Today marked the 75th anniversary of the day the allies left Britain in order to attack the Germans in Normandy and, hopefully, chase them out of France. Because of the ramped up security around Portsmouth for the ‘celebrations’ all volunteers were stood down. So I didn’t go to work. I stayed at home and listened to cricket and did housework as world leaders gathered to honour the fighting men and women of WWII.
For me, the most emotional moments were when Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron read letters. May’s was written by Captain Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps. It was written to his wife, Gladys, on 3 June 1944 and was found in his pocket as he lay, dead on Sword beach the day after D-Day.
Macron’s letter was no less emotional. It was the final moments of 16 year old Henri Fertet, a captured member of the French resistance. He wrote it before the Nazis came to take him to the firing squad. He finished:
“The soldiers are coming to get me. I must hurry. My handwriting may look wobbly, but it is just because I am using a small pencil. I am not afraid of death, my conscience is completely clear … A thousand kisses. Long live France.”
Donald Trump read a prayer.
Possibly the craziest and most glorious moment of the day was when 95 year old Harry Read and 94 year od John Hutton, took off to parachute into Normandy exactly like they did 75 years ago. Total dudes!
Apart from Harry and John, the rest of the 300 odd surviving veterans climbed aboard MV Boudicca, setting sail (metaphorically) for the Normandy coast ready to retake the Normandy beaches, albeit somewhat slower and happier.
In the words of former Royal Marine Jack Smith, 94, enjoying a chat with the Queen. “It means an awful lot to be here, the day respects everybody who took part in D-day. A lot of people did a lot of good work that day, it respects their memory and the lads that didn’t come back.”
I almost forgot, the Queen gave a beautiful speech, recalling her memories of the day and the aftermath, a European peace for all.
Peace did not reign in our house this afternoon though. Due to a little bit of wear and tear, Emma’s favourite thing in the whole world suffered a bit of a terminal accident. It was not a happy day for her.