Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 6 June 2014
It's a big day in Normandy today, and probably the last one that any survivors of D-Day will be able to attend. The service is being held at Bayeux - that place where the tapestry of the earlier invasion in the opposite direction is housed.
I visited the beaches of Dunkirk when I was a kid on his way to Switzerland for a school holiday, but the significance of the 50 miles of coastline was not so drummed into us as it is with the schoolchildren of today.
Also, any mention of the invasion was through a very British perspective, and all but ignored the thousands of U.S. and Canadian lives lost at places other than Sword Beach. The Germans will be there today as well, which is a fairly recent consideration.
I remember seeing the rusting remains of military vehicles which still sparsely littered the area in front of the town, but since it was only 20 years since the event had taken place, this is hardly surprising. 20 years seemed like a long time back then, but now - of course - well, you old bloggers know the feeling.
Us Baby-Boomers got off so lightly. We didn't even get involved with Vietnam, and even now the U.S. National Guard are posted all over the world to the worst hot-spots on the planet, as are the British Territorials who used to play at being soldiers at weekends. Many of them must have joined up thinking it would be like the Home Guard - waiting for an invasion which never came.
We didn't even get any bombs dropped on us, but I remember seeing - right up until the late 1960s -massive craters in central London, where 50,000 civilians, auxiliary workers, Fire-Watch, Home Guard and off-duty military lost their lives during the night-raids.
There was a 90 year-old veteran on the radio the other day, saying that WW2 was the only war in modern history that was justified, which is how I have viewed it since I was very young.
'The War To End All Wars' was a shockingly stupid waste of life, and both German and British troops spent many years in muddy trenches, wondering why they were shooting at each other every day except Christmas. The prime beneficiary of WW1 was Adolf Hitler, as it paved the way for him to create a new nation from the moral and financial ruin of defeat.
H.I.'s father landed on Dunkirk beach in the second wave, and since they were mainly employed with bringing in equipment and supplies for the first invaders, they were heavily laden with back-packs which often equalled the body-weight of the soldiers carrying them.
He told her that he had to watch many of his comrades sink under the water to drown before they ever reached the shore, and he was lucky to have made it into the shallows, bullets or no bullets.
My father was shot down in a Wellington bomber and was the only man on board - the rear-gunner - when it ploughed into a field in Kent, all the others having bailed out.
Like I say, we were very lucky to have been born in the late forties and early 50s.