My grandfather, unusually for the 1930s became a nurse (the profession was dominated in those days by women), and as such served as an army medic during World War 2. He was always really reluctant to discuss what he had witnessed, even as my own love of history developed, and he remained particularly steadfast in not wanting to discuss D-Day. He was in one of the first medical regiments to treat the injured at Arromanches, and I know he saw many pass away in those early days of June 1944. He was a gentle man, who spent his little money trying to see the World, but he only ever said one thing regularly about the Second World War that it was necessary and that we must never allow extremism to take hold again. As we all watched those veterans visiting Normandy this week (for many, sadly, probably their last visit) you could see in their eyes those same thoughts as they remembered their comrades that never returned and paid the ultimate sacrifice so that the people of Europe could be free from tyranny. Equally, how uplifting watching some of the events, and I always find myself welling up as I watch: this time the veteran parachutist doing a tandem dive with a current paratrooper towards Pegasus Bridge really got me. As the Queen said, “When I attended the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, some thought it might be the last such event; but the wartime generation – my generation – is resilient…”.
There seems to be a lot of excellent drama on TV at the moment, but I have particularly “enjoyed” Years and Years, its portrayal of a world where radicalism creeps back in is scarily plausible, and the very reason we must take lessons from watching the D-Day commemorations about being resilient in the face of radicalism. As adults, parents and teachers alike, we must teach these values to our children.
To lighten the mood slightly, I have had a week of lots of meetings, and I was just remarking to my PA how frustrating that can feel when I don’t see many students when 2 students (who I don’t know very well, so my apologies) knocked on the door and asked a very simple question “Blur or Oasis?”. Suddenly, I was transported back to 1995 and being in an Indy club listening to Country House and Roll With It, and waiting to find out who was getting the Number 1 spot. I don’t know whether they appreciated the length/depth of my answer, but I think they know a little more about my musical tastes, and for me gave me the perfect antithesis to the week; the hope and optimism of youth that we all work so hard to instil in our young people. Thanks girls.
Enjoy the weekend, and remember the words of the First World World War poet, John Maxwell Edmunds, “For your Tomorrow, we gave our Today”.