Overlord-Neptune

NormandyONtour

‘Pop The Kettle On’…

ONTour

‘Pop The Kettle On’…

Hello and Thank You for Visiting Our Site!

My name is Iain, I am a D-Day Guide here in Normandy and I am passionate about the History of The Second World War.

D-Day Veteran: Joan De Vall with ONTour

Joan De Vall, Pegasus Bridge (2017)

“I wasn’t frightened; I’d check the height enemy planes were flying. It was up to us to get the guns into the right position to fire”…

My Passion

Helping you to discover the famous landmark Beaches and Historical Sites of The Normandy D-Day Landings and form your own vision of these epic events.

Bringing the events of D-Day to life for you through the use of stunning visual support materials and guiding you around carefully chosen locations so that you can better understand this important moment in history.

Since many Allied Soldiers – on D-Day and beyond – made the Ultimate Sacrifice, today by the simple act of visiting these sites we pay homage and remember the vital part The Allied Soldiers played on D-Day in shaping the course of Freedom in the modern World.

 

My Biography & Motivation for NormandyONtour

My Childhood

As a 16-year-old schoolkid in my native Scotland, I took part in the very first foreign educational exchange, which was set up in 1989 to improve future ties between the UK, Germany, France and the EU. As part of a group of Scottish, German & French students we spent two years studying the History of The Second World War (WW2) on all sides, including the socio-economic catalysts for Hitler’s rise to power.

As part of the German leg of the 1st year’s trip, we visited several concentration camps together and also entered East Berlin via a very intimidating Checkpoint Charlie – just 5 months before The Berlin Wall came down! We were ‘welcomed’ by the East German government’s (communist regime) political representative and received a very stale, formal and quite ‘troubling’ presentation in a large amphitheatre in the Reichstag (a place Hitler regularly spoke). East Berlin was to mark the beginning of my research into WW2 and it was an experience I will never ever forget…{Wee aside: Whilst there I asked  a very old local man in the street: “Sir, how long do you think it will take until this wall comes down and this country is unified?” He looked at me dismissively, glanced at the heavens and exclaimed (in German), “At least another 15 years at this rate…”.

But only six months later, on November 9th 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down in what became a worldwide celebration of Freedom – and a mediatized frenzy: I still recall seeing ‘Knight Rider’ singing on top of it surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people literally ripping the wall apart with sledgehammers, revelling in their long-awaited liberation, and no doubt overwhelmed by the thought of seeing family again after so long. It was all very surreal and very emotional.

At age 16 these experiences were life-changing.

Six year’s earlier my Gran had taken me to Pearl Harbour and I’ll always remember seeing the sunken hull of the USS Arizona there. Without my realizing it, back then my passion for The History of D-Day had already been kindled.

 

My time at University & Career choices

I continued my studies up through university, and graduated from Stirling University in Scotland in 1997 with an Honours Degree in French, German and WW2 Studies. I went on to teach English for 13 years overseas before returning to university in 2011/12 to complete a long-term goal of a Master’s Degree in IT. In later years, as a result of extended stays in South America, I would also learn Spanish.

At some point in the midst of these travels I would find myself working as a Wedding Celebrant in Japan and today I can still clearly recall standing outside the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, contemplating my own disjointed journey – trying to make sense of it all – when I suddenly had one overwhelming thought: Normandy !

My Passion for D-Day, Modern Languages & History

The extremely complex Allied Operations of Overlord and Neptune – from which we borrow our NormandyONtour name – consisted of so many intricate D-Day plans, including the creation of Ghost Armies; ingenious moments {Hobart’s Funnies}; the late addition of Utah & Sword beaches; ‘chance’ events & encounters and their outcomes, accompanied by many instances of sheer luck. I have studied WW2 History through English, German and French languages, analysing the events which led up to WW2 – as well as the main events during and after – and so have come today to hold a fairly broad perspective. However History shows us that Hitler’s Absolute Evil and insanity were bent on destroying a larger part of Humanity – and that he almost ‘succeeded’.

Thus to defeat him would require a meticulously organised plan, carried out by a massive international group of individuals, working steadfastly together. It was a plan that would unavoidably demand a massive loss of human life, both among the Allied military, the occupying German enemy forces, as well as the French and other western european civilian populations.

