Comment: Turning the tide of war




D-Day 80 is a commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings. A series of major commemorations in both the UK and France will honour the brave personnel who risked their lives for freedom and peace. Bob Fraser has been following the media coverage of these events and here he reflects on what they mean to him.

World War II photograph shows an aerial view of the various naval vessels around the beaches of Normandy in northernmost France. Shown here landing supplies such as tanks, military vehicles, weapons and troops; the Invasion of Normandy is considered the largest amphibious invasion in history.

Bob writes: Many of us will have been watching the D-Day commemorations on TV. I can’t imagine what those involved would have gone through eighty years ago.

The veterans who are telling their poignant stories now, are of course, all in their late nineties. One man interviewed was 104 years old and still articulate, still living independently. Many become emotional as they re-live the stories of their involvement; while remembering the comrades they served with, and remembering those they lost. The reminder to ‘never forget’ is a poignant message.

My tenuous link with it all is my father, who was in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Following the evacuation of British and Allied soldiers from Dunkirk in June 1940, codenamed ‘Operation Dynamo’, there were lesser known evacuations from other ports further along the French Coast at Le Havre and Cherbourg. Saint Nazaire was a major port on the west coast of France and my father was deployed there as second in command to assist with evacuation of soldiers retreating from the advancing German army and get them safely back to Blighty.

Digitally restored vintage World War II photo of American troops wading ashore on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.

I can find little record of this, as opposed to Dunkirk, but the story goes that many soldiers weren’t able to get to Dunkirk in time for the evacuation, and made their way further along the French coast in the hope of rescue. As the Germans continued their advance, my father was waist deep in the sea water for long hours without much food, helping men to embark on rescue ships and head to safety. Not surprisingly, his health deteriorated to the point where he was hospitalised on his return to the UK. The Germans subsequently occupied the Port of Saint Nazaire and turned it into a fortress like base for their submarine operations.

Sadly, My father was unable to take any further part in the war and spent many months convalescing in hospitals, before being discharged from the Navy. His health never fully recovered and my mum recalled that, in the twenty years they were married, he had a spell in hospital every year bar one. As a boy, I was shielded from much of this and I knew very little of the part he had played in the war. His poor health finally got the better of him when I was sixteen. He had never spoken about the war and I had never asked. It didn’t seem important to me as we were living in a time of peace. It never occurred to me that he had been an ordinary bloke doing extraordinary things to serve others in a time of war. It’s only in more recent years that I’ve tried to find out more about his life.

US soldiers invading Omaha Beach on D Day

As I reflect on not just my father, but all those who served in WW2, it’s helpful to listen to their stories. Most of them had no idea when they were going or where they were going until the orders were given. There was a long period of preparation and an anxious wait as D-Day approached. Most of the Veterans talk about just ‘doing their bit’ or being ‘no one special’, but many of them found depths of courage and sacrifice which they never knew they had. They became real heroes and their contributions made a significant difference and turned the tide of the war.

It’s easy to talk about the futility of war but, as we can now understand a bit more clearly, there is sometimes a need to make a stand for a just cause and resist an enemy who is determined to occupy your land. Peace sometimes comes with a hefty price tag, and we do well to keep on remembering the courage and sacrifice which has bought our freedom.

Find out more here: Discover D-Day – D-Day 80 (

Watch the coverage here: BBC iPlayer – D-Day 80: We Were There

Learn about exhibitions and events here: D-Day 80 Events | Imperial War Museums (

All Photo Credits: Getty Images

Bob Fraser

Bob Fraser is a singer-songwriter, men’s group leader and Regional Director for CVM aiming to open up conversations about life and faith.

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