Ten years ago, for the 60th Anniversary of the D Day landings I wrote a new exhibition at work. I read lots of books, visited the D Day musuem and learned as much as I could to pass on the the visitors. We have a great map of the Normandy beaches as a centrepeice to the exhibition room. We had a D Day party and strung up union jacks and dressed up! The exhibition was well received and it ran for a number if years. As with all things the exhibition was revamped and something different took it’s place.
Today ten years later we are celebrating the 70th anniversary and I am refelecting on how I feel about this period of the Second World War. It was an operation my Grandpa was involved in, a Naval wireless operator, coming ashore days later on a Mulberry Harbour and my Granny’s friend Ron was involved too, landing on Gold beach as a Military Policeman on D-day +2.
Many people call the soldiers who took part in these landings Heroes, a word banded round in the 21st Century for almost anyone who does anything a bit special. I think many of the people who were involved in the Normandy landings probably didn’t see themselves as heroes, they were just there to do a job – either because they wanted to or they had be conscripted to be there. I cannot imagine the fear they must have felt, bouncing around in those boats, feeling sick and nervous and knowing the importance of this operation to ending the war. It wasn’t just the soldiers though there were all the planners, the spies and their all important lies, the code breakers, the resistance fighters, the folk sat at home hoping, praying and listening to George Formby! A feeling that they were all in it together, in some small part. Amongst these people I am positive there were some heroes and some of the stories that I have heard on the news over the last few days back that up.
Today for the first time I read a draft of a speech to be given by Eisenhower if the landings had not worked, it was scary reading. I also thought how sad it is that there is no record of the Axis casualties from this operation. There were men in those pill boxes, manning those checkpoints, being bombed in their bunkers. Rough estimates suggest that there were 9,000 casualties with 4,000 killed. These poeple had families that grieved the loss of these often forgotten men. I am sure many of them were heroes too, but the bad guys can’t be heroes can they?
On days like today, it gives us a chance to remember that things could have been so different and how thankful I am that they are not. A huge sacrifice was given for us to have the freedom we do today, we must learn from this.
We will remember them.