As we grow older we seem to think how quickly the time goes by. And one event this year has brought that home to me even more so - the 50th anniversary of D Day.
How that date of 6 June 1944 sticks out in the memories of those who lived through it, yes, fifty years ago.
I was one who had the honour to take part in that historic event, serving with the RAF in a special Beach Unit.
We were responsible for all RAF stores, petrol, oil and ammunition, for getting them off the landing craft, and then from the beachhead to forward dumps and thence to the first available landing strip. This allowed aircraft to land, refuel and rearm so that they could give troops immediate air cover without returning to England.
This was the third invasion we had taken part in, the others being Sicily and Salerno in Italy, so we knew a little bit about it all and I think it safe to say the novelty had definitely worn off!
When people say to me ‘What was it like?’, I tell them it was the same as all battles – frightening. But then, faith can play a big part.
So I went back to Normandy on 6 June 1994 with our D-Day and Normandy Fellowship group and with my memories of that time when so many paid the greatest sacrifice. We were able to pay tribute again at the services held in the beautifully kept war cemeteries.
So let us not forget those times when our loved ones have been reported ‘missing’ or ‘killed in action’. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have survived sometimes perhaps say ‘Was it all worth it?’. The answer is, of course, ‘yes’, although at times we doubt at the moral standards of our lives these days. But then what would it have been like had the tyranny of the evil regime we fought against not been conquered?
We should also remember the greatest sacrifice of all that was made by Our Lord Jesus Christ to overthrow the biggest evil and give us everlasting life, the greatest D-Day of all.
In June 1993, I was able to arrange the presentation of a plaque to the present owners of the house in Normandy that was our wartime HQ. It records our occupation during that time and hangs on the wall inside the building, which is in the village of St Côme de Fresne. The ceremony was attended by a small number of my friends and civic dignitaries of the area. I felt that it was another way for us to remember and pay a small tribute.
Our D-Day and Normandy Fellowship was responsible for the D-Day window in Portsmouth Cathedral and its replica in Bayeux Cathedral, the latter with financial help from the French. Both were unveiled by the Queen Mother, in 1984 and 1989 as part of anniversary commemorations of D-Day.