The Bay Normandy

Earlier this month, Calum Richardson took his fish and chips van on a 1,900-mile round trip from Stonehaven in Aberdeen to Sword Beach in Normandy, France. The trip kick-started this year’s National Fish & Chip Day celebrations, which coincide with the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings and which honour all those involved in Britain’s largest land, sea and air invasion. Here, Calum talks about the significance of the day and encourages shops to get involved on June 6th

How did you get involved with taking fish and chips to Normandy?

I’ve been helping National Fish & Chip Day with their roadshows for years, taking the van to different locations around the UK, so when they said this year they wanted to link up with D-Day and the armed forces, not only did I instantly say I want to be involved, but also that I had a lot of contacts who could help. I joined the Royal Navy when I was 15 as an engineer and although I left when I was 24 I’ve always maintained strong connections and some of those people are very high up now. I also supply the forces with The Bay fishcakes and batter mix. We set up meetings with a commander friend of mine and then it came about taking fish and chips to Sword Beach, one of five beaches in Normandy where the D-Day Landings took place. The Normandy Tourist Board and the local town council got on board and said they wanted to do it so we tied in as many resources from all the people and companies that normally support National Fish & Chip Day to help fund the trip as much as possible. For example, Middleton Foods, headline sponsor of National Fish & Chip Day, organised for logistics company DFDS to pay to take the van across while the Normandy Tourist Board paid for the D-Day Darlings to sing on the beach.

Who went with you on the trip?

Ryan Baker, Lee Woodward and Colin Cromar from Middletons. Colin actually came with me in the van so we could share the driving but after about two hours of Colin driving we had to pull over as I kept hearing bump, bump, bump and thought we were going to go off the road! Of the 1,900 miles we covered, I think Colin did 200!

What did you do when you arrived in Normandy?

The day after we arrived we went to the memorials and left some flowers to show our respects.  Then we went to a fish market in Ouistreham, the town where we were based, and bought some local fish to serve. It was a good little market and I managed to get some great quality cod loin, whiting and squid. We supplemented that with some fresh haddock which I brought with me and this was teamed up with some French potatoes as well as some ready-prepared chips. We put on the board that we were using both British and French produce on the day as a little nod to the Anglo-French alliance during World War II.

Is this the furthest The Bay on the Road has travelled?

Yes, it is and one of the things that the Normandy Tourist Board was really keen on was the van’s green credentials because it is a new van. I’ve got lithium batteries on board which charge when I drive so when I pull up anywhere I don’t need to plug into anything or pull a generator out. The van is totally self-sufficient.

How successful was the day?

The Normandy Tourist Board had done a fantastic job of promoting the fact that we were going to be there so as soon as we parked up people were coming up to ask what time we would be serving. We were open from 3pm until 7pm and we gave away 700 portions of fish and chips. A majority of the customers were French nationals and, I have to say, it was so different to roadshows we have done in the UK where people often look at the portion and say “Is that all we are getting?” or they come back and ask for ten more! Here, people couldn’t believe it was free and they were coming back and thanking us, telling us how good it was. They were really gracious which was so nice to see. 

Did people understand why you were there?

Yes, again, we were lucky in that the Normandy Tourist Board came and stayed the whole time so they were talking to everyone in French and explaining the link with fish and chips and National Fish & Chip Day. Ryan said he spoke French but it proved a little weak, shall I say! Although, as the day went on, I think he was getting more fluent! But, yes, they understood we were there to raise awareness of National Fish and Chip Day and also respect for D-Day by saying this is the dish that got people through the war and that we wanted to give back because so many people were involved. There were some ex-pats that came over with their vets badges on and they thought it was great as well. It was just about showing a bit of respect for everyone.

How was it personally for you considering your links with the armed forces?

It was incredible. On one of my ships one year I was guarding the Royal Yacht for the memory at sea for this same event, and I remember seeing the amount of flotilla ships going across The Channel and thinking, wow, imagine what it must have looked like during war times. When I got to the beach this year, I felt really privileged to take part, but it also got very personal and I realised what people sacrificed and went through for the D-Day Landings, and I questioned where we would be if they hadn’t done that. I felt a massive sense of pride and gratitude at the same time. 

This was a kick-start to National Fish and Chip Day, what’s your advice to shops this year?

I think folk need to realise National Fish & Chip Day is not about giving stuff away for free. It is about raising awareness and educating people not just about fish and chips, but about the importance of D-Day. If those guys hadn’t done what they did, then we probably wouldn’t all be doing what we are doing now. So you don’t need to give anything away, you just need to show support, be united and work together.

How will you be celebrating National Fish & Chip Day?

I’m going to be in Portsmouth Navy base with The Bay on the Road, serving food to people I worked with. One of my closest friends is a commander – he joined up as an engineer like me – and he has managed to open doors for us so we have been able to put vans into other armed forces establishments on the day. It’s not necessarily about serving fish and chips to the public this year but more about giving back to the forces. 

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