 

The ‘Business’ of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno & Sword Beaches

Over the years my travels have taken me to many wonderful places. However, today in my work, I get to stand in the most awe-inspiring places of all: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches.

During my career as a D-Day Guide I have, in the past, worked for some of the biggest D-Day ‘fast-food’ tour companies in the region. So the idea of D-Day as a ‘business’ has never ever sat well with me. I’ve seen how it works, and decided to leave it behind in 2018…

Today at NormandyONtour (ONTour), we offer a very ‘different’ kind of Tour Service for all of our clients (*please refer to our Homepage for info). It has taken years of hard work to get to this point – and as you will undoubtedly be aware, every good ‘battle plan’ takes years to formulate. There are many ‘dry runs’, ‘pratice missions’, dreaded ‘unforseeables’ (Covid!) and “yes”, some failures along the way too…

D-Day itself took place on June 6th 1944, but when Germany declared war on the West on September 1st, 1939 (Poland), the Allies’ plans for an invasion had already begun taking shape. Over the years that lay ahead, they would develop & deploy many strategies to drive the Wehrmacht out of Europe. The ‘failed’ plans thus became precious lessons learned.

But it was to take a massive failure in capturing a vital deep-sea Port – at Dieppe in August 1942 – before The Allies finally turned their attention to a possible amphibious beach landing and began solidifying an invasion plan that ‘could’ perhaps work – given the right preparations (a long 2 years); with the right team-members (SHAEF with ‘Ike’ at the helm); a common goal – a united front – and not to mention, heaps of fearless daring, new ‘thinking’, revolutionary creations (Hobart’s ‘Funnies’, P.L.U.T.O, Mulberry Harbours, Ghost Armies…), truck-loads of faith, the very BEST of men, and obviously the correct ‘conditions’ on the day were paramount to success too. And that almost failed at the very last minute too…

It was indeed a plan so risky – since it was comprised of just so many ‘levels’ of intricate, yet broad-reaching webs (all of which were spun without a single PC or laptop!) – that it was virtually bound to fail and ‘Ike’ knew this only too well when, with a heavy heart, he wrote his letter to the troops on the eve of The Landings.

At the final count, on D-Day alone, there were 10,000 Allied casualties, with 4,414 confirmed dead. He was right then to anticipate a huge number of casualties.

Today, living in France as a Scot, and running my ‘business’ as a French Tour Operator;  registered French Chauffeur and official member of both ‘The Normandy Interpreters & Certified Guides Federation’  and ‘The Federation of Normandy Guides Conférenciers‘ – I have conducted ‘general’, ‘specialized’ and ‘customized’ guided tours of the D-Day Beaches; their associated historical sites and landmarks, as well as guided Cultural Visits in: Spanish, French, German, Japanese and in my mother-tongue, English.

Today I feel it’s an absolute pleasure to be of service TO clients (as opposed to simply running a ‘fast-food €-business’ FOR them, or merely for profit).

Our standards of service and Quality-of-Service promise (and “no-quibbles-refund“) are for ALL passengers, regardless of age, background, nationality, race, or whether: Students & academic institutions, soldiers, pilots, business-people, D-Day enthusiasts, actors, world famous musicians, entertainers, housewives or holiday-makers…)

At ONTour every Tour is special, as is every client. And meeting client’ expectations is our duty. But surpassing them – sometimes discreetly – is our daily goal! So no two tours on board are alike – no two days the ‘same’ (or as stated on our Homepage: It’s not just ‘more of the same old’). It is a heartfelt privilege to share in – and indirectly be a part of – clients’ experiences of this awe-inspiring landscape.

NB: Except for obviously narrating the day’s touring as we go from site to site, we don’t actually do a lot of ‘talking’ at the individual sites – so you won’t see our guides standing for 20 minutes reciting the D-Day Guide’s Bible (then giving clients only 5 minutes to grab quick snaps). Instead, we prefer to let the sites speak for themselves. As guides, we simply present stunning visual materials to help provide a context to what’s being visited, accompanied by a brief commentary, prior to ‘setting clients loose’ to explore by themselves and absorb…nobody actually remembers what a guide says anyway! What clients do remember however, is their direct experience.

