A Journey into the Past. 1

Well here I am, sorting out medicines, packing, books and maps (more essential than anything else – armed with Beevor and Hastings) getting ready to fulfill a dream. Fly tomorrow to Paris and then drive to the little town of Arromanches, to take into my hotel perched above the landing beaches of D-Day and stay there for three weeks.
67 years ago, a mere drop in the ocean of historical time, operation OVERLORD was in full progress. The greatest sea and airbourne invasion in all of history was underway, to start the final thrust in the West to destroy the Nazi Empire. And to relieve the Russians on the Eastern front, where they had already lost 7.000.000 men killed in combat against the Germans.
My father was fighting in Italy at the time of the D-Day landings, and as a boy (born eight years after the war) I grew up in a town where almost all the men were veterans of the war. They had fought the Germans in South West Africa, the Italians and Rommel in the deserts of North Africa and then invaded Italy from Sicily, fighting all the way to the Brenner Pass and the borders of Germany, when the war came to an end.
They were all deeply scarred, wonderful men and I grew up with their tales of their adventures. Their six years of war become the pivotal event of their lives, around which all else rotated, and in a sense became mine as well. My own later wars were of a different nature, both those I fought and those I reported, against far less well-defined enemies, but they lay in the bosom of the war those men had fought.
I have been to Rourke’s Drift, Namibia, Tobruk, to Monte Cassino, to several Nazi Concentration Camps several times, to the battle fields of the Graeco-Persian Wars and the current wars in South Asia, to every military cemetery I have ever passed on my journeys. To pay respect to fallen comrades from different times and places, place stones on the graves of the Jewish fallen amongst them. I have even placed a stone on SChindler’s grave in Jerusalem, but I have never been to the sites of the Normandy landings. They remained so special in my imagination as a child and adult that I was waiting until I was ready to appreciate the experience fully. Much as Shakespearean actors await with trepidation the day they are to play Lear.
We never know why certain events play so strongly within our imaginations, but D-Day achieved an impact that has lasted all my life. I cannot hear the name without starting to whistle the theme of the film “The Longest Day”. I do not recall a single image from that film, that I saw as a child, but the theme tune has been with me forever. I purse my lips as I type.
The day after tomorrow, aged 58 and burned deeply by life, I will hopefully be standing on those cliffs gazing out to sea, most likely with tears running copiously as my imagination conjures the scenes that took place during those first hours of the landings, an Imagination that has been active since I was a boy. I will be standing with my father and my mother, both now passed on, and the men of my childhood who too have now all passed away. And possibly with all those young boys who had never seen combat before and men who had, who gave their lives there, and they were many.
Howard Gamble
June28th, 2011

This entry was posted in Articles published. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.