Today, 75 years ago the Allied Forces landed on the coast of Normandy, the first step in the removal of the Axis powers from continental Europe. I was sitting thinking this morning about the courage of those who stepped into the unknown when the ramps of the landing craft dropped, leaving the path open onto the beach. That scale of invasion had never been attempted before, and the book had to be written on how to do it long before the actual event.
The same level of courage was shown by the 23400 airborne troops who boarded the gliders and their tugs to cross the channel and get in harms way. In fact everybody had a role to play and it was through all their efforts that so many saw the 7th of June. There were 760 gliders and 1370 transport aircraft in use, protected by 3950 fighters. In total 129710 men were involved, supported by 1550 tanks and 12500 other vehicles. It is not my place to describe the events on the beaches on that day, in fact the only people who could really describe it are the ever dwindling band of men who were there 75 years ago.
D-Day is commemorated in many places in the UK, and this week has seen a number of services and gatherings, and a new memorial was unveiled in France although why it has taken 75 years to happen is beyond me. Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the inauguration of the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach at Ver-sur-Mer. The memorial honours the more than 22,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who died fighting under British command during D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.
The National Memorial Arboretum commemorates the invasion at the Normandy Veterans Memorial (301) where there are 5 stones dedicated to each of the landing beaches in Normandy (Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha).
Footnote: it is possible that there are other memorials at the NMA pertaining to the invasion since my visit 2015.
The problem that we face today is that history is being watered down so as to not offend some person who seemingly is offended at anything that is not politically correct. In 25 years time will we still commemorate this event? or will we be commemorating something that is unrecognisable as being related to D–Day? The veterans of the event grow fewer each year. All are over 75 years old, and many were in action before they were 20.
Over the years D-Day has tended to be seen as an all American event, whereas there were men and women from 12 nations participating. We really have Hollywood to blame for a lot of that misunderstanding, sadly it is unlikely that the definitive Normandy Invasion movie will ever be made.
The one tangible link with the invasion is HMS Belfast that is berthed in London on the Thames. History was made on that ship, and her 6″ guns were part of the naval bombardment on the beaches. I have never really found out how much damage was done by the naval bombardment, but I do not think I would have liked to have been a German Gefreiter on the receiving end of a 16″ shell from HMS Rodney.
The naval contingent was huge and 120 warships, 1260 merchant vessels, 250 minesweepers, 3500 troop carriers, 100 smaller warships and 600 specialist craft took part.
Finally I wanted to make mention of the Port of Southampton.
The acres of harbour and its facilities were vital in the logistical operation of the invasion, and while much is written about the invasion very little is written about the harbour from where so many ships set out from.
The fact remains that so much had to happen to get the men onto the beaches, the fact that they did is testament to the many who contributed to the success of the invasion. The vast cemeteries in France each has a story to tell, and the graves in it are those of real men. Some would loose their lives almost immediately the ramps dropped, others would die later in the drive from the beaches. But once that foothold was made there was no turning around.
On this day we commemorate the success of the Normandy Invasion and the Allied Forces who made it happen.
DRW © 2019 – 2021. Created 06/06/2019. Statistics are sourced from the BBC.