Saturday, June 06, 2009

# Posted 10:38 AM by Patrick Porter  

D-Day, 65 YEARS ON: Its probably a good day to listen to the men who were there:
“I came face to face with a German, and I beat him to the draw. I killed him. I sat on the grass and was sick and I cried … he was some mother’s son.”…

The veterans talk of the noise, “big battleships firing, rocket ships firing, mortars landing, planes strafing, floating artillery and the Germans were totally unsociable about it, they were firing back at us, so there was a hell of a lot of noise there,” recalls Rosier.

They are lighthearted at times, citing the fact that British troops are renowned for their humor — even in the darkest hours. But it is impossible to gloss over the horror and the danger they faced.

Standing together in one of the landing crafts at the D-Day museum in Portsmouth, England, Rosier described what it was like to approach Gold beach.

He spoke of the bullets thundering into the sides of the craft, a ramp on one side hitting a mine and being disabled, and the knowledge that when the front ramp was dropped, the troops inside would be peppered with machine gun fire.

He and his infantry were lucky that day – making it onto the beach with minimal loss. But as he told me later, of the 800 men in his infantry, only five survived the war unharmed, “the rest were killed, missing or wounded.”

Rosier, who fought with the 2nd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment, bears the visible scars of battle. He lost an eye to a shrapnel wound — a ‘Blighty one,’ meaning that he was taken home to recover in Britain — and has had to live with the psychological trauma of facial disfigurement.

But it’s the pain of the ones they left behind that hurts the most.

“There was no time to mourn, you didn’t have time to mourn,” said Tuckwell. “And the worst thing about later battles was that when you lost people, you normally had to bury them yourself. You couldn’t leave the bodies on the ground, there was nowhere else to put them.”

Rosier added: “When your best friend gets killed it is surprising how hard you can become on a battlefield, I think you switch your mind off. My best friend, we called him Smokey Joe, Battersea boy, London boy, he was 18 years when he died.

“At the time I just said ‘oh Reggie is gone,’ but … I will be going back to Normandy and I will see his grave and cry. I have never figured out why I a mourn him now and not at the time. To lose a brother is a terrible thing and he was a brother. I lost two actual brothers in the war, but I miss Reg a lot.”

There was so much pain, so much suffering and such massive loss of life. Was it worth it? Rosier’s response is emphatic.
“Yes, every minute of it. We go back to Europe quite frequently, and even in Germany people say to us ‘thank you for our freedom’. It is only in recent years that I have realized how important freedom really is, you can’t taste it, you can’t feel or hear it. But it is so important to be free.”

Thanks indeed.
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