I had tiny part in turning tide for D-Day veterans
WHAT great mates to have they must be, those herberts who for months said no to brassing-up, so a few hundred D-Day veterans could go to the 65th anniversary in Normandy on June 6. Five years hence is next time D-Day can be officially recognised. By the
WHAT great mates to have they must be, those herberts who for months said no to brassing-up, so a few hundred D-Day veterans could go to the 65th anniversary in Normandy on June 6.
Five years hence is next time D-Day can be "officially" recognised. By then, the June 6 band of brothers will have sustained a few further losses.
Second thoughts about this year are apparently hastily afoot now the niggards have been badly shown up, not to mention scared of missing out, following word Obama might be there.
Shouldn't be too hard on them, I suppose. How can they have the slightest what that epic day was like or what it meant?
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Meanwhile, thankfully, others who do know are doing their best to ensure the aging heroes will go back on June 6 to the French coast they surely approached with fast-beating hearts that summer dawn, all those decades ago.
What doing so was like I gleaned a little from the horse's mouth, namely two Recorder colleagues, sadly no longer with us, who were there on the day.
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My first sports editor, Dick Morgan, was a Royal Marine and in the third wave of assault troops.
Dick said you could hear only the Navy's big guns plastering the coast so he risked glimpsing the beach his landing craft headed for. He was relieved to see plenty of soldiers dotted about the sand, like at ease.
Wading ashore, he realised they were the many casualties taken by the earlier waves.
"We didn't need much telling to get off the beach, fast as we could," was his grim comment.
Recorder comp friend, Wally Burrett, told me the same anxiety cost his unit dearly. In the dash to exit the beach their three leading trucks failed to maintain ordered distance between vehicles and were picked off by a German 88.
Such hellish experiences will be familiar to many veterans. What price their thoughts back there, come June 6?
For us 10-year-olds in 1944, safe in the Berkshire countryside, invasion talk had been in the air some time. Literally, in one respect, with Allied planes regularly overhead carrying wide black and white wing stripings that would help rapid identification when it started.
Other events convinced us the invasion was in the offing.
One bright morning we found an army convoy, loaded for bear, concealed from prying Luftwaffe eyes beneath a village lane's leafy chestnuts. They moved out at nightfall.
A similar vanishing act was later done by the US army camp which, a year earlier, had mushroomed overnight on old Colonel Barkers' estate.
We were good friends with the sentries posted along the surrounding hedgerows and they often gave us what they called candies, too. It seemed such treats were over after they left, but that wasn't quite the case. A familiar face among the few left behind was amiable, giant African-American Sam, who piled us with the equivalent of a year's sweets ration in chewing gum, Hershey and O'Henry bars. We could still hear the big man laughing as we biked gleefully away with our hoard.
We first learned of the invasion from Jim Collins who lived close to school. He returned one day to say it was on the one o'clock news, British paratroops had landed in France. The one abiding memory I have of what turned out to be D-Day is of Jim at the school gate with our gang around him, as he told us the news.
Hopefully, the veterans will enjoy the time they deserve next week.
My part in helping them to was, I'm afraid, of the every little helps variety.
Nothing like what good old Rod Stewart and Michael Winner chipped in with. For all their talent, I was never sure about them before.
They have my vote all right, though. Which is more than ever would those whose doubtless ample backsides needed kicking on the matter.
Sorry to rant, but you can see how much they narked me, by my having actually donated to the cause. When did I last do a thing like that?