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Memories on this Veterans Day

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.


Reader Comments (11)

Awesome, Dave, I thought I'd pause from my highschool hallway skirmish with the hipsters to comment here, then I will finish my coffee and get to work LOL..

My father was a captain in the Navy for a mine layer /submarine net ship in the pacific. He was on Iwo Jima after the marines cleaned up. He picked up some wierd "jungle rot" fungus on his legs , it came back every couple years. He didn't see actual combat, but witnessed enough carnage to give him "issues". He once saw a man get cut in half by a mine cable as it went overboard, that sort of thing.

As a young boy, I used to have to bandage the boils on his legs. I wonder now if it was Agent Orange. He was conservative, very smart , and a good businessman. He started a successful Toro franchise when he came back. He was definitely type A.
He kept me well supplied with bicycles.

He committed suicide very violently my sophomore year in college. The rest of us pressed on.

I think Americans need to purge themselves a little more of their self-righteousness from WW2. Yes, we hauled ass and saved the planet, or so we thought.

But I would like us all to take a moment to say a prayer for the soldiers of Dark Horse 3rd battalion in Afghanistan. 9 guys in 4 days, the count may have risen since.

Every time I see someone gun their Hummer, wasting gasoline to race me to a red light I think about those boys.

Things today would be so different if we had to ration candy and gasoline.

peace out


November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

Those who fought in the second world war are dying out now - I hope they and those who made sacrifices aren't forgotten.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstephen_mc

"Got any GUM chum?" Oh the memories! A 'YANK' Base on a country lane near Meriden on the way to Coventry. We use to ride our bikes there and look for spoons,badges anything 'Yankee' they where very friendly "Have a stick of gum kid" I dont think we ever gave a thought as to what was going to happen to them. All like a big dream. Standing on the front step of our house in Yardley near the Coventry road, Looking toward Coventy and seeing the red glow of the city on fire after GERRY bombed it one night. House up the street flattened with bombs and land mines, Looking for scrapnel etc bits of incendary bombs that fell all over. My Dad on VE night hauling the record player radio out in the street to play for all my mates to,celebrate. Even now at 77yrs YOUNG I still remember it all. LUCKY LUCKY to STILL be here. Thankfull for ALL the sacrifices made by all. God bless em all! OldBrit and proud of it, John Crump

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Thanks for sharing those memories, Dave. My dad was one of those American boys stationed in England in the days before the Normandy invasion. He was one of the lucky ones who went ashore a couple days after the beach landing. He fought his way through Europe, including the Battle of the Bulge, until the Germans surrendered, then was transferred to the Pacific to prepare for the planned invasion of Japan.

He didn't tell many stories about the war, preferring not to talk or think about what he went through. But he always spoke fondly of his time in the UK and the warmth of the English people who welcomed the Yanks with open arms.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbikinginla

I mourn the passing of that generation. We will never fill their shoes...

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

Well written post. A very different time indeed.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

Wow. An interesting take on what happened over there on DDay. It absolutely amazes me that so many of those boys had the courage to do what needed doing, and so many gave their lives in that pursuit. Just boys, too, most of them, on both sides of the war.

It's good that we remember their sacrifice. Thanks for the post.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBig Mikey

Certainly an appropriate note on Veteran's Day. Seeing those camps and faces certainly created some unforgettable impressions. Both my parents served in WWII. Father was an officer in the Navy, S. Pacific region, and my mother worked for the Red Cross in Europe. My mother would discuss her experiences but not my father.

One of my neighbors was the same age as you during the war but grew up in southern Germany. She enjoyed seeing the Americans arrive in her bombed out town and enjoyed all the candy they handed out to the surviving children. She eventually married a US military veteran and moved to the US. Certainly a chain of experiences that should never be forgotten or minimized.

November 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Thank you Dave.

"Lest we forget."

November 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Hayman

Great post Dave. Darn I have something in my eye...

November 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermander

Dave, I had a British moment yesterday, thought you might dig this:


(I just started this new blog)

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

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