6th June 1944…D Day

Provisional cemetary, Omaha Beach 6yh June 1944

Seventy five years since the armada sailed from the ports of England to attempt to release Europe from the grip of the German Nazis…

Seventy five years since the young men died on the beaches of Normandy, neither quietly, nor heroically…neither was it ‘dulce et decorum es pro patria mori’. They were conscripts, not volunteers, sent on a gamble on the weather against troops well dug in on Rommel’s Atlantic Wall

British, American. Canadian, French and many more…they died in their multitudes attempting to get ashore to take the fight to the enemy.

Think of them if you can…the men sent in by gliders who drowned in the marshes of the River Orne….the frightened boys plunging into the sea as the ramp of their landing craft crashed down…those killed in their droves on the beach as they sought to advance…

Think too that it was not just one day…the campaign that was to free northern Europe was only just beginning and the fighting was to be hard, on the Eastern where the Russians had taken the brunt of the work so long as well as the Western front.

You ask yourself how they coped…how they bore the hardship, let alone the fear…and I think the answer lies in the speech from a D Day veteran.

‘We were there for each other’.

If we carry any message from the ceremonies it should be this one, to try to heal our societies which seem so riven asunder.

We seem to see ourselves as members of a group rather than members of a society…we are black, women, homosexual, transgender, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, atheist, young, old, disabled, rich, deprived – Leavers and Remainers in the case of Britain – and we defend our group’s interests and demand its rights.

I suggest that if we want to enhance the chances of our group we start by building a society where all can feel secure….decent housing which is genuinely affordable…jobs which offer a real living wage….education which encourages children to think for themselves and emphasises that vocational training carries an equivalent value to academic studies….a police force which concentrates on real crime and a justice system which works.

All to easy to propose it…but how to achieve it?

By being there for each other, by pushing our differences into the background to work together to break the party system, to have the confidence to elect people who are really independent – not self described community leaders – to local and central government and to realise that, despite the legacy of the Thatcher years, there is a vital role for the state, one that no private sector provider can supply.

And perhaps, if we can start to see how destructive it is to see our group as in some way special…different…..we could start to see that every person is special and different and needs a safe society in which to be able to blossom to the benefit of all.

Let’s be there for each other…..but in peacetime, not just in war.

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42 thoughts on “6th June 1944…D Day”

  1. Hear hear, Helen. I sat with two other freelancers this morning, each of us desperately frustrated by the state of our nation, its politics, our common society. We all want to do something but none of us can work out what to do. I agree, seeing the person that’s ‘other’ as a person not an other, a human not an alien, a potential friend, not a stranger is a small but vital thing each of us can do. It’s hard, I have tried to be polite and rational at times with people whose views are polar opposites to my own, trying to challenge the more outrageous claims of some with facts – to no avail. But we have to keep on doing it and hoe that one day our political system will discover sanity, common sense and integrity.
    [While I’m here, even though I haven’t commented for a while I still read your posts – often with amazement and sometimes amusement – and hope things might be relaxing and calm for you now and again. I’ve been restricted by a broken wrist somewhat for the last few weeks and writing short stories – who’d a thought it?]

  2. I do hope that the wrist is on the mend…are yu using speech technology to ‘write’ – if you see what I mean?
    Life is rarely dull here, no need, to follow the old song, to dance or sing to drive it away! Mark you, life has rarely been dull wherever we have lived. At least I haven’t been threatened in my own garden by a group of men with guns as happened in France! La chasse, needless to say, infuriated at not being able to shoot out the rooks nests just as the young were hatching.

    It is the group mentality which bothers me…so busy seeing its problems that it closes its eyes to the needs of all. How can any of us achieve anything in a society which allows – and in Britain – ensures that poor people’s kids go cold and hungry…what sort of a start in life is that!

  3. We will never forget and I hope the younger generation do not either. Your last sentence says it all “Let’s be there for each other…..but in peacetime, not just in war. Hope that you are both well, or as well as can be. Take care Diane

    1. Thanks for your kind wishes….Leo is not too well at the moment, having a lot of trouble breathing…but he struggles on.
      I wish current governments would remember too…and stop sending young people into danger in other people’s wars….where is the moral high ground in intervening in the middle east, for example? The sooner we stop using fossil fuels the sooner the oil wars will cease.

  4. A stunning and accurate observation on current times, Helen. The only thing that seems to have fully developed in the past 75 years has been our bloody ego. How sad that we no longer think of the greater good, but merely the standing out of single micro groups, each clamoring for their center stage. *Sigh*

    1. It infuriates me that these groups, all shouting at once, don’t see that restoring basic decency to society is a sine qua non for achieving their objectives…if you don’t have people brought up in decent housing, with adequate food, good education and a steady job with adequate pay you are not going to get a society sufficiently at ease with itself to make the shouting unecessary.

