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Forty-Forty Vision

Forty years ago, I visited the beaches in Northern France where Operation Overlord or the D-Day Landings took place, then some forty years again earlier. My 13 year old mind was deeply touched walking around the beautifully preserved white rows of graves in a peaceful setting which overlooked the scene where ammunition, bombing, barbed wire and carnage lay all around on June 6, 1944. This is a scenario where an unimaginable, unique anxiety and loss would have been prevalent and a passenger in the headspace for most involved as well as the resolutely cannot lose job to do ahead of them.


The most moving moment, however later on that school trip was a foray into a Deauville confectionery and cake shop with a friend. Whilst we totted up our then francs to see what we could afford to take home as a gift and rehearsed in French how to ask and pay for this, an elderly man saved us the trouble. He presented us both with bags of brilliant bon bons tied cheerfully with red ribbons atop colourful cellophane. Our suspicions about  his motives melted in seconds. He had tears in his eyes and shook our hands ‘your peoples liberated us! Merci, merci beaucoup’ he whispered and with a broad smile, he was gone.


Fast forward another 40 years I find myself in May 2024 at West Wittering Beach  where some of the rehearsal for the landings took place. It was an overcast day perfect for reflection, I felt an overwhelming sense of dread about all these young service personnel as I did the  D Day Museum at Castletown, Portland, Dorset with my husband and 8 going on 9 year old son. He is only 10 years younger than some of these sailors, soldiers, airmen, medics, nursing staff and all of those who kept them supplied in challenging circumstance. Many of the non naval staff suffered sea sickness crossing the channel which really resonated with me and was touched by one particular character featured at this wonderful museum– a 23 year old US Army medic called Joseph who shortly after the landing found himself immediately attending to the wounded around him, those who didn’t drown on leaving the landing craft. He was fatally shot in the stomach and his fellow medic tried in vain to attend to him and they said their goodbyes.


Thinking of all who suffered, survived, perished and lost their homes on the day and the long, hard fought weeks to follow  - gone yet never forgotten.

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