Saturday, 7 June 2014

So many lessons, so little learned

Several years ago I heard an irritating American youth lecturing a French chap that "we liberated you - you owe us" and was pleased to hear the reply "We owe you nothing. To the soldiers who fought here, we owe everything. But you weren't amongst them". I recalled it when reading John Miller's heartfelt words in a response to the post below; yes, politicians today are still making the same error as that American boy - assuming that the actions of the men who landed on those beaches is somehow common property that can be appropriated by those not even born when it happened.

My late father was amongst those who landed on Sword beach on the morning of 6th June 1944. The battle for Normandy was as hard and bloody as anything in the Great War, with six thousand casualties a day. Outside Caen, in a walled orchard in a small village called Cambes-en-pleine, he was wounded by grenade splinters and missed the next bit, getting back only in time to cross the Rhine. As a child I didn't understand the contents of the old shirt-box filled with post-war photos of CWGC headstones, all bearing his regimental crest. They were of course the record of his comrades who never made it home. 

The headstones are still there of course, but they may not be the same ones that my father photographed. As the Mail reports;
Many veterans wondered if there was something different about the place this year. Indeed there was. A few years ago, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission noticed many of its Second World War graves were deteriorating at a much faster pace than those from 1914-18. It turned out that as Britain emerged from chaos in 1945, Whitehall – shamefully – requisitioned all top grade Portland stone to repair government buildings. The commission ended up with the cast-offs. So it has spent two years and £4million replacing 8,000 of the most vulnerable Normandy graves.
The pomp and pleasure of shiny-arse Whitehall bureaucrats took precedence over the memory of men whose lives had been lost for this thing even then. And as John Miller's comments suggest, nothing has changed. 


Anonymous said...

I am glad the day is still marked but to properly show their respect, that's not what the pols roll up for is it?
It's the crass imagery that sticks, the idea of a lasting peace cemented by the noble idea of a united [read federal] Europe - fuck off to that.

The sacrifice of our lads and the Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, Poles, Yanks - is something to be profoundly grateful for and a wonder of logistics if always much more.

I can't help but feel, we lost the war though and so thoroughly more than the lads on the beaches could ever understand - even if they wanted to. It was not a hollow victory for the brave souls of the allied forces but for us now - looking back the victory rings hollow.

Was it worth it? And on that, I am ambivalent, Britain, the British certainly lost much, far too much, everything we supposedly gained has been given away by a political class which as it did then in 1944 - still hates its own people.

Anonymous said...

I am glad the day is honourably remembered and supported by ordinary people. Yes of course there is something false about the politicos turning up and grandstanding. But what spoiled it for me was the putting on of 're enactments', I fear there is an industry surrounding the remembrance that will taint the memory and develop into yet another 'event'.

Anonymous said...

That would be the Labour government of 1945, then. Well, what did you expect? They hate the armed forces more than anyone else - but use them when it suits their Common Purposes.

Saw a TV programme last night about D Day. Mentioned the disappointingly slow progress of the Brits. Maybe that was because the Yanks lost their Mulberry Harbour because they were too arrogant to put in the right number of anchors, as they were told. So the supply rate was effectively halved. Or was it because the Yanks ignored the plan and buggered off on a Glory Ride?
Still got there 2 weeks before Monty planned, though!

mikebravo said...

As Peter Hitchens has said.
They fought and died to preserve the borders of Europe. The same borders being abolished by the EU with the backing of our governments.
Makes you think a bit.

Anonymous said...

I'm disgusted, quite frankly. If it was a case of "we can't afford to do both" then honouring the memory of those who had just died is where the Portland stone should have gone. But then we're talking politicians here, aren't we?



Anonymous said...


Scum indeed.


Cascadian said...

Well if my memory of late fifties and early sixties is correct, then they did a piss poor job of both projects.
Whitehall and surroundings were still very much bomb scarred, as well as filthy dirty.
Truth be told the money was probably siphoned into the "world class" national death service.

G. Tingey said...

I take it you would prefer 1950's style total lack of US non-healthcare (unless you are really wealthy, of course?)
Now grow up & don't be such a spiteful little shit.

The use of the stone, is admittedly, a disgrace, but Cascadian just had to make his totally irrelevant snipe, didn't he?