Sunday, June 8, 2014

D Day Commemoration

Prince Charles says a few words at  Bayeux (Queen seated center, the Princess of Wales to her left and Prince Philip extreme right)

Just back from Normandy and the 70th. anniversary of the D-Day landings. What an absolutely amazing and unforgettable few days.

Being possibly the last official commemoration and with so many world leaders attending had expected large crowds but not the enthusiasm of the welcome.  Every building was bedecked with flags, so much was happening and the veterans in particular, and so rightly, were feted everywhere they went.

Was fortunate to be able to get into the veterans’ enclosure for the British ceremony at Bayeux Cemetery attended by the Queen and various members of the Royal Family as well as cabinet ministers and various political leaders. Afterwards able to mingle freely with all (although the Queen left promptly) and the Prince and Princess of Wales in particular seemed determined to shake hands with absolutely everybody.

In the afternoon at Sword Beach again in a good vantage point to see all the world leaders (29 in all). The Queen and President Obama particularly wildly applauded although the reception to President Putin somewhat more mooted and so revealing to watch the body language (everything shown on a very large screen on the beach).

All sorts of fly pasts, parachute drops and re-enactments but for me perhaps the most poignant moment to hear to hear the skirl of the pipes above the noise of battle particularly perhaps the portrayal (by a French piper) of  Bill Millin, Lord Lovat’s piper piping the Scottish troops onto the beaches under heavy gunfire. May the  pipes long continue to be associated with the British army.

The real highlight though was speaking with all the veterans and hearing their tales. No book or film could so bring history alive. From a genealogy point of view so often have I heard it said “if only I had spoken with some of the older generation”. The lesson to me was don’t let the opportunity pass.

Everything though in perspective.  At one point as the television cameras scanned someone near me said “smile the whole world is watching”; only for one very esteemed veteran from Hawick to retort. ”not in Hawick they won’t -  it’s the Common Riding!”

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