06 June 2014

D-Day Plus 25,567

The long sobs of autumn's violins;
wound my heart with a monotonous languor.
Chanson d'automne (Autumn song), by Paul Verlaine. Broadcast by the BBC, these two lines were respectively the “get ready” and “go” codes to Resistance membeers in France to launch massive sabotage operations in preparation for Operation Overlord in June 1944

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, a pivotal moment in the history of the Second World War and of the whole world. Had they not succeeded, Europe would be a very different place... while Hitler was heading for defeat, we could have had Stalin's forces controlling France and possibly nuclear use in Europe.

I've been to Normandy on a number of occasions and the cemeteries, fortifications etc. certainly have an impact on you. From all that I've read and seen, the sheer courage and ingenuity are pretty amazing.

Ingenuity... managing the logistics for an operation this big was a huge feat in itself. Then there were all the various innovative vehicles and the skills needed to operate them, especially in the glider operations. In addition, the deception operations were masterpieces of subterfuge.

Courage: these were people like me, men in their 20s and sometimes their teens most of them, who rode boats into the teeth of German machine gun fire and scaled cliffs. The Resistance fighters who risked their lives and often lost them to help the invasion. We should also not forget the civilians who suffered.

Of course D-Day was not the end of the story. I'm planning a large post on the campaign post D-Day with the aim to go out on 25 August, the anniversary of the liberation of Paris.

This will be the last big commemoration - the Normandy Veterans Association will disband this year as most of their members are just too old now. The veterans may pass on, but the story of Operation Overlord will never be forgotten.

As they say in France, merci.

No comments: