Saturday, June 8, 2019

Barry Soper: D-Day - 'The wartime generation is resilient'

It was clearly an impressive and moving spectacle, remembering the 75th anniversary of the biggest ever amphibious landing, mounted from the city of Portsmouth on the southern coast of England.

More than 130,000 men arrived on the beaches of Normandy, an area known today as the Parisian Riviera. Planes and gliders carrying 23,000 arrived ahead of them.

In the coming months troops flooded into the German-held France with the invasionary force growing to two million. It was the start of the end of the Second World War.

While no New Zealand military divisions landed on the beaches that day, they were too busy fighting in the Battle of Casino, there were still a large number of Kiwis involved in the invasion and of course many more were involved in repelling the Germans in the coming months.

Ten months after D-Day landing, Hitler shot himself in his Berlin bunker, and on May 8, 1945, just short of a year after the invasion started, the Germans surrendered to the Allies.

This week's commemoration is likely to be the last significant gathering, although The Queen who was 18 when the armada left Britain, said 15 years ago that commemoration might be the last.

Delivering her message this week, she said "the wartime generation, my generation, is resilient."

At that 60th commemoration was our then Prime Minister Helen Clark who said D Day was one of the most momentous events of World War Two.

"While no New Zealand units per se were involved in D-Day landings, there was significant New Zealand involvement from among the 4700 New Zealand personnel attached to the Royal Navy and the six thousand attached to the Royal Air Force at the time," Clark said.

Clark also attended the anniversaries of Casino and Al Alamein and visited most, if not all of the Western Front battle sites and war graves.

So along with Presidents Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron and Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and Theresa May (days out from standing down), and even German's Chancellor Angela Merkel where was our Prime Minister?

On the day she was in Blenheim selling the Wellbeing Budget, even leaving Defence Minister Ron Mark to attend the D Day commemoration at Pukeahu Park in Wellington.

This country was represented in Europe by the Governor General Dame Patsy Ready.

The lack of political representation there is woeful, particularly when you consider that at a moment's notice Jacinda Ardern was happy enough to rush to Paris last month, to stand alongside Macron and Trudeau, to try and sort out the cyber highway.

Twelve thousand New Zealanders died during the war and while that might not seem like a large number by comparison with other countries, at the time our population was under 2 million. On a per capita basis, this country's losses were the highest in the Commonwealth - with one out of every 150 Kiwis dying on war service.

Lest we forget.

Those who advised Ardern not to go should remember that.

Barry Soper, the political editor of Newstalk ZB, is one of the country’s most experienced political broadcast journalists and the longest-serving member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

1 comment:

Brian said...

D Day
When allies and civilians joined as one.
As a 10 year old boy attending the first year at High School; i recall our Headmaster gathering the whole school together for a special prayer on that day.
Gone were the defeats in Norway, and France in 1940; Greece and Crete; The reversals in the Western Desert, and the momentous end of the British Empire in 1942, when Singapore surrendered.
It was a changed world, and still is; fortunately three ideals still remain as the cornerstone of our Western Civilisation.
They are sometimes lost in the mists of our technically advanced age, but remain for all ages.
They are “Honour, Duty and Loyalty”, and they were present on D Day; hopefully these three little words will continue to be part of our future.
As for our Prime Minister Ardern failing to attend the D Day commemoration in Britain.
This needs no comment, for actions speak louder than words!