History In The Making – Part 1
Many of our members have served or know people who have in the armed services and as such will either be directly or indirectly related to Veterans or a Veteran themselves. And through these times of service all veterans have been making history when either directly or indirectly involved in historical events that have happened in defence of our Country or of those to whom we have gone to the defence of.
If you look back in History at any particular time or date there is always something either dramatic or possibly even world changing that has happened to someone, something or somewhere and British Servicemen have often been involved.
The month of June is really quite exceptional for such events that have either affected or involved military personnel of all services in one way or another.
We have just been reminded 6th June marked the 73rd anniversary of the D Day Landings by allied troops which took place on various beaches along the Normandy coast with bombardment from air and sea, beach landings and further inland parachute drops into France in 1944. This action led directly to the start of events to end World War II.
Going further back further we come to possibly the most important event in the 20th century that changed the world forever. On 28th June 1914 a Bosnian Serb by the name of Gavrilo Princip shot and mortally wounded the presumptive Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, The Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, when their official car stalled outside a small café in Sarajevo. The consequence of this action led Austria-Hungary to declare war on Serbia, backed directly by Germany. In turn Russia showed support in defence of the Serbians resulting in both Germany and Russia declaring war on each other. This was the start of the Great War as it became known.
June 1917 saw the German held Messines Ridge southeast of Ypres being taken following extensive tunnelling under the battlefield between British and German trenches by Royal Engineer tunnellers and supporting troops to lay explosives under the ridge. The destruction of the ridge proved decisive in the land War causing extensive damage to the German forces and their supply routes. But German air forces in the meantime attacked and bombed the East End of London killing more than 200 people including children, an action which introduced the world to attacks from the air. Later in the month US Force arrived in France to support the Allies in their attempts to push the German forces back which proved decisive in the battle for the Western Front.
Battle plan at Messines
But in June 1944 while the allies were storming beaches, the German military, having failed to gain air superiority at the Battle of Britain in 1940 had developed a far deadlier weapon with London having its first introduction to the V1 flying bomb commonly known as the Doodlbug. The V1 rocket, designed to be fired under its own engine from various areas of Nazi held Europe had London as the direct target. And the brilliant German scientists who had developed the technology demonstrated amazing accuracy. Within months nearly 100 Doodlebugs a day were falling in and around London.
V1 Rocket, the only indication of an attack was the sudden cut out of the engine
Of course victory in both the First and Second World Wars went to the allies, but at significant cost in terms of lives lost, injuries, both physical and mental to many of those who came home and to the Country’s economy and way of life.
Coming more up to date 25th June 1950 saw North Korea invade its Southern counterpart, an action which caused outrage across the globe. This saw British forces, amongst other countries going in support of South Korea. The Korean War is now known as the forgotten war although it did last over 3 years. It will never be forgotten by those who saw service in this War.
600 British troops faced 30,000 Chinese troops crossing the Imjin River in Korea
June 1982 saw the end of the Falklands conflict with victory to the UK but at the cost of over 250 servicemen paying for victory with their lives and over 700 injured.
During this series of articles on history we will be looking further into many of these events and those directly affecting our relatives, friends and colleagues. I think the last First World War I veteran passed away a couple of years ago although there are still a number of living veterans from the Second World War who served as far north as the Russian convoy escorts, as far south as the African wars in the desert, people who witnessed the overthrow of Singapore and worked on the infamous railway bridges, and all areas in between including the brutality of fighting throughout Europe.
But I know there will be members of our group who like ma have either seen service in their time or will be related to soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought in many wars and conflicts, and not just those that have been mentioned briefly here.
I for one had a grandfather who despite being in a protected employment, he was a miner, enlisted in December 1915 into the Royal Garrison Artillery before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 where he served until the end of the war. My Father was in the Royal Navy from the end of the 1940s and within two years was involved in the Korean War. And I saw service in Norther Ireland, saw the aftermath of the Falklands and was directly involved in the 1st Gulf War.
My Grandfather, Father and I all ‘physically’ survived our tours of service and experiences of war and conflict but it is often harder to judge whether anyone who does this type of service will survive mentally. This is something else we will be looking at in this series which is particularly pertinent to Veterans.
We would welcome input and comments through our Forum on these articles or anything else on our website that you might have in mind regarding Veterans and Veteran support including any personal memoirs or experiences that you might have so please feel free to contribute.