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Dieppe Raid 2018 - A Reflection

by
Andy Bebington

with photos by Greg Robertson (mostly)

and Andy Bebington (a couple)


The 2018 trip to France, culminating in the Dieppe Raid, included three initially non-operational cyclists, two non-operational tanks and two non-operational ferries. It ended with missing both a sweater and at least one train's cycle storage area.

Day 1 Route

Bob, Greg and Peter rode to Portsmouth on Wednesday 20 June ("rode" in this context, as elsewhere, means "went under their own steam, with bicycles"; it does not mean "pedalled all the way" - South Harting and Rouen, we mean you …). For different reasons, Andy, Nigel and Pat arrived by train.

Gosport

Portsmouth Harbour Looking West toward Gosport.

The Caen ferry cabins were very hot and the aggregate sleep between six of us might have sufficed for one person. The beds at Honfleur, our first hotel, would prove most welcome at the end of the day… Honfleur is around 30 miles east of Ouistréham (Caen's ferry port) but we headed west on a 10-mile loop to visit the numerous memorials to the D-Day landings in 1944 - for this stretch of the Normandy coast was Sword Beach for the largest sea-borne invasion in history. Here we met the tanks and a Douglas C47 "Gooney Bird".

Day 2 Route

Sword Beach

Sword Beach Memorials.

Sword Beach

Bill Millin was the personal piper of Lord Lovat Fraser whose Cammondo Brigade landed on Sword Beach on D-Day. Although not officialy allowed Piper Bill Millin marched up and down the beach during the landings and later as they moved inland.

Sword Beach

Lion-sur-Mer.

Sword Beach

Sword Beach

Sword Beach

Sword Beach

Sword Beach

Churchill Tank Memorial - Actually a Centaur IV CS Tank.

Sword Beach

Sword Beach

English Cemetery at Hermanville-sur-Mer.

Sword Beach

Our loop back to Ouistréham took us via a War Cemetery, raising thoughts of young men who would never return to Blighty to take their girl to a dance, or to have a beer with friends in the pub, or to cheer their team on in whichever division they played. We then rode to Pegasus Bridge and to the Café Gondrée, the first building liberated on D-Day. We had breakfast #2 before pressing along the coast over a couple of upland lumps, to Honfleur where, after dinner, we saw Croatia put two more goals past Argentina and put Diego Maradona's head firmly in his hands. We felt for him…

Day 3 Route

Mouth of Seine

Pont de Normandie.

Mouth of Seine

Mouth of the Seine.

Mouth of Seine

Mouth of Seine

The longest day (subtle reference to 6 June 1944, geddit?) of our ride was to Rouen, where Greg's excellent navigation was scuppered by the ferry system; Honfleur is south of the Seine, Rouen to the north, necessitating a crossing somewhere. All three major bridges are so big that you get KoM points for being first to the top, so our chosen crossing would be by ferry. Ferry #1 was "kaput", with someone hitting something metallic with a larger hammer - not promising; ferry #2 was, for reasons unknown, "suspendu" but fortunately ferry #3, at Jumièges, was working. The 71 miles we anticipated riding that day turned out to be nearer 78.

Along the Seine

Panorama du Marais Vernier.

Along the Seine

Along the Seine

Road through Sainte-Opportune-la-Mare en-route to "Kaput!" Ferry at Quillebeuf-sur-Seine.

Along the Seine

Along the Seine

Along the Seine

On the Working Ferry de Jumièges.

Along the Seine

And when we got to Rouen, around 8 o'clock, we found restaurants closing down for the night! We eventually, via Bob's reconnaissance, found a pizza parlour where, with one honourable exception, we were all beaten by pizzas the size of disc wheels. And so to bed.

Rouen Cathedral

West Facade of Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral.

Rouen Cathedral

Day 4 Route

It was known, from the 2017 trip, that leaving Rouen northbound would involve a "bit of a climb" - this turned out to be a gain of 500' in a little over 2 miles, to include a mile averaging a fraction under 6%. It gave us a different respect for the hills in the Tour, Giro etc. some of which are twice as steep and considerably longer. Admittedly, the racers don't carry panniers, are about two-thirds our weight and half our age. Still - respect!

Our disappointment that Horace didn't join us for lunch at Auffay was diminished by the Citroen Mehari & 2CV rally they put on for us there. When we eventually reached the Hotel de la Plage, we found Paul sitting in glorious sunshine, drinking tea in the front garden. Our evening meal was eaten in splendid isolation, the main restaurant being full and us being sat upstairs in the overflow room. Our waitress told us that she was practising her English, so she happily used "tip" instead of "gratuité" but then got very confused when told that when we want "l'addition, s'il vous plâit" in England, we sometimes ask "what's the damage?".

Day 5 Route

Sunday; The Ride, on which we missed Pat who had decided, en route from Rouen, that riding was too painful and he'd rather do the walk with Paul and others. Some riders, we discovered afterwards, apparently felt that they'd been cheated by signing up to the 100 km ride only to find it was re-billed as 90km but turned out to be only 85.3 km. After the Friday's efforts we were happy to be short-changed. We got to lunch at about 11.30 and were sufficiently far ahead of ourselves as to be able to relax in our favourite café in Envermeu over a glass of something wet.

Presentation

Unclaimed Trophies after Sunday Evening Award Ceremony.

We returned to Dieppe in good time for a shower and change, a walk back to the HQ and the inevitable wait for the late-as-always start of the presentations, all hoping desperately not to win the bike in the prize draw. Dinner was spoiled by Peter's discovery that he'd left his sweater in the pre-dinner bar in the market place (we left just as they were closing and, as they didn't re-open on the following morning [France is shut on Mondays], Peter will have to claim it back next year).

Ferry

Pile of Bicycles on Midday Monday Ferry to Newhaven.

The return to England was by the earlier (12.30) ferry, meaning that when we reached the railways system (minus Bob, who rode home), we were competing with other passengers for space - we never did find the cycle-parking spaces in the train to, or the one from, Lewes, so stood all the way. Hence an eventual arrival chez nous more tired than we should have been.

Channel

A Very Calm English Channel.

On reflection, we had a good time, taking advantage of being so close to Sword Beach and Pegasus Bridge; even the non-operational among us clocked up a couple of hundred miles. Much Leffe was consumed along with some "honken" (which turned out to be the local pronunciation of Heineken and (for Bob, avoiding alcohol on doctor's orders) an assortment of Perrier, Badoit etc. We regretted the vast meanders of the Seine, the one puncture we suffered and (at times) the heat … but it was all a lot better than being at home, mowing the lawn. Roll on 2019!


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