Near 6 am tomorrow one of the more historic events in the history of the world will be commemorated. Seventy years ago the landings started on Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches on the Normandy coast of France. We know it as D-Day and it marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War.
The youngest of the surviving veterans would be in their late 80’s now, humbled by infirmity and the relentless toll of age, but for a few moments tomorrow, they will be tall, strong and brave again as they were when, for many, they first arrived in France, June 6th, 1944.
My favourite quote from the historical documents is the line attributed to a British officer, whose landing craft was being shot to hell by enemy machine gunners on the run in to Sword: “We seem to be intruding. This might be a private beach!”
World War II was never the war to end all wars, or the penultimate war, or the last good war: War can never be “good” involving as it does, the mindless waste of things, treasure and lives. However we must take a moment tomorrow and remember what they did and show our respect, not just for those who have lived long enough to see this anniversary, but for those who never got to see the sunrise on June 7th 1944.
We know their friends from then will take a moment tomorrow to remember them with a muttered thanks, a discreet tear and invariably a firm, sharp, salute.