When I was a young boy growing up in Britain in the nineteen sixties, my staple diet of comics was The Victor and The Hotspur. They were full of stories of heroism and and playing the game in the right way, and being a decent sport, and all round good egg. Most of the key characters were fighting men, either in the army, RAF, or Navy, the common enemy were the Nazis and the Japanese Imperial Army. The baddies were always portrayed as the bad guys, cruel, evil, and seeking world domination, whereas the goodies were always good sorts who played the game by the rules, and did so with good humour and self effacing modesty.
Indeed my knowledge of German was limited to the following, Hand Hoche, or hands up, Got In Himmel, self explanatory, and Tommies, you pig dogs. Not politically correct in this modern world, but it is worth remembering that I was born only 15 years after the end of the Second World War. Indeed I vividly recall at the age of 6 watching the funeral of the mighty Winston Churchill, one of my lifetime hero’s from that day to this. Hobbies back then were collecting toy soldiers of famous military regiments, as well as my brother and I buying air fix boxes of iconic planes of the Second World War. Our bedroom ceiling was decorated with Spitfires, Hurricanes, Merchersmits, Stuka’s, Lancaster’s, Wellingtons, all lovingly glued together and then hand painted, in original colours.
It is hard to imagine today what todays young people would have made of all this, but back then the Second World War was still very current rationing was only recently ended shortly before my siblings were born. Indeed my dad had served in the RAF as an air craftsman second class, who had helped repair bombers that had been shot at in bombing missions over occupied Europe. My uncle had served in the Royal Navy throughout the war, which was why my grandfather always played Abide With Me, on the grammar phone every night he was away.
So, as the anniversary approaches of the 75th anniversary of the D day landings where over 150,000 men from Britain, the USA, and Canada stormed the beaches of Normandy, often in the face of heavy enemy resistance, with many never coming home, paying the ultimate sacrifice to start the liberation of Europe, and the demise of Hitler’s demonic Third Reich, to allow nations the liberty of freedom and democracy. It is therefore crucial that such memories and sacrifices are not forgotten, In fairness I am no fan of President Donald Trump, many things that he says, does, and believes in are abhorrent to me. However, his state visit is not about the man who is President, and the Commander in Chief, but it is about paying respects to the Men and women of the USA who died fighting for freedom.
So, from a personal point of view I think it is important that the office of President is respected, and it is equally vital and important that all other heads of state from all the nations involved should attend. Especially Germany, who since the end of the war have been the stalwarts of economic and diplomatic stability across Europe and been pivotal in the security of Europe where not a single shot of anger has been fired within the European nations since hostilities finished in 1945. So, respect and homage where it is due when the leaders of the free world will gather in Portsmouth to respect all those who embarked on Operation Overlord, all those years ago, where the last handful of survivors will gather as they enter the twilight of their lives. They will inevitably fade as every generation fades but they will not be forgotten.