I’d always wanted to visit the Normandy beaches. I like history, I find it interesting. I don’t go on beach holidays, when I go away I’m visiting museums and looking at the history. I’m interested in British and military history, so I was really looking forward to visiting the D-Day beaches as this ticked both boxes.
And it was fabulous, I’d recommend it to anyone. It was a real eye-opener. I thought I knew about D-Day but I was quite naïve, I had a very basic knowledge of that event. I knew about the beach landings but that was it. In Normandy I found out about the background stories, the diversions and much more.
It was a rollercoaster of emotion. When you’re there it hits you how many people sacrificed themselves. It’s a thoughtful time when you’re walking around but it’s very inspiring. I was thinking about the men who were sat on their boats going towards Normandy, hearing the shells and bombs going off. And it’s not just the people who stormed the beaches. It’s the paratroopers who jumped behind enemy lines before the landings to gain control of the bridges, it’s the rock climbers whose jobs were to take out the guns. If they’d failed the people on the beaches would’ve been stuck. Every single one of them showed breath-taking courage, they must have been petrified. I really felt in awe of them.
The courage those troops displayed then is still present in our Homes. I think it’s a generational thing. They’re not fazed, they don’t take anything for granted, and they appreciate things more. They’re not obsessed with technology and social media. That generation should inspire people today, and I’m inspired by our residents. They still display that no-nonsense, can-do attitude that their generation has and it’s something that we should cherish.
Activities Assistant Kevin Dempsey also went to Normandy a few weeks later. So on the anniversary of the D-Day landings we gave a talk and slide show at Solihull. It meant a lot to the residents, because they knew people or knew of people that were there 75 years earlier. They weren’t just people from history, they were friends. They said that they wished they could have gone, but because that wasn’t possible, it was nice to see it through our eyes. They were very grateful that we did that for them.
I was also taken aback when I was talking to a resident about Mulberry harbours. I’d watched a documentary on their creation and was discussing it with him, and he told me he’d seen it being made with his own eyes! I was blown away, there’s living history in our Homes!
I have a young niece, and as she’s growing up we will take her to Normandy. She will know how lucky she is because of what so many brave and courageous people did before. She will be grateful for what people have done for her because she wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.