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Focus on D-Day

Yesterday marked the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 holding profound significance in honouring the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny. This pivotal moment in World War II demonstrated extraordinary courage, strategic brilliance and international cooperation.


Commemorating D-Day serves as a powerful reminder of the immense costs of war and the enduring importance of freedom, unity and peace. It also educates future generations about the historical events that shaped the modern world, ensuring that the legacy of those who fought and fell is never forgotten.


Having spent the last year writing my book ensuring that the legacy of my grandfather is not forgotten I’ve been fully immersed in the events of World War II particularly viewed from the lens of a prisoner of war.


On 6 June 1944, my grandfather had now spent four years as a POW and in hearing the news of the D-Day landings he would have experienced a mix of emotions. His scrapbook entry shares his immediate reflections on hearing the news while he was in the midst of writing a play. This is what he wrote:


8 June 1944

I was writing the last pages of Act I of ‘Devil a bit of it’ when the rumour reached our room. Thirty seconds later it was repeated by another messenger. A third arrived in five minutes with another rumour, this one that the first was true!


Finishing the Act was difficult, and I haven’t been able, since then, to set my thoughts in order about Acts II and III.


I am waiting for the German papers and for news, and trying desperately to finish off the play. But it gets more and more melodramatic, and I want to kill everyone off, and then revive them and finish it so. But because it is essentially a piece ‘to specification’, my heart isn’t wholly in it. My heart is in nothing but the invasion.


How does one express oneself in the event of an invasion? By taking part of course, defending or attacking, establishing or destroying bridge-heads. But the non-combatants – wives, mothers, children? By a deep and personal life-and-death connection with it.


But the prisoners, the soldiers of ’39 who have no more brothers to lose, and no friends, how are they to express themselves? What do they wish to express? Joy at the sudden glimpse of future release, wonder at the unity of purpose, pride in the grim singleness of mind, shame in its grim ruthlessness, catharsis at the sight of the giant’s fall.


But how to express it? In verse, in drama, in music, in watercolour? In shouts of joy, in conviviality, sodality? With a slap on the back – or a diary entry?


The D-Day news would have been a powerful catalyst blending optimism with apprehension deeply influencing his morale and outlook on his eventual fate. He would have been concerned about potential retaliation and increased brutality in response to the landings which would have conflicted with immense feelings of pride in the efforts and bravery of the Allied forces taking part in the invasion.

The reality was that my grandfather and his fellow POWs would go on to spend another year of captivity before they were released so he would have been right to doubt liberation was imminent.


D-Day's significance as a turning point in World War II showcases the enduring values of international cooperation, the fight for freedom and the importance of human rights, all of which are relevant in the world today.


Modern conflicts and advancements in technology have transformed the nature of warfare and global relations, yet the legacy of D-Day underscores the necessity of unity and vigilance in preserving peace. Remembering D-Day helps reinforce the lessons learned from history, promoting a commitment to prevent future conflicts and uphold global stability.


Focus on D-Day. Focus on WHY!

ACTION POINT - What lessons do you take from D-Day that are relevant to living with purpose today?

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