...the War Graves Photographic Project's Spring 2017 Newsletter written by Steve Rogers.
I am sure the majority of you have heard the following joke that has been going around in various forms for a number of years now.
“An elderly British gentleman of 83 arrived in Paris by plane. At the French immigration desk, the man took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry-on bag.
"You have been to France before, Monsieur?" the Immigration officer asked, sarcastically.
The elderly gentleman admitted he had been to France previously "Then you should know well enough to have your passport ready."
The British gentleman says, "The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it."
"Impossible. The British always have to show their passports on arrival in France!"
The elderly gentleman gave the French Immigration Officer a long hard look. Then he quietly explained:
"Well, the last time I was here, I came ashore on Sword Beach on D-Day in June 1944, and I couldn't find any Frenchmen to show it to.
" I still smile at it and have often been at passport control and wish that I could be that spontaneous but nowadays it would probably result in being taken to a small room and hearing the twang of rubber gloves.
It prompted me to think about the latest news on our (The Brits) ‘Brexit’ having sent the ‘Decree Nisi’ documents over the Channel in preparation of our ‘divorce’ in the next two years. Apparently we are now being asked for a lump sum of between 50 and 60 Billion Euros as a settlement.
The Brits will always be a part of Europe no matter what anyone says or reads into ‘Brexit’. We cannot pull out entirely as we are part of the earth in all European countries. There are thousands of our war dead lying in cemeteries throughout Europe who now lie in ‘Silent cities’. Sacrificing their lives to ensure Europeans gained their freedom from the tyranny of the Nazi regime, which has been maintained ever since.
These ‘Silent’ cities could be called Glasgow, London, Newcastle, Cardiff and many others given the number of men from ‘Pals’ or local battalions that now lie there. Many do take on the name of the local battalions like ‘London Cemetery’, Lancashire Landing Cemetery or ‘Knightsbridge Cemetery’ to name but a few.
I am sure I will be corrected within days of this newsletter going out but although I am aware of reparations that were paid out by Germany after the war, I am not aware of any being paid to British or other Commonwealth forces from the liberated European countries in reparation for the many, many thousands of war dead that now lie in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Luxembourg etc. etc. In all honesty what was given then was actually priceless and no amount could recompense the families for what they lost.
So, perhaps one could say that the ‘divorce bill’ has already been paid in kind and that we should call it ‘Quits’. However, 50 Billion Euros is actually a drop in the ocean (where many more war dead lie) and cannot possibly be an equal sum to the sacrifice given. Reparation that families have never asked for.
During the referendum there were many quotes about ‘Remain’ being good for the young and that the ‘Old Gits’ should not always look back in history to remember the war. Perhaps some of the ‘1D’ generation, the next time they are on holiday in Europe, no matter which country, should take some time out and visit the local war cemetery. There will be one. They might actually realise that what these men gave was priceless and if not for these men and women, there would have been no tomorrow for the young of today."