“Find a moment to honour our D-Day heroes today, despite everything else that’s going on”
Former paratrooper and Labour MP, Dan Jarvis, explains how, when faced with today’s terrorist threats, we can still learn from the heroes of D-Day, and take a moment to remember them. But today, just as then, those freedoms are under attack. Then it was the Nazis, today it is terrorism.
On Thursday, the nation’s attention will be focused on the General Election and what it means for our future.
But today, as we recover from another terrorist attack on London we should also take a moment to remember our past. Because for me, whatever else is happening – the 6th of June will always be D-Day.
D-Day has a huge significance for everyone who has served in our Armed Forces; not least because the term ‘D-Day’ is still used to plan military operations. But the D-Day that began at 6:30am on June 6th 1944 has a special significance.
It was five years since the beginning of the Second World War and four years since the allies had withdrawn from mainland Europe. And was the largest amphibious invasion in history, with more than 158,000 men were carried by over 4,000 ships and thousands of landing craft.
For thousands of young men, that moment 73 years ago began with a ramp lowering in front of them. Some would arrive on beaches that were unopposed. Others would immediately be struck down by a hail of machine-gun fire.
I remember talking to one D-Day veteran in my home town of Barnsley who had spent 40 hours in a boat. He told me that the crossing had been so hazardous that when they finally arrived at the Normandy beaches they were barely in a fit state to fight. But they didn’t want any fuss and they just got on with it.
But the battle for Normandy did not end that day; there were many more hard battles fought over the following 80 days.
The human cost of that victory can still be seen today at the 27 war cemeteries dotted along the Normandy coast. These contain the remains of more than 110,000 dead from both sides. Standing in front of those graves it is impossible not to feel both humbled and inspired.
That’s why, despite everything else that is going on at the moment, and the horrors of the London and Manchester attacks, we should today find a moment to honour these people and what they achieved for us.
The heroes who took up arms 73 years ago did so to defend the freedoms we still enjoy today. But today, just as then, those freedoms are under attack. Then it was the Nazis, today it is terrorism.
If we are to again overcome those threats and protect our freedoms, we must remember the unity and purpose that generation showed, and what they achieved.
That, much more than our differences, is what should still define us today.