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July 11, 2005

VE/VJ Day 60 th Anniversary.

You’ll have seen this on the news, heard it on the radio, the celebration yesterday of the 60 th anniversary of VE and VJ days.

A service at Westminster Abbey, the bells fired (rung together rather than in sequence) for the first time since VJ day itself, a show in Horse Guards, the parade down the mall, the flyover :

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

The million poppy petals falling from the Lancaster. The parade itself. More excellent photos at the MOD site.

Not too surprsingly both my grandfathers were involved in WWII. One, an Air Force officer, worked on the development programme for the Spitfire and Seafire. Crashed his Hurricane before the war and reverted to ground based engineering for the rest of his career. The other was a doctor in Birmingham and was awarded the Albert Medal (roughly equivalent to and before the George Medal) for his actions during the bombings. Reading the citation is scary even now, 65 years later. In one incident, a collapsed building, burning still, with a woman trapped in the basement. He had his legs tied together, lowered head first down the firemen’s tunnel and amputated her trapped leg before pulling her out the same hole, the firemen hauling  on the rope.  Another, a bombed building, two walls and part of a the first floor left standing, upon which a woman in childbirth.  Up pops a ladder, up he goes, the baby delivered and handed down along with the mother. As the ambulance drives away and the various crews disperse, the final two walls fall down.

My wife’s father also fought, sunk twice as a seaman.

They were both gone before I was old enough to really know them (and I didn’t know father in law for long either). But there aren’t any family stories handed down about what they did. There’s plenty about rationing, about the creation of the NHS afterwards, about what it was like in the 1930s on the North West Frontier, but nothing about the actual war itself. I think this is why:

Ronald Perry, 81, was one of the veterans who brought their medals and memories. He was in the Parachute Regiment and remembers 1am on June 6, 1944, over Normandy. "We were shot at on the way down," he said. "After a couple of weeks, only 15 of our original platoon of 40 were still alive.

"I was 20 and had been brought up in that climate. I was doing something that mattered. So many didn't come back.

"I keep the emotions for my quiet moments."

And yes, in the celebrations yesterday, after they had the Last Post for those who died, those who did not grow old as we do, those we remember at the going down of the sun and in the morning, they sang that hymn, the one that is the unoffical alternative national anthem.

ND did those feet in ancient time                      
Walk upon England's mountains green?                      
And was the holy Lamb of God                      
On England's pleasant pastures seen?                      
And did the Countenance Divine                      
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?                      
And was Jerusalem builded here                      
Among these dark Satanic Mills?                      
Bring me my bow of burning gold!                      
Bring me my arrows of desire!                      
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!                      
Bring me my chariot of fire!                      
I will not cease from mental fight,                      
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,                      
Till we have built Jerusalem                      
In England's green and pleasant land.

As we know, as we can see from the photos of yesterday, the generation that fought for this is passing. Please, we may have our paltry disagreements in this generation about exactly what constitutes the Jerusalem we strive for, let us not forget what people have fought and died for, devoted the best years of their lives to, not just this green and pleasant land, but the fact that we can make it better, that we truly can build Jerusalem.

July 11, 2005 in Military | Permalink


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Tracked on Jul 11, 2005 11:29:02 AM


Good post, Tim!

If some of our politicians, and more importantly the so-called civil servants who stand behind and prod them, could have the Anthem's words hammered into their thick skulls, we might be in a better state to be able to defend our country and way of life against attacks such as these bombings.

Posted by: Mike Cunningham | Jul 11, 2005 9:56:58 AM

Well said Tim. Our disagreements about how to run this country of ours seem insignificant when you look a what these people went through.

Yesterday was a great day for people to show their thanks for what that generation did and it couldn't have come at a better time.

PS. Thanks for the link to my post too.

Posted by: Steve | Jul 11, 2005 11:48:05 AM

My Dad bobbed about in a corvette making sure supplies got across the Gulf of St. Lawrence. My grandfather did the double starting in the trenches before taking to the air and making ace as well as MC with bar.

They didn't talk about it much. And now we don't talk about it much. But I make sure my kids know and I make sure they are proud to have had men in their line who fought.

A grand post.

Posted by: Jay Currie | Jul 12, 2005 10:08:31 AM

My father like so many other fathers was in the WWII and never said a negative word about being away for the duration. This is not a year, 18 months, it was 33, 36, 39 months without a leave home. Gob Bless Them All, that are living. My Dad has gone on and is remembered in his small town as an american not black, white, yellow or brown. They went without thining of the danger. They went for the cause, for the greater good of our Country. God Bless Them All, to include the Brits, New Zealanders, Ausses, Indians, Poles and other those others who went, spent their time and returned to their homes, overthere and here. Gol Bless Them All, Honor Their Service. Salute to each of them...

Posted by: jim king | Oct 17, 2005 8:31:53 PM