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Saturday, 7 June 2014

All War is Hell. The Day after D-Day, part 2

The 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings will always stand out in my memories. I was on my way to a Church event, and I was to be given a lift by the Church Warden of the place, who I had not met before. I was surprised that when the car that pulled up, it was driven by a very sprightly, but clearly very elderly man. D-Day 'celebrations' were everywhere, and as we drove I asked him if he had any memories from that time. The chatty man suddenly became quite emotional, and pulled up the car in a lay by, with tears in his eyes.

He then told me his story. He had not been on the beaches, but had been on a boat just off the Normandy Coast. He was a young medical officer and his job was to have been one of the most horrific of any on the day after D-Day.

The ship was there to take wounded, but not just anyone from the invasion. They were brought wounded German officers. The task was not to treat them, but to interrogate and torture them, mostly using the injuries that the officers had sustained.

It was important to know as much information about the German positions as possible, and this was one of the ways of doing so. But for a young medical officer in the army, a committed Christian and someone trained to heal, it was to leave painful scars for a lifetime.

'I can't take part in the celebrations,' said the man 'I've never been able to talk to others about what we did and I've only recently been able to honestly admit to myself my role in operation Overlord. Perhaps we did the right thing, perhaps because of what we did - we saved lives. But all I can remember is the screams of the German officers as we used their wounds to torture them'.

The lesson I learnt about war on that anniversary was very clear. Never try to dress it up, never pretend to 'celebrate' it. All war is hell.

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