My dad and mum in 1941 on their engagement in March
My dad was just 22 when the war began in 1940. A young man.
He landed on Sword Beach in Normandy on 6th June 1944, and was in the battle for Normandy, also being involved at Pegasus Bridge.
He would never talk about his experiences, except they were funny little anecdotes, which we all now know so well.
The hen,Clara, taken from a farm by his army sergeant, and travelling with their unit up through France and on into Germany, laying an egg for him each day!
The description of the Mayor of Colleville- sur- Mer, wearing a big shiny fireman's helmet and running up and down on the beach waving his arms in welcome!
Dad given a jeep to drive, never having driven in his life, but not knowing how to stop it and driving it into a tree in order to do so!!
Here, in his own words of annotated text in the book he gave us to read about his Division, the description of the mayor.
" I finally hitched a lift on a Sherman (with its 105mm) on DDay, and after seeing "fireman sam" on the beach, jumping up and down, I saw an extraordinary sight, a French courting couple strolling along in the fields, oblivious to the shelling and bombing going on: not to mention the hazard of tiptoeing through the minefields!!"
But he has never been able to talk about what he saw............
I remember as if it were yesterday, when I was 16, and I was talking to him about the fact that he survived, and if he hadn't I and my sister would not have been born.
He took hold of my hand and and said he had seen things it was better not to talk about, and he had had to do things which he found so awful, that it made him cry.
He did say that he had helped to bury bodies in a concentration camp, and that memory was seared into his brain. He was 25 years old then.
Afterwards, he cried like a baby, which was quite shocking for me at the time, never having seen him cry, or a grown man cry before.
When I got married, we lived in Portsmouth for awhile and dad traced his old sergeant, who lived in Gosport. He went to see him with my mum.
I took him in the DDay museum there at Southsea, at his request, but 5 minutes inside and he was reduced to tears once again. The memories too painful.
So watching the ceremonies again today, is very moving for me. Matthew and I were planning a trip to the landing beaches for the October of 2006, but sadly we never made it. I will go to pay homage to all those who went and fought and died to stop our country from being invaded, and to help to liberate another, which I have visited many times and where I now have friends.
We should not forget them.
My dad is a veteran, but a silent one.
I finish with his words, written in the flyleaf of the history of his Assault Division
"War is obscene and brutalising, if sometimes unavoidable. The only post-war celebrations should be in the form of Rememberance Services to the many who never came back.
Smith of Rossendale May 1994. 50 years on."