Never Forgotten

On the anniversary of the D-Day Landings, historian Dr Spencer Jones reflects on why it is so important to remember what happened.

"Although it is 75 years since the events of D-Day, the invasion still has a grip on the popular imagination.  It is right that it is remembered. 

In the 21st century it is easy to forget the state of Europe in 1944.  The Second World War was in its fifth year and the murderous Third Reich had occupied France, Belgium and the Netherlands for four of them.  The British Isles had narrowly avoided a similar fate due to the strength of the Royal Navy and the efforts of the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain.  Yet, as the tide of war turned, the same English Channel which had protected Britain in 1940 posed a barrier to the liberation of Western Europe.  Worse still, the Germans had fortified portions of the coast, turning it into the 'Atlantic Wall'.

Crossing the Channel and breaching these defences would be a Herculean task but the Allies - Britain, Canada and the United States - were prepared to make a Herculean effort.  The result was Operation OVERLORD - a combined air-land-sea operation of unprecedented complexity and scale.  The landings which took place on D-Day remain the largest seaborne invasion in history.

The fighting that took place on D-Day and in the Normandy campaign that followed was bitter and bloody.  German forces fought tooth and nail to stem the Allied tide.  Casualties were heavy.  Some impression of the intensity of the combat can be gained from the fact that for the British Army the daily attrition rate exceeded that of the notorious Battle of the Somme, 1916.  It was not until August 1944 - two months after D-Day - that the Allies were able to breakout from Normandy.  Paris was finally liberated on 25 August 1944.

In 2019 hindsight can make the Allied triumph in Normandy seem inevitable.  It was not. For all its complexity, the success or failure of Operation OVERLORD depended on the courage, determination and resilience of individual Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen.  Many would become casualties, but their sacrifice contributed to the restoration of the democratic, peaceful and prosperous Europe which we now take for granted. 

For this reason, D-Day deserves to be remembered and commemorated this year - and for many years to come."

 

 

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