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On January 30, 2015, I was standing in Wulverghem-Lidenhoek Road Military Cemetery, near Ypres (Ieper), Belgium, looking at the gravestone of William George Nichols who was killed during World War 1, on January 30, 1915. William Nichols was the great grandfather of my daughter-in-law, and we had gone there to remember him 100 years to the day since he died. It was a very sobering moment. As we stood there with bright sunlight reflecting on snow, we able to gaze on the adjacent fields which, in that cold morning light, looked as they might have looked on the day that William Nichols died while defending his country.

The next day, we went to Tyne Cot, the largest Commonwealth Military Cemetery in the world, where nearly 12,000 men lie. On our final day, we went to St Symphorien Military Cemetery near Mons. Here British and Commonwealth dead lie in the same cemetery as German dead and all are remembered together. A new memorial at the entrance states, ‘Lest we Forget – 4 August 2014’.

In 2013, I visited the Normandy Beaches. The beaches looked so peaceful, it was hard to imagine the scene on D-Day June 6, 1944, and the days following. And yet, the evidence is there – remains of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches, Pegasus Bridge at one end (and the Café Gondrée – still owned by the same family as in 1944 and still serving excellent coffee!) and Sainte-Mère-Église at the other, where the church tower still has a model representing an American paratrooper who landed on the tower. Memorials, museums, and the Commonwealth, American and German cemeteries in Normandy serve to help us remember and be grateful.

As we approach the 70th anniversaries of the end of the War in Europe and Japan, the time for reflection has never been more timely. It is important to remember that so many of those pilots trained at Clewiston didn’t make it through to the end of World War 2.



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