D-Day: Merci! We will not forget you!

Marcus's picture
Submitted by Marcus on Wed, 2012-06-06 18:03

Today I would like to salute the brave men and women who invaded NAZI occupied France on the 6th of June 1944, 68 years ago in order to liberate her. I was in Normandy for the first time last week and I would like to share the experience with you. I was stunned by what I saw. The amount of homage paid to the 156 000 allied soldiers who invaded by sea, land and air was breathtaking.

I am no expert on the subject of the invasion itself but the Normandy coast is, one might say, the Disneyland of WWII. The entire 50 mile (80 km) coastline and surrounding region is a boon to French Tourism and the war memorial industry. I can safely predict that by the time we get to the hundredth anniversary of the D-Day invasion there will be at least double the number of memorials and monuments there are today. The respect and good will towards the soldiers of liberation knows no bounds there, as it should be. Today there was a newspaper report of President Hollande being the first French President in history to visit Ranville Cemetery where 2,564 British soldiers of the airborne division are buried. As rain poured down at the end of his visit, Mr Hollande said: "The rain doesn't matter, being here does."

What I liked about the Normandy Coast is that it is obvious the French (like their President) are thankful for their emancipation, genuinely thankful to the British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and other commonwealth troops responsible for their liberation. The beaches are now given their code names, rather than the original French ones: Sword, Juno, Gold, and Omaha beaches. One can imagine the invasion scene looking out over the perilous cliffs to the ships and launches left behind, still marooned in the sea as a permanent memorial. Tanks, trucks, planes and other big-gun weapons are also left behind in the many museums and monuments lined up next to the streets and villages.

The words “Freedom” and “Liberty” are written in bold throughout the towns there, refreshingly the words “duty” and “sacrifice” are seldom seen (at least I didn’t find them on any monument or placard I saw).

I visited the town of Bayeux, one of the first towns liberated by the allies, famous for the Tapestry which depicts the victory of the Normans over the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 by William the Conqueror. This happens to be the site of the largest British cemetery too dating from the Second World War in France with 3935 British graves. Opposite the cemetery is a large war memorial upon which is written in Latin: "We who were conquered by William have returned to liberate the land of the Conqueror." The story from the tapestry had come full circle!

On this monument was a little bronze plaque which I found could be opened. Inside it was a book listing the names of all the fallen in the cemetery and another book for those who wanted to leave behind messages. A lump came to my throat as I read page after page of people’s names from all over the world, praising the bravery of the soldiers and saluting them as fallen heroes. Most touching was the amount of French names in there with the unmistakable word written over and over again: Merci.

Today we should join the French and all raise a glass and thank those brave men for their staunch defence of our Liberty and Freedom!


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Bomber command: Dambusters survivor at memorial unveiling

Marcus's picture

[Why did it take so long? They say the bombing was controversial, but the Queen unveiled a statue of "bomber" Harris 20 years ago.]

Bomber command: Dambusters survivor at memorial unveiling

One of the three remaining survivors of the Dambusters raid will be among the veterans paying homage to their 55,573 fallen comrades when the Bomber Command Memorial is unveiled by the Queen today.

"George “Johnnie” Johnson is making the trip to London from his home in Bristol to join 6,500 veterans, widows and relatives remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Mr Johnson, 90, was a bomb-aimer in a Lancaster that damaged the Sorpe dam during the legendary mission in 1943, and made his pilot Joe McCarthy to repeat his bombing run 10 times before he was satisfied enough to release his “bouncing bomb”.

He will not, however, be reunited with the two other surviving airmen who flew on the raid, as they live in Canada and New Zealand and are too frail to make the trip.

Mr Johnson’s son Morgan said: “He is very, very keen that people who died serving with Bomber Command should be commemorated.

“He is also angry and frustrated that Bomber Command veterans seem to have been ignored by successive governments.”

Les Munro, who piloted one of the 11 Lancasters to return home of the 19 that set off for the Dams Raid, is now aged 93 and lives in Tauranga in his native New Zealand, where he became a sheep farmer after the war.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “Thank God there is something now to recognise the sacrifice that all those blokes made.

“The memorial is not before time, and some of the other veterans from New Zealand are making the trip so they can pay homage to the men they fought with.”

Mr Munro, who had to turn back to base on the night of the Dams Raid after his aircraft was hit by flak over the Netherlands, said he had never been able to understand why British Bomber Command veterans were forgotten by their government after the war, when those in other Commonwealth countries were treated with far more respect.