  5. I have seen countless stills and film footage from the D-Day landings, and I never cease to be amazed at what those men accomplished. The next time I hear someone carp about “toxic masculinity” I’m going to show them the photo you have with this post. While it took entire nations working together to bring down Hitler, it was brave men who had to realize there was a very good chance they weren’t going to survive the onslaught at the five Normandy beaches who broke through the Western Wall.

    We’re all different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all fit together and work together as a society to improve the lot of everyone. I am tired of the crabs-in-a-pot syndrome, where somebody’s afraid somebody else might be getting ahead, so they do everything in their power to pull them back down.

    1. Toxic masculinity indeed! It has to be a pretty toxic person to come up with that….
      We could perhaps do with some toxicity ourselves, to stand up to our governments and to start to do what is needed in our communities to get them back on their feet.

    1. Those men had come through hard times before the war and after it they returned home to make things better for their families…we just seem to be turning our backs on all they achieved.

  6. Thank you, Helen.
    Since I left school in the 1960s I have not been to any of the grand-standing
    “remembrance” ceremonies. I lost people on both sides and choose to honour them in a place far from a concrete pillar.
    And I think, too, about the damage done to so many; the damage still being done, and not just by bullets.

    We should, as you’ve said, be here for each other. For society.Not for a church, or a person or an ideal, but for us.

    1. My father would never attend any of the remembrance ceremonies….people waving flags had nothing to do with the reality in his view.anf as to mental damage, then as now the services do nothing to help people once they are discharged…it’s a wonder they don;t reinstate docking the pay of the dead for the price of the blanket in which they are buried….

  7. My Dad drove a landing craft, not at Normandy, but later at Anzio. He never spoke much of his experiences but did insist that I accompany him to see the movie Saving Private Ryan because he felt it was the most accurate (albeit still limited) film portrayal of what a beach assault was like. Unbelievable in so many respects: the sounds, sights, horror and confusion.

    1. They didn’t say much, did they? I suppose taking you to see that film was a way he could get it across without delving painfully into his own experiences.
      How they did it I will never know…

  8. I have little to add. If you look at pictures of those men, they all were so small. Not necessarily short; my dad was 6 foot six. They were thin. They already had been through a depression. And to have to take on half the world . It was done because it was necessary. Humanity is necessary. We must recover those old values.

  9. Wars are not waged to overthrow tyrants they are waged solely for economic reasons; control of resources, trade routes, etc. As an ex-professional soldier I learnt first-hand who benefitted and who was maimed or, if they were lucky, killed. We had no illusions, we were paid to do a job, we were young and it was exciting (afterwards). These days those who wave flags and eulogise conlict and confrontation sicken me particularly so because few will have taken the damned monarch’s shilling or its equivelant and there ‘experiences’ are third-hand via voyeuristic films and sanitised ‘news’ propaganda. You know from where my politics comes – I fear that it is too late to effect change now as we have flipped Mother Nature/Gaia and although she/it will survive and evolve we, and many other species, will not.
    I’m going to attach the Declaration of Principles for the tiny SPGB (I’m a ‘card-carrying’ member) which shows that for a long time thoughtful, intelligent, humane people have believed that a better world was possible. Feel free to bin this comment if you think it’s not appropriate – I will not be cancelling my subscription. Warmest best to you both.

    This declaration is the basis of our organisation and, because it is also an important historical document dating from the formation of the party in 1904, its original language has been retained.

    Object

    The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

    Declaration of Principles

    The Socialist Party of Great Britain holds:
    1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e. land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
    2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
    3. That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
    4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind, without distinction of race or sex.
    5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
    6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organize consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
    7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
    8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.

    1. Yes, the emotional TV show style of remembrance turns me off too…heart on sleeve stuff always does as it bears no relationship to being usually dirty, cold, hungry and damned uncomfortable and then being required to do something unpleasantly active.
      I wouldnot dream of binning the SPGB declaration…it’s a fine piece of work and people should have the chance to read it.

  10. Terrific post, expressing what we should all feel. My natural inclination is always to work together and co-operatively, to not just tolerate difference but accept it. Just now though there doesn’t seem to be a safe haven and as you point out, too few people seem interested in creating a universal one.

    1. I find it so depressing that we seem to be so tribal…and so spiteful. I have been horrified by the depths to which people are happy to reveal that they have sunk in the Leave – Remain situation.

  11. It would be a tragedy if the bloodshed and carnage of two world wars, fought to maintain freedom and democracy, turned out to be a wasted exercise as the UK becomes more unequal, more elitist, and as poverty, homelessness and other social problems get worse. And as you say, we get more and more tribal, rooting for our own little group at other people’s expense.

