Dear Dad, It’s the 70th Anniversary of D Day

Dear Dad,

70 Years ago today you were preparing to go to France to fight. It was the day before you left. Your own landing was on what was known as D Day+1. You were a boy, just 19. You’d lied about your age and joined up at aged 16.Image

Today Facebook is flooded with posts saying “Lest We Forget”. The fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has made people more aware of the sacrifices young men and women make when they join the Armed Forces and go to lands far from home to fight. Even the Falklands War didn’t do that ,

The losses sustained in the two World Wars were so horrific. Why has it taken so long for people to start remembering what you all went through? Where were they in 1964? On the 20th Anniversary? I lived with you, a man who had been so traumatised by what he had seen and endured, that it had become an obsession. Something you read about, studied, thought about, and talked about, every day for the rest of your life. Yet I don’t remember any mention of anniversaries on TV or the radio. 

On the 50th Anniversary of D Day you stayed in Newhaven, and we found the place where you had spent your last night before embarkation. That evening we took part in a D Day quiz at The Flying Fish. There were officially five people in our team. In fact the only person who answered a question apart from you, was Mum, who hesitatingly said “Was it …..?” when a name wouldn’t come to your mind. The pub was full of teams of men your age, sitting wearing their medals. “We” won that quiz. Thirteen points ahead of the team that came 2nd. The questions you didn’t get right were concerning numbers of aircraft lost, and one question “How many miles of coastline did the Germans have to defend?”…7000 apparently.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that people have started to remember. I have memories of too many Remembrance Days when I have stood in silence with a few others . Many times our two minutes silence broken by idiots sounding car horns or shouting out. On one occasion,in Seaford, a woman Traffic Warden stopped traffic, and forced a two minutes silence.

Now men and women injured in Afghanistan are hailed as heroes, money is raised on their behalf, drinks are bought for them, but I wonder how much has really changed? In 1964, when you, as a Regular Soldier were stationed in Tidworth, you had a letter printed in the local paper. A housing estate had been built, and the builders were having difficulty selling the last few houses. The people who had already bought houses were up in arms because there was a proposal that Army families should use them. (Civilian houses used by the Army are known as hirings, and only families who have proved themselves as clean, respectable well behaved families get hirings). Your letter finished with a quote from Rudyard Kipling:

And it’s Tommy this, and it’s Tommy that,

and it’s ‘kick him out, the brute’.

But it’s ‘Thank you, Mr Atkins’,

when the guns begin to shoot.

You taught me how important it is to remember. You taught me never to walk past a War Memorial without a little pause to remember. You taught me that friendship never dies. You reminded me that every military gravestone represents a young man who is still young, and still serving. Thanks Dad, you taught me what is important. 

I thank God that you survived the war, you didn’t make that ultimate sacrifice, but you, like every other young man that came back, sacrificed your youth, your peace of mind. ‘Thank you for your service’ is something often said now. I don’t believe it was ever said to you and your friends, until you returned to visit the graves of your fallen comrades in Belgium and Holland. People who knew what you had done for them were eager to thank you.

So, on the 70th Anniversary of D Day, Thanks Dad, I like to think that you’re somewhere up there with your friends, watching all the commemoration ceremonies. 

Your loving, and grateful daughter.

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mrs Rene Bartlett
    Jun 06, 2014 @ 11:12:37

    Your words are oh so true.

    Reply

  2. jonianni
    Jun 06, 2014 @ 21:54:53

    We all have to thank God for wonderful young men like you who gave everything for us. God Bless every single one of you xxx

    Reply

  3. Edna Cahill
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 11:14:24

    Elsie- I lived in Portsmouth and watched the young men assemble – but I didn’t see them go because they went overnight, away from Sydenhams Timber Yard (facing Whale Island); I often wonder how many of them ever returned.

    Edna

    Reply

  4. Susan
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 14:46:05

    Very profound, and heart-wrenching. Yes, thanks to your father and mine (in the Pacific), and so many others. You’re tribute is so appropriate. I’m a KPer, so I know about Arthur. Thank God your Dad survived that horrific war.

    Reply

  5. Barbara Richardson
    Jun 07, 2014 @ 15:08:14

    Your comments are so very touching — I was only a young girl in 1943 but there is a D-day memorial in Bedford, Va. just a few miles from where I live (Roanoke, Va.). Bedford is just a small town but there were 17 men lost in the first wave of soldiers onto Omaha Beach — two were brothers. D-day is a very much remembered day in my area although I don’t think young folks really think of how different war was back then — more face to face combat. But any war is terrible and we must never get into another one.

    Reply

    • elsieshufflebottom
      Jun 07, 2014 @ 15:15:48

      I think that if they got present day high school students from your town, and then took away 17 of them, it would make them realise what a great loss that was to Bedford. And you are right. I hope there are no more.

