Dear Friends

The coverage in the media of the 75th anniversary of D-Day has been full, not to say extensive, so I hesitate to add my halfpenny-worth; also, unlike the theatres of war in Dunkirk, North Africa, the Far East and Italy I have no relatives who were at D-Day whose anecdotes I could relate. But one aspect that has not, to my knowledge, been explored relates to the practices and dry runs, so to speak, carried out prior to the invasion.

The 'brass hats', as senior officers were called, scouted out beaches in Great Britain which were similar to those of Normandy, and one such was Slapton Ley, near Salcombe, in south Devon. When we visited the spot some years ago we noticed a monument to an unfortunate incident which took place in the run-up to D-Day. Apparently, this was a 'live fire' exercise in which mostly American troops were landed on Slapton sands - but somebody blundered by setting the elevation on a machine gun wrongly, so, instead of the live ammunition going over the heads of our allies, many, perhaps hundreds, were killed. This event, largely forgotten now, coincided with a naval action off shore which also resulted in casualties, although not as many as was the case on shore. As far as I know, no one was brought to book for the shooting, although the private who was operating the machine gun was rapidly relieved by his officer.

I expect that, sadly, this was not the only such case, and, of course, our debt of gratitude must extend as much to those who died in what might appear to be such futile circumstances as to those who lost their lives on D-Day itself - all were involved in the fight for freedom, and their sacrifice has enabled us to enjoy so many decades of peace and security. As we give thanks, on this special anniversary" for their courage, it behoves us not to take that freedom for granted, and to continue to pray that those in authority over us will be given grace and wisdom in their decisionmaking, for the sake of generations to come.

Stephen