On missing D-Day by a hair

If I had been a couple of years older, I would probably have been one of those too many unfortunates who died that day.

“I like a man who grins when he fights.” Winston Churchill

Peter Warland

So it is now 70 years since the famous D-Day landing in Normandy, the re-invasion of mainland Europe, and I missed it. If I had been a couple of years older, I would probably have been one of those too many unfortunates who died that day. I’d have probably been blown to pieces on the beaches, on the English Channel or in the air. At the time I was unhappy not to have been there.

On many an occasion in later years, when I was teaching and the subject of war arose, the inevitable cry went up from my students, “Oh! You wouldn’t have got me there, no way,” and then I would have to explain.

During a war, there is madness in the air. The pressure is on the young men to go and fight. In my days, it was the press and the radio that hammered at our impressionable heads. All day long we were told that it was our duty to get into uniform and fight – there was no mention of the blowing to bits stuff. We were immortal.

In my day as a spotty youth I knew that, very soon, I would turn 18 and be called up. We were informed that we would have to choose between the army, the navy, the air force or the coal mines. Well, I and my friends all knew that, of those choices, the really dangerous option were the coal mines. A lad could get seriously dead there and, besides, uniforms looked more impressive to the girls than did miners’ dirty outfits.

For two or three years I strutted about in an air force cadet uniform, cap rakishly aslant. I had a good time, learned a lot of astro-navigation and aircraft recognition, caught flights with trainee airmen, crashed a glider or two but, I’m sure, did not impress the fair sex except, perhaps, my mother.

But then D-Day happened and I missed it. The radio announcers were jubilant, the newspapers were full of it, pictures were shown at the local cinemas and everyone rejoiced, except of course my 16-year-old companions and me. We’d missed it.

However, I don’t think I missed scrambling up those never-ending beaches at low tide or dropping out of a plane and hoping that my chute would open. I didn’t rue the fact that I’d not been bobbing about on the English Channel that day, probably throwing up. No, I’d always imagined myself as a pilot, a fighter pilot in a ‘spitfire’, but I missed my chance, dammit.

The first thing to go ‘poof’ in war is the truth. We reluctant civilians were never told, for example, that it had been the famous Erwin Rommel who had organized the defence of the Normandy beaches, nor that Churchill had a less-than-exemplary reputation as a warlord; so many things had gone wrong with his plans.

We never really knew what it was like in the armed forces. Once they had you in uniform, they put you in the charge of non-commissioned officers who, apparently, had the I.Q. of earth-worms. These fellows bullied you into submission by means of ridiculous drilling, yelling abuse at you and embarrassing you to follow them into hell, and never to let your buddies down. That’s how it works.

You don’t fight for glory, or King and Country. You face all sorts of terrors and spend your time trying not to become a casualty and looking after your new-found friends. You are not going to become an Erroll Flynn nor a John Wayne, as they were portrayed at ‘the pictures’ — we used to love to sit in the back row of the movies and jeer at Hollywood’s interpretation of war – because, as were the Germans who also had mothers, wives and children fretting about them, we’d been conned.

Anyway, I missed D-Day and, although I rued the fact, I am positive that Mum was very happy that she and Dad had started on me two years too late.

Just Posted

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read