Walking In The Footsteps Of Heroes
Colleville-sur-Mer Travel Blog› entry 76 of 94 › view all entries
Although I study war - the battles, the tactics and formations used, assault plans and key personalities, I am more of a watcher than a doer. Having never been in battle, I do not know how I would cope physically and mentally with such a proposition, but I do have the utmost respect for those who do and whether you were fighting along with the Allied or with the Axis Powers, both sides deserve to be recognised for fighting for what they believed in, or were made to believe in.
I can still hear my Oma’s voice saying to me when I was seven when we visited a German War Cemetery in Ysselsteyn, ‘Remember Saskia, not everyone buried here was a Nazi, and not everyone here wanted to fight, but a lot were young boys who had too.’ This always stuck with me, after all my Oma had lived through the war and had seen these young men, not as soldiers, but as someone’s son and loved ones.
So it was while we were in Normandy that we went to pay our respects at an American, a British and a German cemetery. After all, the boys buried here were just that – boys who, no matter on what side they fought, had families and loved ones who grieved for their passing and were left to pick up the pieces after the war ended.
I find it a great comfort that no matter where in the world you are, or which ‘side’ you visit, in every war cemetery the graves are maintained to a high standard and there are usually people visiting at the same time as you. Furthermore the visitors guest book shows it is a popular place of pilgrimage even after all these years and the wreaths and flowers laid out are a testament to this.
The heart-felt messages inscribed on the graves are hard for me to take sometimes – the feelings of pride, love and even anger show this war was hard on everyone. One young lad I found buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery in Chouain, was just 16 and his inscription made me weep. ‘God will tell us why some-day he broke our hearts and took you away.’
It’s hard to walk around this area of France and not be affected by your surroundings. On the beaches made famous; Sword, Gold, Omaha, Utah you can still find remnants of the war within the water, lying on the beach and up in the hills.
After visiting Sword and looking at the bunkers and the German command post with the view over the beaches, you must wonder, what did they think when they saw the boats coming into land?
We made our way to Omaha and attempted to run up from the beach to the high point.
Martin Luther King once said “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” These were boys, much younger than I am now who had to leave their families and lay down their lives for the cause. It happened on both sides, and in the end the cemeteries scattered around Normandy speak more loudly peace. The boys have found unity in death. Their silence, their memorials will continue to resonant loudly.
We Will Remember Them