So although I’ve been silent for a few days up until today (two in one day... Radical, right?!), I have been thinking a lot about what I want to write on here. I thought it might be nice to start a little feature for a week or two. I haven’t run this by the others, but I just thought it might be nice to write down some of our memories from the last 18 (or so) years…
I’d also like to take the bold step of opening this up for reader submissions. If you’re reading this and have a memory you’d like to share then leave a comment and we’ll be in contact ASAP!
On Wednesday the 7th of June 1994, Edward Lincoln Balshaw landed on the shores of Normandy. As a terrified, homesick and very wet (he was lowered over the side of the boat to test the depth of the water… he couldn’t swim!) 19-year-old boy, nothing could have prepared him for what he was about to see. Yesterday had been D-day, and today, I imagine, was something like stepping into hell.
60 years later, my Grandad returned to Normandy for D-day Anniversary celebrations. For some very different reasons, he was also unprepared for what he would experience.
On one of the afternoons, they had decided to present all the veterans with a special memorial medal/badge, my Grandad included. Grandad appeared in the morning wearing a light summer shirt, perfect for the blazing French sun, but rather unsuitable to hold the medals that he had pinned to the front breast pocket. Having never worn his medals since being given them at the end of the war, Dad handed over his own suit jacket, and Grandad was made a tad more presentable for the occasion.
We drove as close as we could, but the crowds prohibited much proximity to the main event, so we travelled the rest of the way on foot. As a young girl holding Grandad’s hand, I was relatively unaware of what was going on around me, and in the busyness and heat of the day, so was Grandad. Grandma, Jonathan, Mum and Dad were following us and we soon found ourselves walking down a blocked off road, with people lining both sides. As we walked down the middle we began to hear the pitter-patter of claps. And more. And more. All around us, applause was breaking out. (I’m starting to cry as I write this now!) Grandad looks up and sees crowds of faces smiling back at him and clapping and cheering. It dawns on him… They were applauding HIM. They were thanking him for the sacrifice he made, and the battle he fought for THEIR freedom. Slowly he pulls back his gently sloping shoulders, straightens his back, with his head held high, and grips my hand, walking on with an overwhelming sense of pride.
Suddenly everything that he had gone through was starting to make sense. The horrors of his time in that place 60 years ago had really counted for something. Without him, these people would not have the freedom to stand in the streets and salute the men who had given their all.
This is probably one of the clearest memories I have of my Grandad. Seeing the releasing of pain and fear that he had held up for so long is something I hope never to forget.
|A picture of my Grandad and Brother taken a few months ago on my phone when we went to stay with Grandad for what ended up being his last Christmas.|
How about you?