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Friday, 6 June 2014

D Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of D Day, a turning point in World War  II, where the bravery of the Allied troops changed the course of the war, and of history. A day when 4,087 Allied soldiers died.

It's a very emotional day for those former soldiers who are fit enough to return to Normandy, to see their fellow men, to accept the gratitude of so many, for what surely must be the last time.

It's an emotional day too for the families whose loved ones weren't able to return, and for those who survived as they see their relatives  struggle with their memories.

Over the last few years I've been very privileged to meet some of our D Day heroes, and what will I take away with me from meeting them is their sheer bravery, and the way that D Day and their wartime experiences are never far from their minds.

On Wednesday I was in North West Leicestershire to meet Roy Howe who was 19 on D Day.

He was a torpedo man who had already endured months working on the Russian convoy ships. On the morning of 6th June, he was relaying messages from shore to ship, but in the afternoon, he had a different job. He had to bring the wounded and dying back to his ship, the Serepice.

Roy and others like him saw things that no teenagers should see. And he still sees those dying and wounded in his dreams, even when he's awake. His tears run down his cheeks as he speaks, and as he then recounts the horrors of the Russian convoys, the tears fall faster and all I can do is hold the microphone and try not to sniffle and cry too.

 And I remember a good number of years ago interviewing the Right Reverend Maurice Wood, a former Bishop of Norwich. He was living in  a "home for decaying clergyman" as he termed it when I first met him. I was there to talk to him about something completely different, but as I was about to leave, I saw a huge leather bound book.

 "That's my prayer book " he said ...and as he opened the book and leafed carefully through the hundreds of pages, I saw it was no ordinary prayer book. On each page there was a list of names...people who he prayed for each day with dates alongside. I saw the dates on the earlier pages....June 1944. It was then he told me he was a marine commando chaplain and landed with his men on D Day and one of his closest friends was killed as soon as landing on the beach. his name is in that book, as  well as hundreds of others  killed during the landings .

Maurice died back in 2007 at the age of 90, but I will never forget him.

And that's the whole point of today...not to forget the sacrifices that were made seventy years ago. To think about the men and women who were placed in impossible situations, who did their best fighting for a cause. To say thank salute their heroism, and remember not just the ones who lay in row upon row in those immaculate French cemeteries, but the ones who came back.. the ones who can still, to this day, never forget what happened.

If you'd like to listen to Roy Howe, and two others...Ken West and Eric Newby talk about their memories...then click here...




  1. My godmother - in a nursing home in dementia now - was stationed in Down Ampney for D-Day. She - along with many others - were taken there and locked in, so no secrets could escape, and told to work on the logistics of D-Day. So all those guns and bullets, all those combat trousers and underpants, loaves of bread etc etc - all had to be organised down to the last button. I really hope she managed to understand enough of yesterday's celebrations to reflect on her own role - men survived and had families because of her efforts.

    1. I'm so pleased you've mentioned this...these are the sort of details we don't usually get, as those like your godmother kept fairly quiet about their roles. And like so many others of her generation, she did her duty....

  2. What a moving post Bridget. An elderly relative, who is 94 now, used to light the flares on the runway for the planes returning from bombing missions. A lot of people wouldn't do it because it was so dangerous. She and many others are the unsung heroes of the War. We really can't quantify how much we owe to people like Roy, the Rt Rev Wood and my grandmother's cousin. Bravery beyond words.

  3. Thank you very much Alex, and your relative sounds a very brave woman. That can't have been an easy job to do.You're right...bravery beyond words...