It’s also a great privilege and honour to get a chance to meet War World 2 Veterans, who have proudly served their countries and they still return yearly – sadly in diminishing numbers – for the D-Day Anniversary Remembrance on June 6th.

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D-Day Veteran Jake Larsen - 2019
D-Day Veteran Harry Billinge - 2019
D-Day Veteran Denzel Cooper - 2019
D-Day Veteran Iain Bonner - 2019

Click pics to expand…

Whilst visiting the D-Day Beaches of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno & Sword Beaches, I think it’s perhaps important to remember that, despite suffering massive losses, the Allied Forces did emerge victorious eventually, and against overwhelming odds: From the 156,000 Allied soldiers landing on Five Beachheads & the many other ‘firsts’ (such as the PLUTO oil pipeline & the floating miracle of the Mulberry Harbours) to the impossibility of penetrating Hitler’s ferocious Atlantic Wall, D-Day was –  and still remains today – an inspired and extremely daring collaborative endeavour to rid the world of a great evil, no matter what the cost. And so to every soldier, who laid down life and limb in driving the Wehrmacht out of Western Europe, I feel today I owe a very great debt.

With my Freedom today – and with the 2018 creation of NormandyONtour – come the responsibility to always strive to preserve the memory of D-Day, and all that followed, for Auld Lang Syne: ‘lest auld acquaintance be forgot’.

My Family during WW2

My Grandpa, William Campbell (middle), served in the Merchant Navy during WW2 and I grew up hearing stories about how he and his 3 brothers had all served. It was a bit like Saving Private Ryan I guess… The two pictured here are John (left), who was a gunner in the RAF and James (right) who served in the British Army. Andrew – not in the photo – was gunned down in a raid over Berlin.

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Grandpa (L) & Mum (R) in Glasgow 1975, always smiling…

My Family during WW2

My Grandpa, William Campbell (middle), served in the Merchant Navy during WW2 and I grew up hearing stories about how he and his 3 brothers had all served. It was a bit like Saving Private Ryan I guess… The two pictured here are John (left), who was a gunner in the RAF and James (right) who served in the British Army. Andrew – not in the photo – was gunned down in a raid over Berlin. The most amazing thing is my Grandpa was actually reported MIA not once, but three times. His ship was torpedoed by German U-Boots three times and he still made it home. The last incident saw him rescued by the US Navy outside Durban in South Africa. My Grandpa’s dad, my Great-Grandfather Andrew, never recovered from sending 4 sons off to War and not long after Andrew Jr was shot down and killed over Berlin, my Great-Grandfather was found in a Deep Sleep in his armchair with my Granpa’s Navy coat wrapped around his shoulders. They say he died of a broken heart. My Grandpa Campbell has sadly passed now but he had some incredible stories and he was an incredible man and just as it is for so many other families who have lost loved ones, his memory remains very much alive today.

 The most amazing thing is my Grandpa was actually reported MIA not once, but three times. His ship was torpedoed by German U-Boots three times and he still made it home. The last incident saw him rescued by the US Navy outside Durban in South Africa. My Grandpa’s dad, my Great-Grandfather Andrew, never recovered from sending 4 sons off to War and not long after Andrew Jr was shot down and killed over Berlin, my Great-Grandfather was found in a Deep Sleep in his armchair with my Granpa’s Navy coat wrapped around his shoulders. They say he died of a broken heart. My Grandpa Campbell has sadly passed now but he had some incredible stories and he was an incredible man and just as it is for so many other families who have lost loved ones, his memory remains very much alive today.

Click on the images below to find out more about: The Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville & Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. who is laid to rest there in sacred soil, surrounded by fallen heroes, and where all of the crosses face West: Home

Lest We Forget…

ONTour

La Pépinière d'entreprises

de Bayeux Intercom

Z.A. de Nonant, Rue d/Longues Haies

14400, Nonant, Calvados

Normandie, France

 

Transport License: VP 25 21 02 002

Chauffeur Licence (VTC): 01417003201

Guide-Conférencier: GC 21-14-009P

Admin & Bookings: +33 (0) 783 810 921

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