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