It may well be that you have had your fill of D-Day commemorations. I had the TV on since early morn watching the BBC's coverage of the events in France. There can be no doubt that this British led operation was a historic event. Had it failed, and it could have cost 40,000 lives, not 9000, it would have taken another few years before a second attempt could be made. By that time Stalin may well have been in Paris! General Bernard Montgomery, given little prominence today, was the man responsible for the operation. This was the last great operation of the British during the war. A second plan, at Arnhem, might well have shortened the war but that failed! However this one worked, a beachhead was established, Canadian, British, American troops all took the beaches in front of them, in spite of some determined resistance in areas, and the difficulties many endured. Also arriving were smaller contingents of Dutch, Polish and other nations who were determined to defeat an evil empire. How strange I always find it that people will spend money to watch Hollywood pap in which an evil force is defeated yet will not read about real situations in which a really evil force is opposed. Fantasy horror is better than reality.
My father was not involved in this event, although he crossed the Rhine some time later but only after waiting two days while the armour went over! However on our local memorial we find Flight Sergeant Dennis J Sims of 234 Squadron did not return while on low flying duties over the enemy coast. Gunner Kenneth Puttick fighting alongside No 6 Commando is recorded as dying on the 7th. He is buried at Ranville Cemetery, Ranville being the first village liberated after 'Pegasus Bridge' was held. Nearby lies Private Arthur Graham attached to the 7th Paras. His date of death is given as the tenth and he like many others died in the intense fighting that followed D-Day. Few realise that more people were killed during the last year of the war than in the four previous years.
Watching the dignitaries gathering, some with military experience, some who endured the war, I appreciated the need for formality and organisation, not least of all security, but found the clean, smart people, cheery and happy all around somewhat at variance with the clips of war film shown. The young men running up the beach had thoughts very different from those of us watching from the comfort of home. We often sentimentalise such men rather than treat them as human beings. We always refer to them as 'brave,' 'heroes,' and identify them as different from ourselves. To some extent this is true, however they are men, not all were 'heroes,' few were 'brave,' all were under military orders, some would not be people we would want living next door. Without this invasion however the world would not be rid of Hitler and his crazy gang. The Nazi hordes enslaved their own people and such slavery can be found worldwide today in many nations. Sadly all too often we do not see it!
Those men interviewed on TV today looked happy. Many were happy to be there as such a gathering cannot occur again, the organisation behind it ceases to exist as the aged soldiers fade away. Ordinary men from everyday homes did extraordinary things and freed the world of a tyranny. We cannot forget this, and our prosperity today has a great deal to do with their action in the air, on the sea and on land that day 70 years ago.