THE NEWSDESK: Lest we forget the reasons D-Day veterans fought on the beaches

Gold Beach Normandy. (6664775)

This June 6, 1944, file photo shows American soldiers of the Allied Expeditionary Force securing a beachhead during initial landing operations at Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. From the first sketchy German radio broadcast to the distribution of images

U.S. reinforcements wade through the surf from a landing craft in the days following D-Day and the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France at Normandy in June 1944 during World War II. From the first sketchy German radio broadcast to the distribution of

First published in Gwent news
Last updated
South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

HERE'S what this newspaper's leader column said about D-Day 70 years ago: "The decisive stage of the World War has been reached. Today, the forces of the United Nations started an invasion of the Nazi fortress of Europe.

"This is the day for which millions of servicemen and women have been training - and waiting; this is the day for which millions of men and women have worked on the production of armaments....

"The goal is freedom - freedom from slavery for millions of people. Our aim is to release the oppressed and to save others (ourselves included) from the horrors of oppression."

Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned: "The battle will brow in scale and intensity for many weeks to come."

General Eisenhower said: "Good luck: and let us all beseech the blessing of the Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

D-Day is ingrained in the memories of those who were there, in the landing craft and on the beaches.

The emotion on the faces of those who went to last Friday's ceremonies was palpable.

There was little sign that any of these veterans did not believe the battle had to be fought, that they had to risk their lives.

One Newport D-Day hero Frank James, who went back to Gold Beach for the first time for the 70th anniversary of the landings and will ne honoured by the mayor of the Normandy town Creully, which his unit liberated, summed it up for me when told the Argus last week: "I didn't do it for the bloody medals."

They did it because it had to be done.

Mr James, 95, was then transporting tank ammunition and his unit came under shellfire before they hit the sand at Ver-sur-Mer. His return was partly to honour his sergeant who was killed during the landings.

Veteran Eddie Linton was also at the commemorations, remembering his shipmates on HMS Mourne who died when the ship was torpedoed by a U-boat.

And the diary of one Newport man's D-Day RAF service still makes harrowing reading. William Gillard Bidder wrote of the invasion: "With this constant shelling and the din of our own guns, nerves get strung up and tempers frayed. One battery nearby had a bad time. Jerry simply plastered it - many casualties and cases of shell shock..."

On D-Day, this newspaper said: "The tide has turned to a mighty torrent to sweep Nazism from the face of the Earth."

With the benefit of our hindsight, we know how large the battle was, how huge the sacrifice, and how precious the victory which the D-Day veterans won truly was.

Then, this newspaper's words were more of a prayer.

Because without that victory, our way of life, our freedoms, especially the freedom of speech, would have been destroyed.

Destroyed by fascists who murdered their political opponents, exterminated their scapegoats, who oppressed millions.

No one should ever forget the heroes of D-Day, of Sicily, North Africa, Burma, Norway. No one should forget that so many were teenagers. That at the height of the Normandy battle, there were 6,000 casualties a day.

Our freedom was dearly bought with blood.

And no one should forget what they fought against.

Because that threat, that far-right extremism, scapegoating communities, seeking to undermine our tolerant society with their hate, is on our streets, in our social media feeds.

And they have been duping the naïve into sharing their posts seeking to hijack that D-Day sacrifice for their abhorrent ends.

To normalise their neo-Nazi views. Because if Joe I went to school with shares their posts, surely they must be OK really?

No. No they are not.

Each share besmirches the memory of those who died fighting fascism, defiles their sacrifice.

Each time one of us cannot be bothered to vote to keep out those extremist views, because we have become flabby and smug in our lack of having to defend our freedoms, we betray those who stood on those beaches at 19 years old facing bullets and mortars.

Comments (6)

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10:46pm Sun 8 Jun 14

ex-St. Julians boy says...

