I’m so inspired by some of the D-Day testimonies in the press this week. The 75th anniversary of that historic battle against facism has brought brief and precious respite from party politics, with the country coming together in gratitude. To the veterans, local and national, who served in the D-Day Landings, which began 75 years ago: we all thank you. Some did not come home. Some carried trauma quietly for life. But each of them, and the communities who supported them, did their part to defeat fascism. We will teach our children about their resilience, and we will not forget.
These were truly amazing men and women and it’s so good they’re getting the attention and recognition they deserve. In that spirit I wanted to share a story from my family.
My Grandad Jack was a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. I once asked him what that meant and he jokingly said: ‘Building bridges and then blowing them up again’. The Sappers landing on Sword Beach – tasked with clearing away obstacles so the main forces could land and advance – must have faced unimaginably difficult conditions. My eldest son is named after him.
On that day, exactly 75 years ago yesterday, two coins, still in the family, became welded together. They had been in Grandad’s tunic pocket along with some boiled sweets, barley sugar or something like that and as he waded ashore on Sword beach the salt water got into the sweets transforming them into a sticky mess. Later that day as Grandad dried out he discovered the coins had been fused together. He kept them as a memento and we still have them. They’re a small reminder of the extreme conditions that day and of the sacrifice of so many working people, from ordinary families, who were called upon to do something extraordinary.
It is no exaggeration to say that on that day, humanity turned the tide against the fascism that would have ultimately enslaved us all. Thank you Grandad Jack, and thank you to all the D-Day Grandparents, and those who never got to be grandparents. In your name we will remember to fight the tides of fascism wherever they raise their ugly heads.