This is a view of Portsmouth from the sea. The monument on the left is the Naval Memorial, and this still is Navy town, though there are fewer ships and fewer sailors than in 1944, when the city was an important departure point for the D-Day Normandy Landings.
Back in June this year some the old men who took part in that action to liberate France and Europe returned with the British Legion, as well as their allied counterparts. The Legion’s Head of Remembrance, Nicholas Rowlands had been preparing the men for this last big commemoration in Normandy, and he told the i newspaper*:
A lot of their memories are, naturally, quite sad. But the ones that they tend to connect with the most are the funny memories. You can see them go back to 1944 and they’re 19 years old again, it’s lovely.
The tall Naval Memorial cannot be ignored; the deaths of soldiers, sailors and airmen, nurses and ambulance drivers must not be ignored, nor the suffering in the occupied countries, the concentration camps, and the continuing conflicts around the world today.
But the way the funny memories light up the veterans says something about the human spirit. We can find absurdity frightening, or we can look on it as something to be laughed at, to be smiled over in retrospect. Absurdity is a hint that there is peace of mind to be had somewhere. We can connect with that peace by acknowledging our sinfulness and frailties and by laughing absurdity and fear out of court.
* Rob Hastings, I-newspaper 4.6.19 p20