Friday, September 4, 2009

Anecdote on Liberation

A short anecdote to complement my last post. My British grandfather was sent from his headquarters in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) by Mountbatten to Normandy for the D-Day landings to observe and take detailed notes that could be used to inform the planning of a large amphibious assault on Burma.

The assault never happened, but my grandfather's notes remain, and I recently had a quick look through. They are filled with technical details about logistics and weapons, but also contain a diary in which he recorded some more personal impressions.

One of my favourite entries recalls a conversation with a Norman farmer, who complained that he had suffered more damage and property loss at the hands of British soldiers in 4 days of liberation than he had suffered in 4 years of German occupation.

A further remark was tha the discipline of American soldiers appeared to be much better than that of the British.

The first entry was interesting to me because it brought home the reality of war for an individual. I suspect the farmer was delighted to be liberated from German occupation. But that would not have lessened his anger at the British looters, and may have coloured his feelings of affection for the brave boys are so lionised in the UK for saving our allies.

And the second tickled me because the Brits love to think that Americans are uncouth and ill-mannered.

The truth is never as simple as it appears.

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