by Larry Smith
NORMANDY, France - As we eased along the peaceful wooded lanes in Alan Wilson’s powerful green Bentley, it was hard to believe that one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War lay just around the corner.
There are memorials and museums all over the rolling Norman countryside, but driving up to Mont Ormel we passed a sign identifying "Le Couloir de la Mort” - the corridor of death. This was where the Allied forces that had landed on D-Day, 77 days before, decisively ended the Normandy campaign in August 1944.
“The German army was hemmed in all along this road and suffered terrible casualties trying to escape the Allied pincer movement,” Wilson told me in his best schoolmaster voice. “Artillery and air strikes caused tremendous damage during the retreat and some 40,000 Germans were captured. The stink of death hung over the valley for months."
Since he began coming to Normandy several years ago, following open heart surgery in Nassau by Dr Duane Sands, Wilson has had a lot of time on his hands to bone up on war history and explore the countryside. He now spends several months of the year here, returning to Nassau for the winter.
“I'm fascinated by the history and I love the people,” he said. “The life is so relaxing I can get a lot of reading in, and you don’t even have to lock your door in our village. There’s fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and beautiful bread - not to mention the wine.”
Originally from Yorkshire, Wilson met and married Bahamian Sharon Cadman (former headmistress at St Andrew’s School) in the early 1970s while at Westminster College, a Methodist teacher training institute in Oxford. He taught at Queen’s College in Nassau for a few years before leaving to work in the automotive trade.