      Reply

  6. Barb Mullally
    Jun 09, 2014 @ 14:16:35

    Thank you for your post. Every veteran handled things differently. My dad flew 44 bombing missions in the South Pacific during WWII but never mentioned it to anyone until recent years. Maybe it was because the country didn’t do much in the past to acknowledge these vets. He is 89 and has now able to share and has become very proud of his service. Our family purchased a Legacy stone that will be laid in the walkway of a war memorial next Saturday. I am so grateful that he is in good health and will be with us to enjoy the day. So many are gone. Thanks again. I wrote a little blog about the Highground Memorial in Neillsville, WI
    http://www.thecabincountess.com/2013/09/the-highground-veterans-memorial.html

    Reply

    • elsieshufflebottom
      Jun 09, 2014 @ 15:28:22

      Hi Barb, Those memorials are wonderful… so moving. Have a wonderful day on Saturday. You’re so lucky to still have your Dad, record his memories whilst you can. He was extremely lucky to survive 44 missions. Years ago my Dad wrote this, the nearest thing to a personal account of what he went through.
      A PORTRAIT OF FEAR
      (Battle of the Rhineland 2nd phase February 1945)

      You form up for battle, and march to the start line
      And that’s where you wait ‘til the time set to go.
      That’s where you sweat, with fear and foreboding,
      Knowing the past, and knowing the foe.

      Spread out in the forest, we kneel in formation,
      But first we must fight with our innermost fears.
      The chill in the stomach that turns to ice – water
      We never will know it in subsequent years.

      The barrage commences, the shells pass above you
      Please God let me live to go home again.
      Or will I lie dead? fingers curled in the forest
      We all want to live, despite all the pain.

      Death used to strike in the Normandy summer,
      Now it is here, in the mud and the rain.
      Who will remember when this is all over?
      Will I survive to go home again?

      You’re scared of the Spandaus, the Mortars, the shellfire,
      What wouldn’t you give to be somewhere else.
      What stops you from going is letting down comrades
      Disgracing your parents, disgracing yourself.

      It’s time to go forward, time to stop dreaming
      Just pick up your Bren gun and smile at your friends.
      Shake out in formation, move forward together
      Under the barrage, whatever the end.

      Bren slung at the hip, you advance through the forest,
      The fear now subsides as you get on the move
      Spread out and wary, and looking all round us
      We all trust each other, we have nothing to prove.

      Don’t talk about courage, we would laugh if you said it
      It’s no place for heroes in the poor PBI
      Just keep up with Chalky and Knobby and Dusty,
      Knowing that someone is shortly to die.

      Step over the Germans that were caught in the barrage
      Wounded or dead, we keep on our way
      We can’t see their comrades, belting out tracer
      It’s speed of reaction that will save you this day.

      PART TWO, 50 YEARS ON.

      We never forget our mates that sustained us
      The grin on their faces, but always the strain
      Some lie ‘neath their headstones, still young and still serving
      Our bonds still exist as we go there again.

      GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS
      THAT HE LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS
      (Remembrance hymn after WW I and WWII, banned by some clergy.)
      Oh Valiant hearts, who to your glory came
      Through dust and conflict and through battle flame
      Tranquil you lie, your manly virtue proved
      Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

      This hymn is denied us by priests with no feeling
      They don’t have to tell us that war was a sin
      We know cos we’ve been there, we know cos we’ve seen it
      We know the true cost much better than him.

      But man can show virtues that Christ would approve
      He did not live without any pain
      His message was love, that Knobbie and Chalky
      Shared with his mates again and again.

      And what of those Germans that tried hard to kill us?
      They too said “Our Father”, those Huns of the press
      If wounded so badly they whimpered for “Mutti”
      Young men call for Mother in times of distress.

      Kill or be killed is the law both sides follow
      But good men show love to the hurt and the maimed
      Both sides had such good men with Christian upbringing
      When they come to their maker, they are not ashamed.

      I hoped that those days are left far behind us
      But small wars ensure that the madness remains.
      Young men crossed the line again in the Falklands,
      Will it continue again and again?

      We prayed that our children will never have known this
      The sound of the shells as they pass up above
      The fear in the gut that tries to engulf you
      Life is for living, life is for love.

      By George Fouracres, one time C.Coy, Ist BN Suffolk Regt.

      Reply

      • Barb Mullally
        Jun 09, 2014 @ 15:47:11

        Oh my, that brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful to have. We arranged for my dad to do an interview about his experience at a museum here in Wisconsin /USA. It is something I hope all the generations to come will appreciate. I am very lucky that my dad has such a good memory and was willing to have this recorded. Thanks again for sharing your dad with us.
        http://www.eaavideo.org/video.aspx?v=2225834417001

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