Our second charity cycle Veterans Fundraising event, Woody’s Lodge Battlefield Tours 2023, traced the valiant footsteps of those instrumental in ending World War II in Europe. This veteran’s fundraising event placed our participants at the epicentre of the largest invasion in warfare that brought an end to WWII on the continent.
They followed the journey of fearless and courageous soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Forces who stood on the front line to forever change the course of history in the name of freedom.
A palpable historic adventure
Battlefield Tours followed our massively successful inaugural cycle event, the Cardiff to Paris Charity Cycle Ride. It took our riders on a palpable historic adventure through Normandy in northern France, giving them a peek into the D-Day Landings, codename Operation Overlord.
It was our most ambitious veterans fundraising event yet – we doubled the number of cyclists to 70, raised our fundraising target to £130k, and embarked on a magnificent route that pieces together the strategic decisions and extraordinary defence forces that resulted in victory!
Stepping back in time
It’s 6 June 1944. Against strong howling winds and relentless rough seas, the largest invasion in the history of warfare is underway as Allied armies descend on the beaches of Normandy. Over 150 000 troops, and 7000 ships and landing craft enter German-occupied northern France. The Allied forces, consisting primarily of British, American, and Canadian troops, had a 76-day battle ahead. It will result in the deaths of 210,000 Allied members and 14,000 French civilians. But it wasn’t in vain.
These key moments in history are known as the D-Day Landings and the Battle of Normandy. It was a brave and calculated military campaign that brought together the Allied forces by land, air, and sea to eventually defeat Germany.
The adventure of a lifetime
This momentous event was the reason behind Woody’s Lodge Battlefield Tours. We hit the ground between July 11 and 15, beginning our adventure cycling through the charming Hampshire County in South East England to the iconic French region of Normandy. Our home for the duration of the 5-day veterans fundraising event was the beautiful Grandcamp-Maisy in the coastal fishing village of Maisy.
Walking in the footsteps of heroes
Here are all the landmarks, memorials, museums, and hidden treasures we explored on our adventure.
Day 1: Soaking up Southwick House
On day one, we spent the day on the awe-inspiring Southwick Estate in Hampshire, touring these historic grounds and visiting:
Southwick House: The location of Operation Overlord was finalised and the headquarters of the main Allied commanders led by General Eisenhower.
Royal Military Police Museum: Here, you can trace the history of the Royal Military Police from its origins on horseback to today’s high-speed motorcyclists.
The Map Room: Located in Southwick House, this is where you can see the original map, detailing the enormous planning of Operation Overlord.
Day 2: Welcome to Normandy
On day 2, we entered Normandy and visited war memorials, landmarks, and key D-Day Landing locations, including:
Pegasus Bridge: This striking war memorial built in 1934 is the centrepiece of the Memorial Pegasus Museum.
Juno Beach Memorial: Located in the resort town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, it pays tribute to the
45,000 Canadians lost their lives during the Second World War.
British Normandy Memorial: Inscribed in stone are the names of 22 442 servicemen and servicewomen who fell on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy. It also pays tribute to the French civilians who died during this time.
Normandy Beach: This was the centre of the five landing beaches on D-Day. Its codename was Gold Beach.
Longues Battery Memorial: This is the well-preserved German defensive battery, which is one of the only places to see an original cannon, as well as original guns, and a fire control bunker.
Day 3: Mesmerising moments
On day 3, we ventured through more hidden gems and paid homage to fallen heroes. Our highlights included:
Bayeux Cathedral: Located in the town of Bayeux is the enchanting Bayeux Cathedral, an ancient site consecrated on July 14, 1077. Today, it’s the seat of the Bishop of Bayeux.
D-Day Underwater Wreck Museum: Located near Port-en-Bessin, here you will discover vestiges of the D-Day Landing, like amphibious tanks and self-propelled guns.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial: Located in Colleville-sur-Mer, it’s the first American cemetery in Europe for WWII casualties.
Omaha Beach Memorial: The sculpture titled Les Braves honours those who fought for the freedom of the French during WWII.
La Pont Du Hoc: This is a key heritage site along D-Day Landing beaches.
Day 4: Full circle
On the final day of the adventure, we learned more about the planning behind the D-Day Landings and closed off the experience at the place where everything started – the beaches of Normandy. We visited:
Maisy Battery: This quaint village is home to a 2km walkthrough of original German trenches, and WWII bunkers and shelters.
St. Mere Eglise Liberation Monument: Located in the first town to be liberated from German control, the monument is in memory of paratroopers of the two Airborne Divisions.
Utah Beach Landing Museum: This is where the story of D-Day is presented in chronological order, from the preparation to its successful outcome. It’s also the location of an authentic collection of objects, vehicles, equipment, and testimonies, including a super-rare B26 bomber.
Beaches of Normandy: We ended this once-in-a-lifetime experience with a complete tour of the five landing beaches that made everything possible.
Money raised for our veterans
While we didn’t quite reach our ambitious target of £130k, we’re thrilled to announce that we raised a substantial amount, totaling just over £85,000! These funds help us sustain our efforts across Wales, providing vital financial, psychological, and emotional support to veterans in need. Additionally, we can continue organising enjoyable social events, ensuring they never feel isolated and have the chance to connect with like-minded individuals. Every contribution is a step towards creating a positive impact in the lives of those who have served.
Thank you to all our participants, supporters, on-the-ground volunteers, and corporate sponsors for making Woody’s Lodge Battlefield Tours 2023 another successful charity cycle!