Posted by: Chris Hoskins | June 5, 2009

In Grateful Memory

As you all probably know, tomorrow is the 65th anniversary of the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy on June 6th 1944, D-Day.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the history of World War 2. When I was a wee boy, it was mostly the battles and heroics that interested me, as with most boys I would imagine! Since growing older, I have become more interested in the politcal, humanitarian and sociological aspects, although the battles, specifically the tactics, still hold great interest for me.
My interest first came from growing up watching many war films with my Dad: ‘The Longest Day’ ‘The Dambusters’ ‘A Bridge to Far’ etc etc etc Looking back, I don’t think I really got what the films were trying to say. Yes, I got the part about heroes and guns. But I don’t think I ever got what it was all about, I never understood why they were fighting (I got that the Germans or ‘Jerries’ were bad), but didn’t know why) I never understood what so many had gone through in the war, I never understood how many people had actually died. Perhaps the films I watched glamorized war, perhaps I just didn’t really pay attention or was too young to pick it up. I don’t think ‘modern’ films and series about the war could ever do the men who fought justice either, but I think I’m at a place where I can look beyond the well shot battle scenes and special effects and start seeing more of the story told in things like ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’.
I wanted to pay something of a tribute to the people who gave so much during the war, not just during the D-Day landings. So many of them can never be thanked, so many of them will never know how much is owed to them. How many of us today actually know what we owe them? Do we just take for granted the reality we are presented with, the culture we live in, and not really give much thought to those who fought and died to make it a possibility? I fear I take it for granted, that I don’t really take the time to remember those who got us here, those who sacrificed so that we may enjoy this world, this freedom(?). Am I too apathetic, or am I normal for this society? What more could society, me, do to remember War heroes, and I’m now talking from all wars, not just WWII. I fear I’m rambling now!
One of the things that has always impressed me about men involved in the fighting in WWII. So few of them want to big up the role they had in the fighting, always eager to downplay their role and talk-up those that they fought alongside. The humility is incredible, the refusal to see what a massive impact the personally had on the word and those around them. I’ve heard countless stories from friends about family members who had done incredible things during the war and not made mention of them to anyone, often stories wouldn’t come out until their funerals when military buddies would tell the stories. I was asking my Dad tonight if anyone from my family had been involved in WWII. Surprisingly few had been, both Grandfathers were too young(by just a few years) to be involved. My Grandads brother (my Dads Uncle) was involved in the Battle for Monte Cassino (although I’m unsure which phases of the battle). He was a spotter for an artillery regiment. Again, no-one in my family knew anything about what happened until his funeral, my Grandad knew nothing of any injury and his parents thought his brothers injury was a digging accident. Anyway, my Great-Uncle, Harry Hoskins, was taking part in the battle. As an artillery spotter, his role was to provide accurate co-ordinates of enemy positions for the artillery to fire upon. This meant him spending a lot of time behind enemy lines, if he was alone or with others I don’t know. At somepoint during his spotting duties, he was himself spotted by the Axis forces and fired upon. A resultant explosion left him with a wounded leg, which he told his parents had been injured when digging a foxhole and the entrenching tool gashing his leg. It wasn’t until his funeral that the truth was let known to his family.
I often wonder if I would have the guts to do what so many did. Would I watch my brothers back, or would I find the closest hiding place and cower? For the fact that I don’t have to find out, I thank God, for the fact that so many thousands of men had the courage to not cower I thank God.
If you don’t already, I encourage you to appreciate those who have fought and died or been injured in the name of freedom, for our sake and the sake of so many more. Lets not take it for granted, lets take advantage of what so many gave their lives to provide.

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Responses

  1. Great post. I too feel similar – even my dad is not old enough to have been involved in WW2, but I greatly respect all the people who fought, who died, so that we could be free.

    On the way back from France at the weekend I stopped at the War Memorial near the ferry terminal at Caen to pay my respects to those French soldiers who also fought on our behalf. It was amazing to think that 65 years and a couple of weeks earlier people were dying there.


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