The picture on the left is of me aged five with my Uncle David.
He was my father’s younger brother, and I was named after him.
It was 1941 during the early days of WWII; in the background of the picture you can see tents.
This was a British Army camp, and I have clear memories of watching a drill sergeant marching the new recruits up and down the road outside my house.
One day leaving home with my mother, the soldiers were lined up on the road three deep, standing to attention. As we walked by I said in a loud voice as kids often do,
“Mum, you see the one with the beard under his nose. (The drill sergeant had a mustache.) He’s the one who does all the shouting.”
There was audible laughter from some of the soldiers and as my mother hurried me away, I could hear the drill sergeant screaming at the men to be quiet.
We were living in a rural area in Southern England, having moved there in 1940 to escape the bombing in London. The war was something I didn’t understand at the time, but it was all I knew; my father was gone, fighting somewhere in Sahara Desert of North Africa.
Another clear memory I have is of early 1944 when the American soldiers arrived in preparation for the Normandy Invasion. They were everywhere, camped on every spare piece of land, including the same camp behind my house.
I was now eight years old and although they seemed like grown-ups to me, I realize today that most of these young army recruits were barely ten or twelve years older than I was at the time.
I remember they were always happy, laughing and continually horsing around as teenagers will do.
They were so good to us kids, giving us candy and chewing gum every time the saw us. This was a huge deal as sugar was rationed and we had to get by on an allowance of only 2 oz. of candy a month.
We became used to the American soldiers being there, jeeps, trucks and even Sherman Tanks driving by all the time; then one day, the first week of June 1944 the soldiers were gone. I went to school in the morning and they were there, I came home from school that afternoon and they were all gone.
It was a surreal experience that I didn’t understand at the time, anymore than I understood anything else that went on during that period of my life.
Later when I became an adult, it had a profound effect on me. Because even to this day I can still see the faces of those young American boys,(Because that is what many of them were.) laughing, and goofing around.
Only now I realize that those same kids died in their thousands on the Beaches of Normandy and beyond.
I will never forget the sacrifice they made; a sacrifice not of their choosing. But one they made none the less so I would never have to do the same.