Week 23: Hero – D-Day Veterans

by Jackie_South on June 9, 2014

D-Day_HeroThis week, the D-Day veterans were unanimously awarded our regular Hero of the Week award, on the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings

Last week’s events commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the D-Day landings was a sobering lesson on what real heroes are. The moving coverage recalled the bravery of the men, the mixture of resolve and terror in the face of gunfire and mines, a lethal cocktail of careful military planning and the chaotic reality of war. The heroism of soldiers can sometimes seem overdone, but it is difficult to overstate the importance of the sacrifices made on 6 June 1944 for the success of freedom and democracy in Europe.

In an age when every Z-list celebrity gets to tell us in nauseous detail about their supposed trauma about the latest minor inconvenience to impact on their inconsequential life, it was poignant to watch the reticence of old men to describe the events of the day whilst their eyes grew heavy and moist.

I remember reading about D-Day as a kid: the basic line seemed then to be that it all basically went OK, although the Americans at Omaha Beach had a bit of a hard time. It was only when Saving Private Ryan came out that the true horror of what ‘a bit of a hard time’ truly meant became clear to me.

Whilst Omaha Beach was clearly the most lethal, the combined fatalities at the two British landings – Gold and Sword beaches, were not much less: almost two thousand British soldiers died. In some regiments, casualties were one in three.

But there were heart-warming tales too: 89 year old Bernard Jordan was distraught when he was told by his Hove care home that he could not leave to attend.  So he escaped, with only his medals, to join friends on a bus headed for Normandy. Jordan showed some of the determination of the D-Day generation – without that sort of spirit the world would truly have ended up a far worse place.

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