This weekend was my only non-political one for some time. The Saturday was spent looking at ways in which my TA regiment could increase its numbers, recruitment is the order of the day at the moment.
100 (Yeomanry) Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers) has provided quite a lot of troops to serve in Iraq over the last 12 months and the situation doesn’t look as if it will change in the very near future. In order to maintain this level of support and to continue our training we need to make sure we are fully recruited.
The senior officers of the regiment had a recruitment planning meeting, there were maps, plans, minutes, decisions about where we could best utilize the limited time that we have etc. Very much like a political strategy meeting.
Today is the 60th anniversary of the D Day landings. I’m in the UK this year but I went to the Normandy beaches about 8 years ago with the veterans of my regiment. When I went there was no big anniversary celebrations, no TV crews, no royalty, no politicians just a dozen or so old men in smart blazers and about the same number of serving soldiers.
On the trip out the young men from the regiment tended to keep together as did the veterans, there was no animosity just a lack of common ground and a difficulty in initiating conversation. After a few days, a few drinks and plenty of stories the invisible dividing line between the two groups had gone. I felt humbled by what these old men had done and how unpretentious they were, they did what they had to do and then after the war they went back to their usual lives.
Walking through the military cemeteries with these quite old men was easily the most moving experience of my life. The rows and rows of immaculate white headstones strike you first, then a story from a veteran about one of the fallen, then a tear shed.
The television pictures from Normandy brought these memories flooding back. I cried 8 years ago and I cried again today.