A reflection for the Second Sunday after Trinity and D-Day.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Jesus, in Mark 3:24. 

“Teamwork wins wars. I mean teamwork among nations, services and men. All the way down the line from the GI and the Tommy to us brass hats.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe.

The D-Day coverage this week was very moving, with the dwindling number of veterans gathering for probably the last time to share their stories and memories. The accounts of what was organised and experienced were remarkable and Eisenhower’s comments about teamwork were validated by events as well as the individual actions of so many which also made a difference. There has been some negativity over the UK’s Prime Minister leaving earlier than most to record a TV interview, for which he has apologised, but one centenarian even marked the occasion by getting married to his sweetheart aged 96! That remarkable generation and all they did has been heard and honoured, for which thanks are given as the challenges to democracy and peace are faced today. 

It was clear in the coverage that little things made a huge difference. Maureen Sweeney was a young woman who was appointed as a Post Office assistant in Blacksod in Western Ireland but she had no idea that weather reporting was part of her duties. She adapted well to this and sent back vital details that delayed the invasion by a day – but what if she hadn’t agreed to it or had not been so diligent, hers being the only forecast accurately reporting the probable improvement in the weather that led to the delay until 6th June? What if de Valera, the Irish Taoiseach – caught between IRA republicans favouring the Nazi cause and those supporting British politicians – had decided not to allow the sharing of this information with the UK as he did? What if James Stag, the weather forecaster advising the Allied commanders, had dismissed Maureen’s notes as a mistake? All these things were to have profound consequences. 

Maureen had no idea at the time of the significance of her reports – but they mattered hugely because the Germans did not have access to information from the Atlantic and thought the bad weather would continue. What if the same had applied to the Allies and they had gone ahead during the storm? Rommel believed his weather reports, accurate for the smaller area to which they were confined, and went back to Germany for his wife’s birthday. He was not present when D-Day began – what if he had been? Due to the forecasts, German commanders had been called to a planning meeting – all their regiments were without them. What if they had been there? It was also significant that Hitler took a nap and, his aides not liking to wake him up, let him sleep on – as a result, Panzer divisions, crack troops with tanks, were not quickly mobilised. What if he’d been awoken and they had been ordered in? 

On a wider basis, the individual actions and sabotage of the French resistance affected German communications, just as the recruitment of double spies and false information created confusion regarding where the invasion would actually happen. The forward planning creating pipelines under the sea for fuel and Mulberry harbours for supplies, as well as some troops landing with heavy packs, weapons and even bicycles to carry, showed the huge scale of detail and expectation for which all gave some and some gave all, D-Day being just the start of the Battle of Normandy which killed and wounded so many. As one veteran remarked, some of those who lived with the terrible cost and dreadful memories of this found it created, ”A cloak of sorrow that has never really gone away.” Another commented that, “It was history. We didn’t realise it – we were living history.” 

In our generation, we are also living history, some of which may bring sorrow as well as hope. As we reflect on the cost of the freedom won for us, what are the apparently little things being faced in our lives that, given to God, could make a huge difference? 

A D-Day prayer: God our refuge and strength, as we remember those who faced danger and death in Normandy eighty years ago, grant us courage to pursue what is right, the will to work with others and the strength to overcome tyranny and oppression. This we pray through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

With my prayers; pob bendith,

Christine, Priest Guardian.