One of my perennial interests is the Second World War. I don’t know why; I’m fascinated by its events and effects: military, political and social. This morning, while I was braiding a shoelace whip, I watched the 1962 movie The Longest Day, which was about D-Day – June 6, 1944 – the Allied invasion of France, beginning on the beaches of Normandy.

The movie showed the day from the views of some of the key people and assorted others. The role of these others was to display how the War affected the average person, whether they were civilian or military. One of these vignettes involved an American GI on one of the boats crossing the Channel. He was talking to a sailor about the girl he left behind. For half an hour he had shared the details and his worries with the saltie. When he left to rejoin his unit, one of the sailor’s mates asked him if the GI was a friend of his.

‘I don’t know who he is; I never met him before.’

Another of these snapshots involved two Tommies – I’ll call them Stan and Ollie – lunching in one of the thousands of embarkation camps on the English coast.

Stan: Do you think they’d let me write home? I mean, if it was really important?
Ollie: Not likely mate. Security. I don’t think old Churchill trusts us.
Stan: It’s the wife, you see. She’s going to have a baby.
Ollie: Your first is it?
Stan: Oh it’s not mine, but I’m dead worried about her. She’s not too strong you see.

A tale of two Tommies