Blundering tourism officials are to re-think a new tourism trail taking in the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy after they erased important sectors of the World War Two landings area.
Six tourist offices in Normandy Bayeux, Sainte Mere Eglise, Omaha, Isigny-Grandcamp, Courseulles and Carantan decided to create a new tourism trail for 2013 called â€˜the mythical sectorâ€™ but omitted part of Juno beach, the whole of Sword beach and the drop zones around Pegasus Bridge, where some of the most crucial fighting took place.
They said it was because these sectors are not where most of the visitors to the Normandy landing beaches go and the object of the trail was to concentrate on the most popular areas.
But critics, both French and British, pointed out that the very first Allied landing was at Pegasus Bridge on the night of June05/06 in 1944 and tens thousands of people visit the Pegasus Cafe and nearby Pegasus museum and surrounding landing areas every year.
They accused them of putting tourism before history and want the trail cancelled. They pointed out that the trail was created without consulting the regional council, D-Day committee associations that organise the annual commemorations or Normandie Memoire, the organisation created in 2002 by the regional council which aims to guard historical accuracy.
Admiral Brac de La PerriÃ¨re, president of the Normandie MÃ©moire and D-Day Committe Associations, has protested against the initiative as has Leon Gautier, president of the Free France Commandos veterans associations, calling it â€˜disrespectful to historyâ€™.
Mr Gautier said that he took particular umbrage at the use of the words â€˜mythical sectorâ€™ which he finds not just derogatory but plain wrong. â€˜Operation Overlord clearly identified five sectors, that is fact, it is history. This initiative mentions four, missing out Sword beach, the sector where the small number of French soldiers who took part in D-Day landed. This initiative seems motivated by tourism and ignores history,â€™ he said.
In the face of such criticism those involved said they will have a re-think. â€˜We take into account the comments that have been made. The choice of the name and the perimeter of the trail will now be the object of additional reflections,â€™ the tourist offices said in a joint statement.
But Marc Laurenceau, creator of the D-Day Overlord website, believes that the whole idea should bee scrapped and has now launched a online petition calling for it to be cancelled.
â€˜What to they (the tourist offices) think about the English and French veterans who landed at La BrÃ¨che-d’Hermanville on D-Day? What about those who were parachuted north east of Ranville? What about their fallen comrades, killed to free a piece of land that is not considered mythical enough according to these six tourist offices?â€™ said Mr Laurenceau.
Also worrying D-Day organisers is the fact that the six tourist offices took it upon themselves to create a new tourist trail without consultations and they say this does not bode well for next year when the 70th anniversary of the landings take place.