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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

D-Day vs. dog days

Compared to the 1994 D-Day commemorations, events last week passed off without a hitch. A decade ago, John Major's shambolic attempts to get something going were rightly derided, alienating even the war veterans in the process. At one time English life often seemed like one long re-run of the Second World War, from Sunday afternoon war films to the press coverage of European football competitions. The phrase 'couldn't organise a D-Day commemoration in Britain' could well have replaced the old cliche about drinking sessions in breweries.

Whatever your take on World War Two, the men on the ground then compare favourably to later generations. Those like me who grew up in the 1970s and learnt some German -'achtung', 'Gott in Himmel' - from war comics, or contemporary teenagers for whom the slightest problem is 'like, so stressful', probably wouldn't last long in the war zones of the 1940s.

In part, this is because unlike today, civilian life and army life weren't that far apart. But for many this was more of an opportunity than a problem. My friend Dave Hallsworth, a veteran of military and class warfare (and sometimes both at once), summed up this spirit after reading the war diary of Bert Allton:
"It takes you into service life. I read in the Telegraph today a quote from a survivor of WW2 saying he was closer to members of his tank crew than to his own brothers. It was a very exciting time for them all, cut loose from friends and relations, no worries about finding money to pay for daily life, new sights, a camaraderie far wider than in 'civvy street', lots of risks and fears to overcome. Nothing they have experienced since compares with it."

Quite rightly various commentators have been tough on those politicians trying to link D-Day to the war on terror. But we would do well to remember the sheer toughness and fortitude of the so-called greatest generation compared to today's soft and litigious outlook.


Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Graham B,
I was just passing looking for Trading Cards links on the blogger site and found your D-Day vs. dog days blog. Your blog was not quite what I was looking for, but I enjoyed my visit all the same.

11:12 am  

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