Saturday, 9 May 2015

VE Day – sombre celebration

In which G.M. Norton takes a moment to remember the brave.


Yesterday marked quite a landmark, the 70th anniversary of VE Day, the day the Second World War ended in Europe.

The joy and relief felt across Blighty must have been quite incredible when Sir Winston Churchill announced news of the Allied victory.
My grandfather’s two brothers (making them my Great-Uncles) both fought during the Second World War. Sadly, only one would return home. Joseph died on the battlefield in 1940, while Norman returned home with a George Cross medal and a heavy heart. A member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, Norman along with two other men, bravely saved a soldier’s life.
Here is an excerpt from the London Gazette, dated 14 January 1944:

"In August, 1943, four soldiers entered a minefield; three were killed instantly and the fourth was seriously wounded. Corporals Gouldin and North, who are nursing orderlies, and Leading Aircraftman Withers, who is a motor driver, immediately proceeded to the scene of the accident. To reach the injured soldier it was necessary to cross a canal and pass through barbed wire. Corporal Gouldin, although unable to swim, entered the canal and with his two companions waded across. After crossing the barbed wire the rescuers penetrated about 16 feet into the minefield and reached the soldier, to whom they rendered first aid. Afterwards, carrying him on a stretcher, these airmen recrossed the canal, with water up to their armpits and insecure footholds, and brought the soldier to safety. Throughout they showed great fortitude and initiative and complete disregard of their own safety."
I was honoured to take part in a remembrance service yesterday, laying down a wreath on VE Day. My thoughts during the two minute silence were with my grandfather’s two brothers and my great-grandfather, Private Alfred Norton who died from wounds during the First World War.
As King George VI said himself 70 years ago, in a radio appearance that was broadcast live across Britain and the whole Empire:
“Let us remember those who will not come back: their constancy and courage in battle, their sacrifice and endurance in the face of a merciless enemy. Let us remember the men in all the Services, and the women in all the Services, who have laid down their lives. We have come to the end of our tribulation, and they are not with us at the moment of our rejoicing.
“Then let us salute in proud gratitude the great host of the living who have brought us to victory. I cannot praise them to the measure of each one’s service, for in a total war the efforts of all rise to the same noble height and all are devoted to the common purpose. Armed or unarmed, men and women, you have fought and striven and endured to your utmost. No one knows that better than I do, and as your King I thank with a full heart those who bore arms so valiantly on land and sea, or in the air; and all civilians who, shouldering their many burdens, have carried them unflinchingly and without complaint.”
Well said, Bertie.

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’

No comments:

Post a Comment