Les gens du Bocage; les hommes du débarquement - Normandy early July 1944

Les gens du Bocage; les hommes du débarquement 

During the Second World War my father served in the RAF Volunteer Reserve. He was always grateful that he trained as a Wolseley car mechanic before the war which meant that he could go into the RAF as an aircraft mechanic. Although he didn't land in Normandy on D-Day he did go within four weeks of the invasion and was pinned down for several weeks while the Allied forces tried to capture Caen and they could move on into Europe. This poem is his story but also reflects the experiences of millions of people involved in the invasion and the subsequent liberation of Europe.

Our thanks to them all.

(This was written in 2018 to celebrate 75 years, in 2019, and I publish it here on 6th June 2020 on the 76th anniversary of D-Day.)


Normandy early July 1944
What was Normandy like for you Dad?
Mum said you never talked about what you saw,
Or the things you did in the war. Much.
But just a little. A flavour; that was all.

What was Normandy like for you Dad,
As you crashed your way to Arromanches-by-the-Beaches?
What was Normandy like for you Dad?
As you crashed your way through the storms of nausea
And the thrashing waves of sea-sick;
First afraid you’d die then afraid you wouldn’t.

But we stood there today, Dad, in the glorious
Summer sun and looked along the Mulberry;
Along where you would have come;
Towards the Hun and total victory;
And you without a gun.

What did you see Dad?
 As you waited patiently,
as only you could do,
For eight whole weeks, for the mighty enemy rout
In the bag-like Falaise gap.
Eight weeks under fire, from Adolf Hitler’s best,
As you waited for Caen to fall.

What was Normandy like for you Dad?
Was it like the generals said in Max Hastings’ book?
Or was it like deaths in the bocage for ordinary Tommy Atkins?
Or was it somewhere in between? Somewhere in between.

We came down from Rouen today
To stand where you once stood
But we made it back again that evening,
like you never could.

Yes Dad.
As the rhymes of childhood once asked,
“Who won the war in 1944?”,
Now I know the answer Dad.
It was you, Dad, it was you.

◄ Snow day

Letter to Yuri ►


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Stephen Gospage

Mon 12th Apr 2021 17:53

A fine, heartfelt poem.

AP Grayson

Mon 12th Apr 2021 14:08


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Greg Freeman

Sat 6th Jun 2020 20:05

Well done, Phil. It does us good to write about and try to imagine what our fathers went through.

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M.C. Newberry

Sat 6th Jun 2020 18:25

A fine reminder of how "everyman" in the time-honoured form of "Tommy Atkins" (and those that Wellington said frightened HIM) were
the true saviours of the freedoms we take for granted so much these days and which are all too often abused in one way or another, according to convenience and personal mindset.

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