On Sunday 6 June 2021, a memorial, honouring soldiers who died under British command on D-Day — and in the fighting that followed — was unveiled in France on the 77th anniversary of the Normandy landings; that overlooks the British landing area of Gold Beach, including the coast off Arromanches and the remains of the famous Mulberry harbour.
The memorial was designed by architect Liam O’Connor and it cost £30m. Its centrepiece is a giant bronze statue of three soldiers coming ashore, by sculptor David Williams-Ellis. It is surrounded by pillared arcades, each of which carries the names and ages of the 22,442 soldiers under British command who died on 6 June 1944 and in the subsequent Battle of Normandy.
In 1944, in the midst of the Second World War, the tide was turning. Allied forces joined together to mount a formidable attack on the beaches of Normandy — their aim being to reclaim France from German occupation. Meticulously planned and two years in the making, it was still a huge risk — if the attack didn’t pay off, Hitler would have had the opportunity to pull together a German offensive, launching his new V-weapons against British cities. Operation Overlord started on 6 June 1944, the day known as D-Day, and it would continue for three crucial months.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, said famously to the troops about to take part, “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”
The Allied invasion of Normandy — codenamed Operation Overlord — was the largest sea assault in history. More than 80,000 British, Canadian and Commonwealth personnel were among 150,000 troops who stormed five Normandy beaches, while another 23,400 troops under British command arrived by air. Of them about 4,300 were killed, wounded or missing in action.
I read recently that General Eisenhower was faced with the responsibility of making one of the most far-reaching decisions ever posed to a single man: changing the date of D-Day at the last moment. If he got it wrong, thousands of Allied soldiers could die. Talk about pressure! But he was the supreme commander and the only man who could make the decision. Looking back on it, he wrote: ‘I knew I did not have the required wisdom, and turned to God. I asked Him to give me wisdom. I yielded myself to Him, and He gave me clear guidance. He gave me insight to see what was right, and He endowed me with the courage to make my decision. And finally He gave me peace of mind in the knowledge that, having been guided by God to a decision, I could leave the results to Him.’
In the past, the Shed has visited both Southwick House, in 2014 and 2017 where they planned D-Day, and also had a trip on 26 September 2018, to visit the new D-Day museum in Southsea.
D-Day was very important; it was the turning point. It was a day of Liberation, however, the ‘D’ doesn’t stand for anything specific. It doesn’t stand for Deliverance, Doom or Demarcation or similar words. The ‘D’ derives from the word Day. However, I like to think of it as Decision Day.
Reading old reproduced newspaper reports of D-Day the importance of prayer struck me, along with the prayer of General Eisenhower. Quoting from the Daily Mail, King George V1 said, “Four years ago our nation and Empire stood alone against an overwhelming enemy, with our backs to the wall. Tested as never before in our history, in God’s providence we survived that test…”. Towards the end of his speech the King said, “We are not unmindful of our own shortcomings, past and present. We shall ask not that God may do our will, but that we may be enabled to do the will of God and dare to believe that God has used our nation and Empire as an instrument for fulfilling His high purpose. I hope that throughout the present crisis of the liberation of Europe there may be offered up earnest, continuous and widespread prayer”.
None of us knows when our time will come. We need to be ready. A verse in the book of Hebrews says, “let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. [Hebrews 10v25] The Day here is a capital D not just any day but the day when the Lord Jesus Christ, as he promised, will return to planet earth.
Dalton McGuinty said, “There’s no wrong time to make the right decision”.
So, the Thought for Today is ‘have you had a decision day?’
Can we all point to a D-Day, a Decision Day, when we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour?
If not, as Paul writing to the church at Corinth wrote, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation” [2 Cor 6v2], and the writer in Hebrew says, “do not harden your heart” [Hebrews 3v7]