Friday, November 07, 2014
Poppies and a Normandy Veteran
However I did get to see the poppies at the Tower and they are remarkable. My colleague and I walked from a business meeting thus avoiding the big crowds on the station. The crowds looking add a huge dimension to the spectacle and the poignancy.
The first photo also has what I would like to think is a dove flying over (though it may well have been a seagull) and if you look closely at the second you will see a solitary raven from the Tower walking solemnly along the grass avenue.
Yesterday I attended a dinner which reflected on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. We had two guests of honour, Philip Hammond and the Governor of the Royal Hospital at Chelsea. General Sir Redmond Watt.
Philip spoke not as Foreign Secretary but as a former Defence Secretary and was very moving about the awesome responsibility of sending troops to battle. He said that of the over 14,000 parishes that sent troops to WWI there were only about 50 "grateful parishes" where all returned safely. Nowadays he and all his predecessors write personally to the families of any British serviceman killed in battle which really brings things home. And he paid tribute to the 200,000 Irish soldiers who volunteered to fight for the UK during WWI (there was no conscription in Ireland).
I was very privileged to be sitting next to a veteran of the Normandy Landings who served in the Royal Horse Artillery, landed in a Liberty Boat had was wounded in Operation Epsom. For a long time he had problems with his arm but eventually he joined Customs and Excise. He is now a Chelsea pensioner. I told him of my late friend Alan Haynes who had his birthday on D-Day landing people in an LCT.
In his view Saving Private Ryan was a great exaggeration He says A Walk in the Sun was the most realistic WW2 movie he had seen.
Opposite me there was a lady of 104 - looking amazingly well. I shook her by the hand but she was only able to converse with her close friends.
A remarkable evening.