We have just returned from the Normandy beaches and with Remembrance Sunday this weekend it seemed appropriate to recall the the incredible events which took place in June of 1944.
Memorials to the allied troops of the D Day landings are to be seen in every village and town and the sense of honour and respect for the liberation forces is woven into the fabric of this part of France even as we approach seventy years after the event.
Much of the coast has been developed in the post war years, but the remains of fortified positions are frequent and a poignant reminder of what the allied troops faced.
There are many visitor centres which detail the events of that momentous day, but for me at least the most moving moment was just gazing out across the beach which is little changed by the intervening years and trying to imagine the scene with the 7000 ships and 130,000 men making up the greatest armada the world has ever known, the audacity of a plan of which the successful execution would lead to the liberation of western Europe and the prospect for failure was unthinkable.
Sword beach where the picture above was taken, was one of the more successful landings, within the day the troops has driven a front 13km wide over 10km inland almost reaching the medieval city of Caen. Very different to the scene at "bloody" Omaha beach which was taken at the cost of over 3000 casualties on the same day.
The bravery and sacrifice of the allied forces who took part in that day, a day which changed the course of European history is to be seen in the many cemeteries where row after row of clean, well kept grave stones reveal all too brief details of the young lives lost. Not so for the 21,000 German troops who died during the battle for Normandy \and for whom understandably there is little trace, but who none the less were husbands, fathers and sons.
It's easy to be caught up with thoughts about the momentous events and the heroism which so many displayed on that day, but lets us not forget that our troops who are serving and sadly dying in Afghanistan today do so with no less bravery and courage.
To all of the men and women who have fought on our behalf in the many wars and conflicts you don't just deserve our respect you demand it, thank you.