Remembering D-Day: 75 years on

Published: 3rd June 2019

D-Day commemorations

This month it will be the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. That courageous and astounding action was one of the key turning points that led to the end of the Second World War and the defeat of Nazism. The further in time we move from that day in June 1944 the more remote it may seem and the reality of the invasion and battle may diminish, replaced by other conflicts, or more sadly by film images of imaginary battles. To forget those heroic events would be a loss not just to history but to understanding the impact that conflict has on society.

On 6 June – D-Day – there is an opportunity to reflect on the incredible bravery of so many men and women, as well as that of their families, especially those that suffered a loss. It is an opportunity to commemorate those who fell, or carried the wounds of those days for their remaining lives. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the ingenuity of those who developed the machines, equipment and the intelligence to launch such an audacious attack against the military machine of Nazism that had swept across and dominated Europe only four years early. While we would not celebrate war we can celebrate human endeavour and spirit; we can also celebrate the relationships that were built across Europe to bring an end to a murderous regime that had occupied, enslaved and destroyed large swathes of the continent.

The men and women that fought in the Allied Forces of the Second World War came from across the UK, Canada and the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the former Soviet Union, India (including modern day Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal), the Caribbean, Palestine and British African countries; they also came from the occupied countries of Poland, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium and elsewhere. If you visit a Commonwealth War Grave Commission military cemetery in France, Germany, Italy, India and beyond you will see the different nationalities lying side by side, a permanent reminder of the sacrifice they were prepared to make to stop the Nazis and their allies and to bring peace to the world. Surely 75 years later the hopes and dreams of those men and women are worth being reminded of, and the relationships they formed working together can be celebrated.

During June we are making two of our D-Day resources free to access – an article from The Historian by Paula Kitching and Jon Wort, and a filmed interview with the women of Bletchley Park including a section about the run-up to D-Day. Find them both via the links at the end of this article.

National Armed Forces Day

At the end of June, on the 28th, is Armed Forces Day – a relatively new introduction to the annual calendar here in the UK. Commemorating conflict on particular anniversaries has become a tradition; this day though was introduced as a way of exploring and thanking all the different aspects of the Armed Forces even in peace time. It was there to raise awareness of technological advantages that the Forces make as well as their role across the globe as peace keepers, trainers in former conflict zones, intelligence analysts and security services. For many people this day might seems a little alien or even uncomfortable, but it is there as a reminder that the Armed Forces are a part of the UK’s history, and they are a key part of the current UK’s global commitment and to its co-operative role with other countries in NATO and UN forces.

Armed Forces Day and its aims are a way of ensuring that as the veterans of D-Day pass away and the commemoration on the beaches become smaller then the roles that ordinary men and women have carried out on the battlefield, in the offices of places such as Bletchley Park, on the sea and in the air to bring nations together will not be forgotten.