The Suffolk men completing a 60-mile walk across Normandy beaches to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings have finally completed their remarkable journey. 

The team began their mammoth challenge on Saturday carrying 50lb backpacks. 

They completed their mission yesterday, June 5.

The Suffolk Overlord Challenge team 2024The Suffolk Overlord Challenge team 2024 (Image: Matt Hurst)

The team are: Alex, Barney and George Holmes, Steve and Jacob Bailey (who is just 13 years old), Tommy Downing, Steve Windsor, Josh Oliver Rudd, Steve Evans, Mark Gilly, Rich Smith, Steve Heap and Geoff Heywood. 

They hail from Ipswich, Stowmarket, Rattlesden, Coddenham and Barham.

Taking on what’s known as the Overlord Challenge, which Alex invented to mark the 66th anniversary of D-Day, they are raising money for the Royal British Legion and the Veteran’s Hub (Southampton).   

Matt Hurst from Coddenham, who is part of their three-man support team along with Phil Yeldham and Jon Hurst, has sent us the following diary of their experience...

The team set off for FranceThe team set off for France (Image: Matt Hurst)

June 1

5am Saturday morning the team set off from Beacon Hill services in Suffolk for the beaches of Normandy. A long journey lay ahead but we were very mindful our excitement would have been a very different feeling for our fellow countrymen who headed the same way 80 years ago.
With the ferry crossing completed, we made our way down through France into the Normandy area. 
As we got closer, the roads began to fill with 1940s military vehicles, motorbikes, jeeps, half-tracks and trucks, all gathering for the various events being held in Normandy for D-Day.
Setting up at a local campsite for the week, we had the pleasure of being amongst friends from all parts of Europe, in 1940s tents and uniforms and re-creating an unforgettable atmosphere.

There was a real 1940s atmosphere in Normandy, Matt recallsThere was a real 1940s atmosphere in Normandy, Matt recalls (Image: Matt Hurst)

Sunday June 2
The first day of the walk

We set off after breakfast, and travelled to the first start point - Quineville, at the western end of Utah beach.
The weather was in our favour -10 degrees and light cloud - no burning sunshine or rain to face. 
The team made their way across Utah beach and finished at Pointe du Hoc, a significant location on D-Day where the US Rangers landed, scaled the bluffs (cliffs) and took control of major gun emplacements.
We walked around the area, which still bears the scars of war - deep craters where the Allied shelling made impact and destroyed some of the bunkers.
Then it was back to the campsite to treat sprains/muscle pain and blisters and enjoy a glass or two of the local wine.

Evidence of what happened 80 years ago is still very much in evidenceEvidence of what happened 80 years ago is still very much in evidence (Image: Matt Hurst)

Monday June 3
Day 2
Another glorious start to the day although the sun proves a challenge whilst walking the beaches.
Today the team tackled Omaha beach that saw the heaviest losses for the US forces.
We had time to visit the US cemetery and museum there, before continuing to Port en Bessin.
We saw the ‘living statue’ – a real person in period uniform with a flag, standing still in the middle of Omaha beach – all day long.

The American cemetery at Omaha beachThe American cemetery at Omaha beach (Image: Matt Hurst)

The team were struck by the 'living statue' on Omaha beachThe team were struck by the 'living statue' on Omaha beach (Image: Matt Hurst)
Tuesday  June 4
Day 3

Things start to get tough. Yesterday’s sunshine drained us. Combine that with the weight that each person is carrying, and it takes its toll on your hips, knees, legs and feet. 
There’s quite a lot of foot care going on and everyone is helping one another with medication, taping and bandaging. 
Why are we carrying so much weight? Because 50 pounds represents the average weight each person would have carried as they landed on these beaches 80 years ago. 
If you were a medic, machine gunner or radio operator you’d have had to carry more.
What does 50lb feel like? 
Imagine carrying a 50lb bag of compost on your back all day then trying to go into battle, getting off the landing craft whilst being attacked...
We started the walk from Port en Bessin and moved onto Gold beach, where the UK forces came ashore. From here it was onto Juno beach, where British and Canadian forces landed.
This afternoon’s stint along the sand was the hardest so far – with very little change in the landscape, but everyone eventually made it back to camp. We slept well!

Back at camp after an exhausting Day 3Back at camp after an exhausting Day 3 (Image: Matt Hurst)

Wednesday June 5
Day 4
The final day! Finding the motivation to get up was hard with sore feet but with the support and camaraderie, some jokes and laughs to get everyone going, and a good breakfast, we were on our way.
We re-started at Juno beach before moving onto Sword beach, where British forces also landed.
The final leg took us to Pegasus Bridge, which was taken by British Paratroopers in advance of the beach landings. They came inland silently on Horsa Gliders.
Our final mission was a beer at Madame Gondree’s café – the first building liberated on D-Day.

Arromanches-les-Bains - every town and village is commemorating the anniversaryArromanches-les-Bains - every town and village is commemorating the anniversary (Image: Matt Hurst)
Wow, what an epic adventure!
What has been remarkable is the sheer number of people involved and the support from the local community and authorities – there’s a real feeling of camaraderie The roads are loaded with people in period dress, fetes, banners and bunting in every village. 
Today, June 6, will see many events and services held across the length of the Normandy coast.
We will remember them…..

We will remember themWe will remember them (Image: Matt Hurst)
To support the Overlord Challenge, visit