Watching the TV coverage of the D-Day commemorations yesterday, I was vaguely conscious of a jarring collision. The almost festive feel of the occasion, coupled with a brisk, uptempo treatment of its significance seemed at tasteless variance with the reality of the landings, the battles on the beaches, the thousands who didn't even make it beyond the shore.
My late father, then eighteen years of age, was one of the lucky ones, one who didn't have a bullet, bomb or booby-trap to cut him short. He made it all the way to Berlin from the French coast, staying on in Germany for a further two years after the war as part of the Military Police (MP).
He was also among the first of the allied troops to liberate the Belsen concentration camps.
[By the time he returned home to Bootle in the late 40s he was fluent in German, much to the consternation of the neighbours.]
With the possible exception of Barack Obama, it seemed as though the heads of state present yesterday cut an incongruous prescence; Brown & Sarkozy, in particular, serving as a reminder that this generation of political leaders, with no direct experience of warfare, think nothing of authorising acts of war based on false premises & dodgy dossiers.
Euan Ferguson pens a moving & eloquent piece in today's Observer. The final paragraph perfectly articulates the chasm between the official remembrance & the bloody reality the troops faced (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/07/d-day-normandy-veterans-barack-obama ):
"Yesterday the American president, and the world, saw the beauty of Normandy. Marked the glory of heroism. Marked the stirring music, and splendid tales, and noted our courteous ways of the remembrance. One can only hope, as the veterans go, that we do not forget to remember the darkness. Hope that, even for an instant, as the world and its leaders watched, a time-shimmer could allow them to see beyond the beauty, to see what the veterans were seeing: many thousands of young men in personal darkness, losing their minds."