It is – at the time I write this – June 6, the anniversary of arguably the most monumental event of the 20th century; D-Day, the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe, and undoubtedly the beginning of the end of the Second World War.
I wonder if we may spare a few seconds’ thought for the few surviving veterans who achieved the vital beachhead on that fateful day. Soon there will be none of them left.
Although I have no personal entitlement to memories of the event, I have, as an interested historian, read very much of it and, more importantly, during the 80s and 90s, heard first hand the experiences of once young men, who had to endure the horrors of that first terrifying day on the Normandy beaches.
They told of their un-erasable feelings of survivors’ guilt, having watched perish before them comrades numberless, amid screams, curses and incessant gunfire, yet somehow still finding the nerve and sinew to press on.
The war for them had a simple rationale; it was between those who sought to enslave the world and those who sought to free it, and the objective of D-Day was to free Europe.
Freedom and liberty were their watchwords; it was the legacy they genuinely and sincerely felt they had bestowed on the generations to come, and in pursuit of that, they, then mostly teenagers and young men in their 20s, accepted rough times and good times equally and feared nothing.
What an irony it is that, nearly 80 years on from that day of freedom, the generations to whom they endowed that priceless gift, seem now to fear… words.
Words are the palette of free communication; the last thing we need is their restriction.
It is becoming imbecilic; inane. Orators cancelled for using some word or other that might offend somebody, prominent historical works of literature edited for ‘unsuitable’ content, or an author targeted with violent protest for using fundamental terms of definition.
And even in this newspaper, demands from correspondents not to publish letters from other correspondents expressing the ‘wrong’ opinion.
By much the same logic, becoming elected these days seems to empower our political representatives to control our everyday freedoms with restrictive legislation.
Freedom was desperately fought for. Freedom is; it cannot be imposed. Please spare a few seconds thought for those young men and D-Day.
By Mick Bradford
Peperham Road, Haslemere