There has been an amalgam of things which have led me once again, as has happened on numerous occasions in the past, to ask myself, "What would I have done? Would I have found somewhere deep inside me the sort of courage, the daring, that so many of my father's generation displayed?"
I once had the distinct honour of meeting Major Pat Reid. Major Reid had been a prisoner of war at Colditz, where he served as the British escape officer until his own, successful escape to Switzerland in 1942. I still have two of his books, The Colditz Story and Latter Days at Colditz. The first tells of life in Colditz Castle and of his escape, while the latter tells of the last three years of the war at Colditz. Both make fascinating reading and were the basis for the fictional film The Colditz Story (1955) and the BBC television series broadcast between 1972 and 1974. We have been watching the DVD of that series lately, there being little else worth bothering with on the gogglebox. Those DVDs form part of the amalgam.
Another part of the amalgam was reading blogs written to mark the recent Memorial Day in the USA. We here in England don't have such a day other than Remembrance Day on the Sunday nearest to 11th November - unless it be 11th November itself. (It just so happened that Memorial Day this year was only a very few days after an English soldier had been hacked to death in Woolwich, London. One of the "alleged" assailants even made an impromptu speech to a passer-by's mobile phone, his hands dripping with blood. The Help for heroes web site crashed afterwards as so many people tried to make donations.)
At about the same time, there was a memorial service to commemorate the longest battle ever fought, the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted for almost six years. And not long before that had been the commemoration of the dambusters' raid.
Today, of course, is the anniversary of D Day. I have visited the invasion beaches and Pegasus Bridge as well as Arromanches where there are still the remains of a mulberry harbour and St Mere Eglise where an American paratrooper got caught on the church spire. I very much doubt that I could have found the courage to storm those beaches or scale the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc the way they did 69 years ago.
I am so very thankful that I have never had to measure up to what my father's generation had to endure.
Today, the anniversary of D Day, each of the more than 9,000 graves in the American War Cemetery at St. Laurent will be decorated with two flags - the French Tricolor and the Stars and Stripes.