70 years ago today was D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history. The Normandy Landings were the turning point in World War II, when Allied forces sailed across from England to fight German forces on the coastline of France.
It was brutal. 24,000 troops charging off 4,000 landing craft and up the beach into machine gun fire, cannon blasts and trip-mines. Thousands died. Those that made it took weeks and months to gradually recapture France and beat the Germans back to Berlin and eventual surrender. As Englishmen we joke that if D-Day hadn't gone well, we would be speaking German now. For me it's a touch more real. If the invasion hadn't gone well I wouldn't be here. My Grandie, Frank Baugh, was right there in the thick of it, a 20 year old sailor in the Royal Navy.
Over the past years we've shared a bottle or two of whiskey whilst he's told his WWII story. I've lived through those four years through him, from joining the Navy at age 16 to sailing across to USA and picking up the freshly made flat-bottomed landing craft from Boston, to crossing back across the Altantic stopping at islands like Bermuda to refuel (and docking alongside German U-Boats in neutral territory) and then arriving back to England... to immediately start D-Day.
70 years later on the biggest celebration there will ever be of D-Day he's back on the beaches re-living the memories with his fellow veterans. Here's a beautiful piece with Simon Newton about his day on the boat.
I wish I could be there with him. It's one of the tough points about being a few thousand miles away. Skipping work and jumping on the next flight isn't really feasible when you live in China. I'm lucky though, we spent a couple weeks together on a Road trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon.
Not many people can say that about their 90 year old Grandfather. He's convinced he's on his last legs. I'm not so sure. We've plenty of whisky left... and as Yorkshiremen we don't waste it.