It is now D-Day + 2 and, to date, I have neither heard nor seen any mention in this country from those that might be “seeking to hijack that D-Day sacrifice for their abhorrent ends.” To date, I have only heard from those that have enormous respect for those that stormed the Normandy beach heads on 6th June, 1944. Of whom does Maria Williams speak? She appears not to have the courage to say, preferring instead to hide behind innuendo and suggestion? Her final paragraph betrays her and I would remind her that those “who stood on those beaches at 19 years old facing bullets and mortars” were not there in order to impress their own selfish political viewpoint onto others from behind a smokescreen but to defend against dictatorship, oppression and to defend the right of freedom (to choose).
It is now D-Day + 2 and, to date, I have neither heard nor seen any mention in this country from those that might be “seeking to hijack that D-Day sacrifice for their abhorrent ends.” To date, I have only heard from those that have enormous respect for those that stormed the Normandy beach heads on 6th June, 1944. Of whom does Maria Williams speak? She appears not to have the courage to say, preferring instead to hide behind innuendo and suggestion? Her final paragraph betrays her and I would remind her that those “who stood on those beaches at 19 years old facing bullets and mortars” were not there in order to impress their own selfish political viewpoint onto others from behind a smokescreen but to defend against dictatorship, oppression and to defend the right of freedom (to choose). ex-St. Julians boy
  • Score: 0

11:41pm Sun 8 Jun 14

Floppy backed says...

I found it pretty shameful that the school my 8yr old son attends made absolutely no effort to acknowledge this day - perhaps in England they do a better job but I would of thought a tribute with a short lesson, a bit of music and some war time fun could of been the smallest contribution a Christian school could of done. We will not forget them??? Well in the Welsh schools they are doing a pretty good job.
I found it pretty shameful that the school my 8yr old son attends made absolutely no effort to acknowledge this day - perhaps in England they do a better job but I would of thought a tribute with a short lesson, a bit of music and some war time fun could of been the smallest contribution a Christian school could of done. We will not forget them??? Well in the Welsh schools they are doing a pretty good job. Floppy backed
  • Score: 5

6:39am Mon 9 Jun 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

I agree with Maria that it's deeply disturbing to encounter such a plethora of far-right extremist sites across the internet, which depressingly seem to attract a disproportionate amount of support from gullible people, despite being run by those who are so obviously complete nutters.

However, I also feel that the British Press have a lot to be blamed for with regard to the rise of far right extremist parties like Ukip. For decades now, much of the press has been continually publishing half-truths and downright misinformation against national and ethnic minorities, anti-immigrant scaremongering, spreading fear and malicious rumours about gay people and ridiculing and even erasing transgender people's very right to exist - a form of annihilation indeed. If 70 years on from the sacrifice of so many lives, we are now nevertheless on the verge of ending up with a neo-Nazi government then I feel that the reactionary brainwashing that has taken place by self-proclaimed 'journalists' over the last couple of decades actually shares more of the blame for the rise of the far-right than a few nutters on t' interweb. The trouble is that what much of the British Press wants is freedom without responsibility. Journalists must realise that what they write does have an impact and can ruin people's lives and even harm the very fabric of a civilized society.

Btw...Here's another quote from a contemporary newspaper:

"They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call “Nazi atrocities” which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny.”"

No, it's not a translation from a contemporary German newspaper, it's actually a quote from a British newspaper called the Daily Mail dated 1933.

It would be wrong to take the Argus's support of allied war aims as typical of its era. It's as well to remember, that Viscount Rothermere owned most British newspapers of the time and he was a big fan of Mussolini, Mosely and Hitler. For all their protestations of 'freedom of speech' in the light of the Leveson recommendations and their pontificating about 'fighting Hitler on the beaches', fascism and the British Press's place in history is actually that of a couple who have shared a long love affair.
I agree with Maria that it's deeply disturbing to encounter such a plethora of far-right extremist sites across the internet, which depressingly seem to attract a disproportionate amount of support from gullible people, despite being run by those who are so obviously complete nutters. However, I also feel that the British Press have a lot to be blamed for with regard to the rise of far right extremist parties like Ukip. For decades now, much of the press has been continually publishing half-truths and downright misinformation against national and ethnic minorities, anti-immigrant scaremongering, spreading fear and malicious rumours about gay people and ridiculing and even erasing transgender people's very right to exist - a form of annihilation indeed. If 70 years on from the sacrifice of so many lives, we are now nevertheless on the verge of ending up with a neo-Nazi government then I feel that the reactionary brainwashing that has taken place by self-proclaimed 'journalists' over the last couple of decades actually shares more of the blame for the rise of the far-right than a few nutters on t' interweb. The trouble is that what much of the British Press wants is freedom without responsibility. Journalists must realise that what they write does have an impact and can ruin people's lives and even harm the very fabric of a civilized society. Btw...Here's another quote from a contemporary newspaper: "They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call “Nazi atrocities” which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny.”" No, it's not a translation from a contemporary German newspaper, it's actually a quote from a British newspaper called the Daily Mail dated 1933. It would be wrong to take the Argus's support of allied war aims as typical of its era. It's as well to remember, that Viscount Rothermere owned most British newspapers of the time and he was a big fan of Mussolini, Mosely and Hitler. For all their protestations of 'freedom of speech' in the light of the Leveson recommendations and their pontificating about 'fighting Hitler on the beaches', fascism and the British Press's place in history is actually that of a couple who have shared a long love affair. Katie Re-Registered
  • Score: 2

