Years of planning, down to this.
The lurch and roll atop the waves. The sound of men praying and vomiting. Some boy weeping behind us. Too cramped to look back. All eyes on the barge door, seawater pouring down its metal ribs like tears. Helmets pressing down on skulls, metal shaking with the drone of engines. Packs gaining pounds with every second. Ready to run. Don’t stop, just run, they said. Run like you’ve never run before. Run for your life. Stop and you’re dead.
Barge door falls away and dips into the French surf. Except it wasn’t a door to keep us in; it was a door to keep hell out. Yelled into action, lunging forward towards hell playing out on the sand. Half a dozen boys are dead before their boots can fill with water.
The zip and ping of angry wasps. The whistle and crack of mortars. The whump and scream of a mine detonating. The chug-chug-chug of a machine gun kicking up fans of sand on the dunes ahead and above us, trying to pick out the nests. Men yelling, boys dying. Run. Run. Run.
No one said we might drown.
Barbed wire meets us on the shore. We crawl like flailing turtles. Muscles scream and sweat pours. The wasps are ceaseless. Something tugs at my sleeve. Someone flicks sand into my face; tastes just like the sand at home.
Run. Run. Run.
Crawl. Crawl. Crawl.
Today is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. In 2007, as part of a honeymoon campervan tour of Europe, we visited the site of Dachau concentration camp in Germany. Every European should visit one of these places, to stand and take in the magnitude of what was done to so many people; to understand how close the world came to succumbing to evil; and to ensure we never witness its like again.