Sunday, May 31, 2009

Primarily a Franco-American Affair?

I notice that the Government of the French Republic has described the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Normandy landings as "primarily a Franco-American affair" .

Once again it shows President Sarkozy in a pretty bad light.

Of the 156,000 troops landed on Omaha, Utah, (American) Juno, Gold and Sword (British and Dominion, primarily Canadian) beaches 73,000 were American and 83,115 were under British command, including a contingent of 900 Free French under the command of General Leclerc.

D-day itself was not, noticeably, a primarily Franco-American affair. The largest military contingent was from Britain and the Commonwealth.

The Queen is not merely Head of State of the United Kingdom, but also of Queen of Canada, Australia and New Zealand amongst others- and Head of the Commonwealth. All of which nations participated in the Normandy landings and the liberation of France.

My Great-uncle Claude was a short man. It was just as well, because when he jumped out of the landing craft on D-day he went underwater and was not hit by the machine gun fire. Few of the others in his craft made it to shore. He did not talk about what happened until almost the last year of his life. I have little doubt that D-Day was one of the worst days of his life. When the trumpets blair on June 6th I wonder if M. Sarkozy or Mr. Brown will even understand the sacrifices those young men made 65 years ago.

How could the government of the French Republic failed to have given a personal invitation to the only serving Head of State to have put on a uniform in the Second World War, and who knew the commanders personally? How could the government of the United Kingdom not have insisted that The Queen be invited?

Of course The Queen could not now accept a late invitation, grudgingly given, and will now not attend the ceremony. It is hard not to be incensed by the incompetence of the British government and absolutely outraged at the contemptuous way President Sarkozy has handled this affair.

Of the 1.7 million war grave maintained by the Commonwealth war graves commission, the vast majority are in France. 350,000 of these relate to the Second World War.

Nicholas Sarkozy should be utterly ashamed.

Gordon Brown should be utterly embarrassed.


Edis said...

No surprise here. France has for many decades enjoyed ‘Meaningful Amnesia’ (in the words of the historian Robert Frank) in which The Americans, Russians, Free French and the Maquise take the credit for French Liberation in 1944. Frank says that for the French to remember Britain’s true contribution to restoring French freedom is just too painful a reminder of the ‘different destinies of the two countries’.

See discussion in Robert and Isabelle Tombs book ‘That Sweet Enemy’ (p595) citing Franks 1994 book ‘La hantisse du decline: le rang de la France en Europe 1920-1960’.

Newmania said...

Delighted to have an opportunity to agree, how many generations does it take to learn the meaning of ingratitude?

‘Trois ‘

Interesting about Claude .My grandfather was at the Somme, he was shot in the shoulder and pay there until he was dragged back to the trench at night and thence to Blighty. He would otherwise never have made it no-one else did form his lot .He did have a permanently disabled arm and was shall we say ....temperamental, died young( nuts by then and long before me ) . Still he had six children , one ,my father, very late , and god knows how many grand children and great grand children , three of them are mine.

Anonymous said...

After several years in Spain I moved to France a couple of years ago. I bought a Larousse CD-ROM encyclopedia to help me with my french and the entire section about the D-Day landings doesn't mention Britain or the British contribution once. I guess any nationality has it's blind spots on certain issues.