    1. We had the post war settlement…and we threw it away….allowing and encouraging personal greed at the expense of the nation
      We had North Sea oil…and we threw away its benefits….favouring private greed over public need.
      And still strident groups push for their peculiar claims without considering the needs of society in general.
      While we must fear war between nations, we should be more aware of the wars waged within nations.

  12. I want the endless glorification of war to be over. Soldiers died, they were men first and many won’t have wanted to go to war in spite of their heroism once they were trapped inside the machine. We have learned very litte from the carnage and we are still trying to raise barriers between nations. See the disaster of Brexit. I know you don’t agree with me but for Europe to come together in peace was what the founding fathers wanted above all else and I for one am glad that the dream came to fruition. The EU may not be perfect but what is?

    1. I agree entirely about the glorification of war. What sane man wants to leave his family to go off to kill other men, risking that family’s wellbeing by his absence, whether temporary or permanent.
      As far as I can see the founding fathers wanted a united Europe from the get go…I prefer to have nations co operating without a ‘superior’ tier of policy making which takes on a life of its own, which is what has happened with the EU…in my opinion. With the effects of th Euro on clubmed, with the appalling treatment of Greece by a entirely illegal body set up by the EU, with the refusal to contemplate state support for indistries….with the high tariffs and exploitative trade deals with developing contries…no, the EU is far from perfect and to my mind is beyind reform.

  13. We had the opportunity to visit the American Cemetery in Normandy some years back. Ten thousand crosses lined up. It brought me to tears. I have often said that people need to see this, to experience and understand what so many lost and sacrificed. And to never let this happen again. Lest we forget.

    1. You would have to be made of stone not to be moved…so many deaths, so many families broken…
      I was annoyed to hear Macron using this occasion to ride his hobby horses of EU and NATO…it was not the time for politics.

  14. Wow. So beautifully said, Helen. Please send it to our political ‘leaders’ – not that we really have any. Who could possibly disagree with any of it? These are aspirations we can all share – so why is it so hard to have a reasoned discussion about the best way to achieve them? I am genuinely shocked by the tribalism and anger in our society and don’t understand where it has come from. I actually don’t really care what people are and get fed up with them banging on and on about whatever it is. I despair when I listen to people like Corbyn or Sturgeon with so many hang-ups, the idiots who think all their ills have been caused by people of another race, or religion, or political party. But we seem to have arrived at a point where even having an alternative view is no longer acceptable to some people. I’m sure that’s not where those lads expected us to be; we owe them so much more than that.

    1. After WW II the people who had fought for other people’s freedoms expected their own…freedom from unemployment, from housing like hovels, freedom from ignorance, freedom from ill health and the Attlee government, in spite of everything from economics to foul weather being against it, started the process.
      It’s not just a Labour thing, Macmillan had a good record in housing provision too….it was a post war concensus that everyone deserved the best that could be done.
      A understanding totally destroyed by Thatcher’s insistence on breaking the power of the unions…and breaking Britain’s industry with them….the sale of public housing stock with its concomitant mortgage slavery for more and more people…the big bang, deregulating dealings on the stock exchange….the emphasis on the individual which will always favour those already established…
      The bank rescues of 2008/9 which have been allowed to impoverish so many people…the young, the sick, the old…we have a society so insecure that people cling desperately to their views, to their tribe, cling so desperately that they hate anything and anyone disturbing their certainties.
      I am fed up to my back teeth with the noisy interest groups…cannot they see that without a stable societal base where kids do not go hungry, have a well founded education and have jobs whuich pay enough to put a roof over their heads as they grow up then none of the group interests can be achieved.
      Sorry to go on, but when I think of the society in which I was lucky to grow up, the current situation where shouting slogans seems to pass as policy makes me wild.

  15. Yes, Atlee & Co offered the New Jerusalem – and, quite rightly, people voted for it. I agree with most of the rest, too – though we disagree over Thatcher (not that she got everything right). But we need to look forward. It’s a different world now – everyone wants a better one, whatever their political persuasion. It would be nice if we could ban political parties – but I’m afraid that’s unrealistic. Send your piece to political leaders and newspaper editors!

    1. Political parties are a curse these days…..as power now lies well outside parliament and uses the parties as the implement of global business. We have to break their hold on the electoral process, but with the current tribalism there is not, as you say, much chance of that.
      What bothers me is how anyone can see the Liberal Democrats as any sort of answer given their connivance in the ‘austerity’ measures during the coalition.

  16. What concerns me is, that Heaven forbid, that there should be another war, the today’s young would not be prepared to serve their country in the way that previous generations did.

    1. While tempted to say something sharp about them saying ‘meh’ and returning to their avocado toast if faced with a foreign invasion I think the majority of young people are decent and ready to stand up to a threat…but not to engage in wars to serve global oil interests.

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