fighting there 80 years ago.

Along the virtual route, we’ll be hitting milestones and visiting war cemeteries where the dead of the Normandy campaign lie, telling the story of the campaign.

These sites are truly humbling places, and I would recommend a visit but if you can’t get there, then Walking Our War Graves is a great way to learn about these unique places of commemoration and remembrance.

The thing about this virtual challenge is that it can be covered in any method and means you like.

I am going to go rambling through the Berkshire countryside to try to put myself in the soldier’s boots, although, thankfully, it’s unlikely that I’m going to be shot at by a Wehrmacht machine gun nest on my travels.

But if swimming, jogging, sprinting, cycling, canoeing or something else is more your style, then that’s great! You can cover the 95km any way you choose (except driving, flying a plane, riding a motorbike, going by train or anything with a motor. That’s just cheating!).

Why am I signing up for Walking Our War Graves: Normandy?

Everyone who works at Commonwealth War Graves has an interest in or a connection to the World Wars.

For me, my grandad went ashore on D+3 (9th June 1944, or 3 days after D-Day) and subsequently fought in the Normandy campaign. He was a runner, tasked with the dangerous mission of delivering important messages between the front and HQ. Dodging bullets, grenades, and shellfire

Fortunately, he survived the war but many of his comrades were not so lucky. It’s hard to emphasise just how much of Normandy was transformed into killing fields during that bitter campaign.

I’ll be registering and taking on the challenge to try and put myself in his place. What was it like for my grandad over in Normandy, trying to get his messages through amidst a close, claustrophobic countryside brimming with danger?

While I, hopefully, will never have to go through something like that myself, I am hoping to get a better understanding of what it was like all those years ago.

How Walking Our War Graves: Normandy Supports the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation

Of course, Walking Our War Graves isn’t all about me, even if I am the star subject of this blog.

All of the money raised by Walking Our War Graves: Normandy goes to the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation and the brilliant work they do across the country.

As someone deeply interested in the World Wars and the people who served in them, telling their stories is imperative. We can’t overlook what these men and women from around the world went through, and in some cases gave up, in pursuit of liberty in Europe.

The Commonwealth War Graves Foundation is entirely about sharing and preserving their stories for younger generations to discover, learn, and remember.

Did you know:

So, with your support (and mine!) we’ll enable the CWGF to reach out to generations new and old and education them on the work of Commonwealth War Graves and the stories of the fallen.

Sounds like a good cause to me! Hope to see you out and about tackling Walking Our War Graves this May.

Register for Walking Our War Graves: Normandy today

Registration for Walking Our War Graves: Normandy is open now and lasts through April 2024.

You will have all of May to complete the 95km distance however you like. Swim, cycle, run, jog or walk in the footsteps of the fallen and help the CWGF preserve their stories and memories.

Register today.

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