This is the New Year party Europe dreamt of 70 years ago. As 2014 approaches, let us not forget those who made our current celebrations possible. A Happy New Year to everybody from Wingwatch!
This is one of the most celebrated photos of D-Day. The four officers synchronising their watches beneath the propellers of an Albemarle at the airbase in Harwell are, from left to right: ‘Bobby’ de Lautour, Don Wells, John Visher and Bob Midwood. They were part of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company, specialists in reconnaissance and signalling attached to the 6th Airborne Division of which the 9th Battalion, which took a leading role in the action that inspired the novel Wingwatch, was part. De Lautour, who everybody knew as Bobby – an abbreviation of his Christian names (Robert Edward-Vane) – was of Canadian origin...
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... 'I can still remember what the padre told us, the day before the jump: ‘Fear knocked at the door. Faith opened it. And there was nobody there ...’' (from Chapter 24 of Wingwatch)
These were the authentic words of Revd John Gwinnet (photo), who enjoyed no special privileges that were not granted to the other men of the 9th Battalion. He would jump alongside them; but unarmed, of course. During the service, he blessed the silk flag bearing the Battalion's name, which was then entrusted to Gordon Newton.
The Caen Memorial is an impressive museum dealing with the story of most of the 20th century, starting from WW1 and continuing up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. D-Day and the battle of Normandy are obviously the main subjects. Should you plan a visit to Normandy in the next future, this is an unmissable stop. And if you go there next June you'll be able to attend the D-Day 70th anniversary events. The program is here. Photo: the entrance hall to the Memorial.