6 June 2014


Today is the seventieth anniversary of the landings in Normandy. 24,000 British, American and Canadian soldiers stormed the beached and cracked open Hitler's Atlantic wall.

 (I say "the landings at Normandy" instead of the invasion of Europe out of respect for my father. Dad was in the spaghetti league which had been fighting it's way up the boot of Italy when D-Day occurred, and they were infamously called D-Day Dodgers in the British parliament, as though they had chosen to sit out the invasion in sunny Italy, rather than fight their way through mountainous terrain against an entrenched enemy. I do not wish to show any dishonour or disrespect for the veterans of Normandy and D-Day- in truth they deserve all the respect I and my children and my children's children can muster. But, out of respect for my father, I am saying that Europe had been invaded over a year earlier, and that has almost been forgotten.)

I imagine many blogs will be posting the Omaha landing scene from Saving Private Ryan. That scene, as realistic as it is, gets the landing wrong. It makes it appear that the men were up and off the beach within twenty minutes or so. In truth, the men at Omaha were pinned down for hours. The scene in the movie is tame compared to the reality.

The Canadians landed in the centre beach, Juno, sandwiched between the two western allied superpowers. If you can, watch the History Channel documentary Storming Juno which detail the Canadian experience on one small part of the beach, and especially the interviews of the veterans at the end. The stories of how they launched in high seas, and how most of the swimming tanks sank before the shore, but for the crew of one tank that was taking on water but were determined to make it to the beach or die trying, and how that one tank made a huge difference. They tell of heading for the beach in heaving seas made worse by the bombardment. The Canadians, it turns out, were supported by the British battleship Rodney. Every time she fired her massive sixteen inch guns the ship would roll back and then recover, and every recovery would send a twenty foot high wave in the direction of the beach and hence the landing craft. Brave, brave men recalling with humility their incredible courage and sacrifice, and to a man they say they weren't the heroes. They were the survivors. Never forget them.

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