Dulwich College Memorial Award 2012

Arnav Kapur, Zack Faja

the d-day challenge

Their story, in their words…

“Last summer we were looking for a challenge, wanting not only a physical test but also to complete something really meaningful. Unable to find a suitable conventional trip we decided to pioneer our own. Learning about the D-Day landings in history lessons, we were inspired to walk 200km along the same beaches that were fought over 78 years ago and try to get a sense of the difficulties they faced. Due to the nature of our trip it seemed appropriate to raise money for Help for Heroes who support soldiers who have been through similar experiences to those of the 1940’s as well as giving something back to the Mark Evison Foundation who gave us this opportunity.

Stepping off the ferry in Caen we were suddenly hit with the cold and drab weather that stood before us and as we set off walking on our first beach Sword, we struggled to walk in the sand as our feet kept sinking. We had to keep reminding ourselves that it could have been much worse, such as in 1944…

…Towards the end of our first 27km, we ended up marching along a really rough road which appeared to stretch for miles and seemed to send pins through our feet on every step. Each step was an effort and finally, when we reached our campsite, we had barely the energy to request a camping spot…

…On the last difficult leg of the trip we were fortunate enough to literally follow the footsteps of Hereos as we walked the entire 12km of the Road of Liberty, Voie de la Liberte, which was the road the Allied, primarily US, troops marched down after having vanquished the German forces on Utah Beach. We then finally arrived, in hail and rain at Utah beach and Zack posed next to the sign, just like Tom Hanks!

…On the fourth day of the trip we were compelled to visit the famous Musée du Débarquement on Utah Beach which was fantastic and after learning about the history of Utah we were fortunate enough to get to walk the beach in its entirety. We were surprised by how far out the tide was, especially considering this was at much higher tide than on D-Day. It was incredible to think that Allied troops were able to charge through a rain of fire across a couple of kilometres of open beach and defeat the Germans who were in large bunkers. Many of these we were able to visit and it was amazing how far their sights were, it truly gave us a greater sense of how great a military achievement D-Day was.

This was an absolutely incredible trip which gave us a chance to test our ability to persevere, to co-operate with one another, as well as the satisfaction that comes with achieving a challenging goal. Although neither of us is planning on enduring another 40km-a-day walk soon, we now have confidence that with the right preparation and attitude one can achieve more than one imagines. Thank you The Mark Evison Foundation and all our donors for allowing us to realise our potential and expand our horizons!”