“I know there was criticism of the policy of blanket bombing but perhaps people didn’t realise it was an all-out war,” he said. “I don’t think the end result of victory over the Nazis would have been achieved without blanket bombing.”...

The memorial is the culmination of a five-year campaign to raise £9.5m from the public to build it, including more than £1m donated by readers of The Daily Telegraph.

The ceremony will be attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and nine other members of the Royal family, including the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

After the Queen unveils the statue of seven airmen at the centre of the memorial, a service of remembrance will be led by the Venerable Ray Pentland, the RAF’s Chaplain in Chief.

At the end of the service a Lancaster bomber from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will drop poppies over the memorial from its bomb bay."

Make Magna Carta Day our national day

Marcus's picture

I know, I know Linz...liberte egalite fraternite.

What happens in principle and on the ground are often two different things.

The Normandy is an example of the opposite.

What is on the display (in Normandy) seems to be in direct contradiction to what comes out of the socialist mouthpiece that drives the French state.

Anyway, today I came accross this apt suggestion concerning bridging that gap in the UK.

Make Magna Carta Day our national day

"While John was probably no more violent and personally revolting than his brother or his father Henry II, the difference was that they were winners and he was a loser. Within five years of coming to power he had lost almost all of his father’s territory in France. The Anglo-Norman barons, meanwhile, did not trust him and, as they held land under the French king, did not want to become involved in a conflict between the two rulers. In 1205, when John had amassed an invasion force at Portsmouth, he had to endure a humiliating climbdown in the face of a mutiny.

John grew increasingly unpopular with the barons, his behaviour more paranoid: in 1208 Matilda de Briouze, the wife of John’s loyal follower William, blurted out to one of John’s men that they knew about his nephew's murder; she and her son were taken prisoner and starved to death, the dead bodies found huddled together, with the boy bearing tooth-marks on his body from where his mother had tried to eat him.

However it was only after his final, disastrous military defeat in France in 1214 that unrest burst into the open. In January 1215 the king met 40 barons in London, where he stalled for time, with the barons demanding that John obey the Charter of Liberties that had been issued by Henry I in 1100 (the Conqueror’s youngest son, having come to power in uncertain circumstances, had pledged to rule the English under their pre-Norman laws). Having been double-crossed once again, on May 5 1215 a group of rebel barons defied the king, renouncing homage and fealty.

The barons were led by Robert Fitzwalter, whose daughter was supposed to have been raped by the king, and many were motivated by a mixture of self-interest and unscrupulousness. But, as Jones says: “The rebels were also bound together by the germ of an ideology: a sense that John’s government in particular and Plantagenet government in general were both in need of fundamental reform.”

As always in English history, London held the key to power and there the “rich citizens were favourable to the barons”, as the chronicler Roger of Wendover wrote. With the barons in the capital and the king in Windsor, a solution came between June 10 and 15, “when the barons agreed with the king that a document now known as ‘the Articles of the Barons’ could form the basis for a final negotiation of a peace”. At Runnymede, between the two camps, the barons renewed their homage to the king.

The clauses that emerged, and which became the basis of English law – such as Clause 39 – reflected the nature of John’s reign, when the rule of law was abandoned and the country came under the tyrannical rule of one maniac. These were simply means by which the barons could control a mentally unstable ruler.

Yet Magna Carta had enormous unforeseen consequences for English law. As Jones writes:

In 1215 Magna Carta was nothing more than a failed peace treaty in the process towards this bitter conflict. John was not to know – any more than the barons who negotiated its terms with him – that his name and the myth of the document sealed at Runnymede would be bound together in English history for ever.

Yet this, in the long run, was the case. Magna Carta would be reissued time and again in the years immediately following John’s death, and interpreting Magna Carta would be at the heart of every constitutional battle that was fought during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

And further beyond, influencing the 16th century jurist Edward Coke, and the parliamentarians in the following century, not to mention having a profound impact on the United States. Today a portrait of the rebel leader Simon De Montfort, who fought John’s son Henry III in the later Barons War, sits in the US House of Representatives, and the site of Runnymede is marked by a memorial given by the American Bar Association, with the inscription "to celebrate Magna Carta, foundation of the rule of law for ages past and for the new millennium”.

So if we’re to have a national holiday, what could be better than one marking the rule of law, and a constant reminder to our present-day politicians to always abide by it?"

Merci ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... for the account, Marcus. I can certainly imagine how moving the experience must have been. I still have no confidence in the commitment of the French to liberty, though.

D-Day in colour

Marcus's picture

Shot by director John Ford, who actually took part in the landing.

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