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Reflecting on D-Day, 80 years later

June 13th,2024 | Valley Voices

As I write, 80 years ago today – D-Day, June 6, 1944 – 350,000 soldiers and sailors of the Allied Armed Forces of Canadian, American, British and Commonwealth troops left the south coast of Britain and landed in northern France along a series of beaches in Normandy Allied casualties…were 10,000 with 4,000 dead.

This will be the last of the great anniversaries of D-Day that I will likely see.

Ten years ago, on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, I took my granddaughter, Sarah Sunshine, and a dear friend, Luna, to stand on Juno beach, where the Canadian contingents had landed.

The beautiful Canadian War Museum there is a fine tribute to many who landed, survived, were wounded or died. The beach itself is strikingly beautiful.

Eighty years ago, as a child, I stood in the garden of our house in Bournemouth, on the south coast of England, where thousands of troops had been assembling and training for months. Only days before, thanks to my mother’s generosity, the last of a string of U.S. and Canadian soldiers had been guests in our house, imagining, no doubt, and possibly for the last time, that with us they were back in the stable lives in their homes across the ocean.  

I spent the nights of the war sleeping in an underground shelter. Our town [was hit by] 2,200 bombs between 1940 and early 1944. The house next door was destroyed and parts of our property as well.

My father spent the war in the North African campaign and then in the Italy invasion and finally in Germany, staying until 1946 [to help] reestablish the German medical system. I cannot imagine what he witnessed as a surgeon during those years. I did not know who he was or what a father was when he returned. He never spoke of the war, though he took us in 1947 to Normandy and Brittany.

I am still haunted by the sound of single-engine, propeller aircraft droning in the sky and the memory of the air raid warning siren. I remember the great searchlights roaming the night sky trying to spot enemy aircraft, since bombing raids were always at night. 

And here we are again – whether it’s the attempted Russian occupation of Ukraine [or the] the belligerence of China towards Uyghurs and Taiwan….I am a peaceful Spiritual Philosophy and Meditation teacher. But I also teach about the essential presence and balance of both chaos and order. Complacency and ignoring threats made to our friends renders us impotent as citizens and as friends, and in our complacency we become agents of chaos. To my students I advocate that we remain alert, keep ourselves moral and centred and that we maintain a determination and fitness to cope with disorder, attack and undue chaos. I do not want to sleep in a bomb shelter nor stand in my garden listening to the drone of aircraft overhead ever again.

Lest we forget.

Andrew Salkeld is a Wakefield resident. 

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