Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day when British armed forces and their allies stormed the beaches of Northern France to push the occupying Nazis back and begin the liberation of the French people and ultimately the defeat of Hitler and his warped ideologies.
Watching the ceremonies on tv it's hard not to be deeply moved by the stories the surviving veterans tell about the horrors they endured back then. It must of been like Hell on Earth and thousands of lives were lost in the battle. What the outcome would have been if the Nazis prevailed is unthinkable. We owe those veterans and their fallen comrades so much.
D-Day happened only five short years before I was born, which seems astonishing. My mother remembers the war vividly and tells of having to seek shelter in the cellar of my grandmother's house when the drone of German bombers came overhead. One of her school teachers and his son were killed when a bomb hit their house on Thornes Lane.
In the 1950s, whilst our family was on holiday in Dymchurch, Mum and Dad decided to take us on a day trip to Northern France to visit a cemetery full of war graves. These were some of the young men who had fallen on D-Day. We had never been out of the country previously so this was an exciting trip for us. We booked a sightseeing tour and sailed on the ferry from Folkstone which wasn't too far from Dymchurch. Once we'd arrived in France a coach took us through the French countryside to the cemetery, stopping en route at a roadside cafe for lunch. I remember my grandmother, (who was with us,) turning her nose up at the French food on offer. Eventually we arrived at the cemetery and saw the rows of identical white gravestones. I can remember it as if it was only yesterday but I was still in short trousers, just a young schoolboy.
I only have two photographs from that trip. One is of my mother, my younger brother Ian and I standing on the deck of the ferry as it set sail for France. I have a simple little camera in a cloth case hanging from my shoulders. The other photo' is in the cemetery in France and show me with my brother Ian, my grandmother and my mother, (whose back is to the camera.) My father took the photographs which have survived to this day. The quality isn't very good as they're small, square prints that were standard back in the 1950s. Nevertheless, there we are, blurry and ghost-like, unaware that I would be writing about this and sharing the pictures in the year 2019. I stare out of the frame, a skinny kid, looking out at himself a lifetime later...and I sit here and look back at him, through a portal in time...
My brother Ian in Mum's arms and me by her side on the ferry to France, sometime in the 1950s.
Ian and myself with my grandmother, (in striped dress looking at the camera,) and my mother, (far right with her back to the camera,) at the war graves cemetery in France, sometime in the 1950s.