Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

This photograph was taken on Tuesday June 6th 1944, yes that’s right D Day when allied forces invaded Europe.
Staff Trip
It was the annual Staff Trip for employees of James Hayhurst who owned several chemist shops and a camera shop.

I was fifteen years old and employed in the camera shop. Memory tells me I heard of the invasion on the 8am radio news before heading off to join the coach with other staff members. The BBC archives tell me that the news wasn’t released until noon but it matters not. I don’t have many recollections of the staff trip or where we went. I can identify most of the people in the photograph but doubt if many, if any, of them are still alive.

The significance of the old black and white image of a day out was brought home to me as I watched the 75th D Day
D Day veteran
commemorative service on BBC TV on Thursday June 6th 2019. It was an odd experience with the voices and images disturbing hard set attitudes and beliefs and in a strange way shaking out the past and the way we thought and acted 75 years ago. I put these conflicting impressions and thoughts forward, not to influence the way you think but to try to clarify my own ideas.

For a start the whole event was Christian. Hymns, prayers and readings. In spite of ours being a multicultural society, it was as though we had regressed to 1944. The only black faces were just a few amongst the young armed service personnel who were on duty. Although I am not religious, I found myself strangely moved but maybe it was mere nostalgia and memories from my past. The survivors of that day were dignified and, although in their nineties, articulate and with clear memories of that momentous day.

The talk was all of the sacrifice those young men made. My mind becomes confused with the talk of
THEM ‘Making the sacrifice’ or ‘Laying down THEIR life’.I cannot believe that they chose to walk into a hail of bullets and shells. That they stepped from their landing craft, heavily laden with weapons and supplies, into the sea and drowned as their craft failed to reach the beach. Surely they were persuaded, even brain washed into seeing other young men, just like themselves as hateful enemies. Men who few short years later would be seen as comrades facing the threat from Russia.
D Day
Deaths on D day are estimated at about 4,000 allied troops and a similar number of German soldiers. It is also reckoned that something like 20,000 French civilians were killed during the campaign to liberate Normandy.

Sorry this is such a mish-mash but whilst watching the ceremony I had so many conflicting emotions - sadness, pride, pity, anger, nostalgia. The feeling that when all is done and dusted it was such a waste of so many lives on all sides.

For those Christians amongst us, did God take sides? We thought he was on the side of the allies but surely German Christians would believe he was on their side?

History is written by the victors. If a quirk of fate had made Germany victorious what would we have been reading now? One thing is for sure - it would have been a different history.

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