Thursday, June 06, 2013

6th June

The events of 6th June 1944 are receding from collective memory with each passing year. The small army (no pun intended) of survivors from the D-Day landings get fewer with each passing week and our knowledge becomes a mixture of old news reels, old photographs and countless Hollywood remakes which tell, with a few notable exceptions, that this was America's finest hour.

The landings themselves are covered extensively across the Internet and there's really no point in me cutting and pasting huge chunks of historical writing simply to pad out a post. What I wanted to post though was a poem by somebody was there, Tony Chapman who is now the archivist for the Royal Navy Landing Craft Association.
A Quiet Place

It's quiet here ... so quiet
Standing on this hill
But if I stand here too much longer
My eyes with tears will fill
Looking down ... I'm there again
On that beach ... just down below
Far different ... to that morning
That I remember so
That beach ... it was a hell on earth
Where no man ... should ever go
I remember
I was down there
I should know
Don't cry now ... dear old soldier
That was many years ago 

I have visited the D-Day beaches many times, from the vast open spaces of 'Utah' and 'Omaha' to the beaches of 'Gold' nestling beneath the cliffs at Arromanches with the remnants of the Mulberry Harbours tantalisingly close, and eastwards towards 'Juno' and 'Sword'. I have been lucky enough to have visited them at different times of the year and in different weather conditions, whilst no visit can ever convey the sheer noise and horror of the landings I think that visiting any battlefield when the weather is not at its best can at least make the visit less comfortable than one played out in t-shirts and shorts watching surfers and kite boarders. There is however what can be called a 'fatal beauty' about Utah beach as the sun goes down and you catch the silhouette of a Sherman tank guarding the short walk from car park to beach. There is also the strange sensation as you stand on any of the beaches and gaze out into the English Channel of sheer wonderment at not only the bravery of those who did make it up the various beaches to fight but also at the fact that whilst accepting that the Germans,  who had been led to believe an attack/landing would take place farther up the coast towards Calais, weren't better prepared.

There are more museums, memorials and cemeteries along the Normandy coast now than when I last visited the area and their presence ensures that future generations will be able to stand on the beaches and cliffs, climb on the tanks, watch the films and then quietly pay their respects to those who fought for freedom nearly seventy years ago. 


Span Ows said...

I found that poem and your comments very moving just thinking how it was...although now I know our thoughts get swamped with Private Ryan type images.

Paul said...

Thanks Span. I agree about the Private Ryan type images, we have sacrificed part of our history to the world of entertainment.

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