6:50am Mon 9 Jun 14

BernardCCC says...

I agree with Maria too.
I agree with Maria too. BernardCCC
  • Score: 1

9:28am Mon 9 Jun 14

Jimport says...

The D-Day-related click-bait being shared by Britain First and their ilk on Facebook over the weekend was disgusting, quite frankly. The irony of ultra-nationalist racists benefiting from the commemoration of efforts to eliminate Nazism from Europe would be laughable if it wasn't so sickening.
The D-Day-related click-bait being shared by Britain First and their ilk on Facebook over the weekend was disgusting, quite frankly. The irony of ultra-nationalist racists benefiting from the commemoration of efforts to eliminate Nazism from Europe would be laughable if it wasn't so sickening. Jimport
  • Score: 0

9:33am Mon 9 Jun 14

varteg1 says...

Far more emphasis needs to placed when history is taught on the reasons for both the two twentieth century European wars.

No one can even begin to take away the sacrifices made by the ordinary military personnel, amongst whom were heroes , as well as skivers and crooks, they all played their part, in both conflicts, as did the people whom felt the weight of Nazi raids in WW2, it was a horrifying period Not to forget those that paid the price in the Pacific theatres.

All of which came about because of similar policies being practiced today, with the concomitant rise in nationalist fervour from the easily led and gullible who seek to find blameworthy victims in communities they
believe are the cause of their own perceived miseries.
We desperately need to reveal the real causes of those wars, both in Europe and the far east, maybe when the young of today fully comprehend the real causes of those wars the future may be a more stable and peaceful place in which to live.

As for present day conflicts, which all appear to be mainly based in a battle for superiority by one religious cult, against the rest of the worlds people, we are rapidly approaching a period in time, that unless stringent curtailment is made to contain the aspirations of that religion, we may be forced into a new, and probably even more terrifying period, than that which took place between 1914/18, and 1939/45.

Then we recognised our enemy, if the indications are correct,and we enter into such a new conflict, we will be disadvantaged by our inability to recognise our enemy, as he will be so well entrenched we may see the conflict on any and all streets across the land.

His skin colour may well be no identifier, just as in Northern Ireland, your next door neighbour could belong to either side.

To tread on another thread for a moment, this is why the situation in the Birmingham school matter is so very important, and worrying.
Far more emphasis needs to placed when history is taught on the reasons for both the two twentieth century European wars. No one can even begin to take away the sacrifices made by the ordinary military personnel, amongst whom were heroes , as well as skivers and crooks, they all played their part, in both conflicts, as did the people whom felt the weight of Nazi raids in WW2, it was a horrifying period Not to forget those that paid the price in the Pacific theatres. All of which came about because of similar policies being practiced today, with the concomitant rise in nationalist fervour from the easily led and gullible who seek to find blameworthy victims in communities they believe are the cause of their own perceived miseries. We desperately need to reveal the real causes of those wars, both in Europe and the far east, maybe when the young of today fully comprehend the real causes of those wars the future may be a more stable and peaceful place in which to live. As for present day conflicts, which all appear to be mainly based in a battle for superiority by one religious cult, against the rest of the worlds people, we are rapidly approaching a period in time, that unless stringent curtailment is made to contain the aspirations of that religion, we may be forced into a new, and probably even more terrifying period, than that which took place between 1914/18, and 1939/45. Then we recognised our enemy, if the indications are correct,and we enter into such a new conflict, we will be disadvantaged by our inability to recognise our enemy, as he will be so well entrenched we may see the conflict on any and all streets across the land. His skin colour may well be no identifier, just as in Northern Ireland, your next door neighbour could belong to either side. To tread on another thread for a moment, this is why the situation in the Birmingham school matter is so very important, and worrying. varteg1
  • Score: 0

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