Reflections on D-Day 2024

30 May 2024
Richard Streatfeild holding his father's WWII medals

Reflections on D-Day 80 years on.

Every year, a few memorable dates sum up our pride in what we did as a united country and our ambition for what we want our country to be. D Day is one of those days.

The scale of the endeavour, the chances of success, the sacrifices, and the result, all speak to our aspirations as much as our history.

My pride in that story is both patriotic and personal. I am proud we stood up to Nazi Germany in the name of liberty. I am also proud that my grandfather was ready to cross the Channel on D Day. He was one of Monty’s Regimental Commanders. He landed on Gold Beach on 20 June 1944 and fought his way across Northern Europe until VE day. He commanded an artillery regiment raised in Kent, made up of retrained infantry soldiers. At the end of the campaign he was awarded a Distinguished Service Order, one of our highest awards for leadership in battle. 

Sadly, he died soon after the war but I can still wear his medals to honour what he and his generation achieved individually and collectively. There are times when political differences can be put to one side in a shared celebration of a historic victory. When we recognise that individual sacrifices allow us all to have a better life. That I have a relative who played his part only enhances that feeling. 

There are very few of that generation left; fewer still of those who were actually there. When soldiers return from operations, especially where they have been dangerous and deadly, it is a powerful motivation to make life better for people in the
name of those who died.

We should never confuse nationalism and patriotism. A patriot loves their country and recognises the possibilities that spring from that powerful unifying, motivating force. Ugly nationalism has too often been used to divide us and has no place in a D Day celebration. If you go to the beaches of Normandy, as I was lucky to last year, J Jour is celebrated as hard if not harder than D Day is here. It is in that spirit, the spirit of celebration of the freedom that was bought by the sacrifice of others – Americans, Canadians, French, Australians, Czechoslovakians, Polish, Dutch, Norwegians, New Zealanders, Greeks, South Africans and British – that we should all commemorate as we mark the 80 th anniversary of one of the greatest days in our history.

Richard Streatfield. 

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