Well it finally happened on the 6th of August the next invasion of France began. The journey from Aberdeen was interesting to say the least, until we reached the Hilton Park service station where we picked up our next driver. This was the one who was to be with us for the rest of the week. The man from Whittle went by the name of Naughton Dunn, driver extraordinaire. We arrived at Portsmouth on a very hot & sunny day, we managed to get on board the ferry without any problems, & we thought the French authorities might have gotten wind of the impending invasion. As we left Portsmouth some of the naval fleet was in. One of the Scouts has the fleet photographed in such detail that we should be able to build some ourselves. The crossing to Cherbourg was hot, & there was very little relief from the heat on the deck.
After the five hour crossing we arrived at the port, still no force to repel us from their shores. It looked as though we had made it to France without them noticing; little did we know that things were about to change. Whether it was through bad navigating, driving or the authorities changing the road signs, we got a nice tour of the countryside. When we arrived at the site there was either signs of jubilation or sheer panic that we had arrived. At the site we abandoned the bus to start the invasion proper. We were fed & organised by our new leaders Neil & Libby who were now given the unenviable task of co-ordinating & managing the Scouts that had arrived.
On Sunday after a good night's sleep, in between the thunder & heavy rain we were split up into four groups, the Venture Scouts making one of the groups. We were allocated our activities, one Scout group went abseiling while the Ventures went rock climbing, & the other Scout groups went land-yachting & beach games. The land yachting was going great until one of the leaders had a crash & put one of the yachts out of action. The instructor did say that it was the best land-yacht crash he had seen. The rest of the sessions that morning went without any incident except from the expected scrapes from the rock climbing & abseiling. Due to rain the outdoor rock climbing & abseiling for the afternoon had been cancelled & went in doors, while those on the beach went to kayaking in the afternoon as they were getting wet anyway & most of them did come back very wet. At night the instructors arranged some activities so that the Scout leaders could collapse peacefully.
Monday saw the dawn of a new day where the Scouts & Ventures along with the leaders were up bright & early ready for action. Itís nice to dream, but when you mention food, itís amazing how quickly people swing into action. The hordes moved on mass to their activities, the authorities had not yet twigged that there was an invasion going on. Some went Climbing & abseiling, & others went flying about the beach on the land yachts, (locals well advised to stay clear, as steering iffy). At lunchtime the climbers came back well pleased with themselves. Some of them had no intention of getting their feet off terra firma, but they did & well done to them. The beach party came back well shot blasted due to the sand being blown everywhere. It was lunchtime & the horde descended on the food in a way that locusts would have been proud. After a short period of time it was time for the afternoon activities. Some went raft building, thinking that they shouldnít have had so much to eat, as sinking came to mind, bearing in mind how good they are at pioneering. The others went of what was termed International Rescue. Off they went thinking that they were going to get a chance to be a Thunderbirds character. Wrong, it was a different terminology for orienteering, it would have been better if both teams had got the same set of instructions as they were supposed to have ended up in the same place. When they got back it was time to return to base camp, & hear of the feats of the raft builders. All of them got wet, & heard that a Venture Scout had waited years for the opportunity that arose to push in a leader. The one thing that was sure was that they were going to get wet & nobody was disappointed. Once again the evening meal disappeared rather quickly. The instructors took the Scouts away for evening activities allowing the leaders to collapse in a heap for a short while.
Itís now Tuesday & weíre off for our excursion to the D-Day landing beaches. We set off at 9.00am for the town off Bayeux to visit the museum to the D-Day landings. It was extremely interesting & we could have spent the day there. The next stop was the British war cemetery just up the road from the museum; this had a sombering effect on the Scouts, as many had probably seen films of war but never the results. After this we moved to Arromanches, where we had lunch. As we were on a hill over looking the town it was rather windy. In the position we were in we were able to overlook the town & see the Mulberry Harbour that was built after the landings to off load all the equipment needed. We went to the 360į cinema, which incorporated the present day with film of the landings. The wind at the top of the hill played havoc with the kilts. We then travelled to Longues Sur Mer where some of the German gun batteries were still in place. Some of the Scouts decided to go into the observation bunker at the beachhead & got themselves into a slight predicament. At the beachhead we were able to get a good view of the Mulberry Harbour & Omaha beach. From there we went to the supermarket at Countance & boy you should have seen the leaders & Venture Scouts eyes light up at the beer prices. Naughton was getting worried that we might overload the bus or post some Scouts home for more room. We arrived back at the centre very pleased with our purchases.
Wednesday morning & weíre preparing for the next excursion to Cherbourg to see the eclipse. It was also decided to combine the trip to the sports warehouse Decathlon. We were given directions to the car park in Cherbourg for the eclipse, but decided if the car park at Decathlon was all right then we would stay put. When we went into the store it was difficult to believe how cheap the goods were, & it was difficult to know where to start shopping. Again Naughton was getting worried again about the amount of stuff being bought. At midday we went out to see the eclipse, the sky was quite cloudy & we were getting worried that we wouldnít see it. But we were fortunate as the clouds started to have some breaks in them allowing us to see the eclipse. The only way to describe it is awesome & weird watching the world go dark around you. After the eclipse we went back to the site to continue the activities. In the afternoon we were back to kayaking & climbing on the indoor wall. In the evening we were challenged by the Oxford Scouts to a game of football at which we lost keeping up the Scottish tradition.
Thursday saw raft building taking place once more, archery & the assault course. The raft building turned out to be quite interesting, as everybody went in, if anybody had been walking their dog along the path they would have probably gone in as well. There was a tidal warning given as Iain, Naughton & myself ended up going in.
We were just as well being in as on the rafts as they didnít hold out that long. As far as the archery was concerned both morning & afternoon was very enjoyable. The local wildlife must have been warned that Scouts were at the archery range as it was the first time that Iíve seen birds with tin hats & flak jackets on. The evening was spent packing the bus for the early start in the morning. Most of us tried to stay up through the night, but that didnít work.
Friday & the Journey home started with breakfast at 04.30am. We set off at 05.00am with a fond farewell from the staff who came to see us away, or to make sure that we did leave the site. On the ferry some of the leaders went to the restaurant to get a proper breakfast that didnít look like cornflakes. When we went back up to the area where we were seated in looked like a refugee site with bodies slumped everywhere. As we arrived back at Portsmouth, the Captain of the ferry informed the passengers that HMS Edinburgh was following us in, we thought that we were going to have to stop the Scout with the passion for warships from swimming out to photograph the ship. When we reached the Hilton Park service station we had to say farewell to Naughton, which was tinged with sadness, because itís not often we find somebody as daft as us. It was 03.00am the next morning when we arrived back at our departure point, as many of you know as you were waiting for us. I donít know what we looked like coming off the bus, but I know what we felt like.
I know that this is for the parents & Scouts of the 46th, but there will be copies being sent to Acorn & Naughton. So I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank them again for a thoroughly enjoyable week. The Acorn staff were brilliant & couldnít have been more patient & helpful. As for Naughton (The Underpass Kid) his wit & patience went a long way to making things enjoyable. For his size he still canít fall in gracefully, but boy can he make a splash. When writing this I am speaking for the group who went to France, because we all enjoyed ourselves & will be going somewhere with Acorn in the year 2001. Naughton when you read this, it is to let you know that we will be requesting you as the driver for the week. We want to see if the underpasses look the same all over Europe.
Yours in Scouting
France Camp Leader (& for my sins the next one too)