A DESERT RAT'S STORY
I must jump ahead now to fifty years later when Denmark celebrated
its 50th Liberation ceremony. We were there as guests and stayed in Silkeborg.
Having attended a service at Aarhus Domkirke to commemorate the event and give thanks, we stepped outside and aligned ourselves up alongside some former resistance men. Then running out from the crowd came Tich Bailey, one of my former drivers on the desert - what a lovely surprise I had not seen him since the war.
A bigger surprise came a couple of hours later. We had at our disposal a Danish Army Landrover car with two corporals and an interpreter. I asked the driver to take us to the Vana Restaurant at Thors Molle for lunch. As we sped along the seafront road, I watched for the point where I had driven the car over the cliff and crashed on the rock thirty feet below. We reached the spot slap bang opposite the curve in the road leading up the hill to our former camp but the cliff was not there and it never was -the drop off the pavement where I hit the tree was only three feet. My mind must have been a blank from the time I hit the tree until I stood up in the car. My flying Opel was all in my imagination!
Some times I look back on all those war years where tens of
millions of people died, many slaughtered because of not being the Germanic
When France capitulated in 1940 we in Great Britain were left to fight the Nazi German forces on our own. Some parts of France were occupied by the Germans with a pliable French government. Laval, Marshal Petain and many others were willing to be servile to the new Civil Service regime led by Rene Bousquet who cooperated fully with the German forces and sent innocent French citizens to their death, declaring it helped to protect their own non-Jewish citizens. Less than 1500 Germans occupied the whole of France. There were around 50,000 Jewish citizens living in France in October 1940 when the new collaborating government declared that Jews were bare from most professions.
The Nazi aim was a France free of Jews. The unoccupied part was known as Vichy France and was controlled by French Civil Servants ready to supply lists of all Jews, including children who were separated from their parents and sent to concentration camps where none survived. Laval, the arch traitor, agreed to the German request that all Jewish children under the age of sixteen years be taken away and sent to the camps and certain miserable death. Four thousand children were deported to Auschwitz alone, all of whom died in the summer of 1942, and over 80,000 Jewish people were willingly sent to the camps of death by collaborating French Civil Servants and the Vichy Police, all were murdered .
We learnt that during the war when it appeared that the vast German army could not be beaten, the majority of the whole of France appeared to settle for a peaceful occupation and life returned to normal. Not much effort was made to save their own French Jewish citizens. I often wonder whether we British were resented for fighting on and eventually winning. France surrendered; we fought on alone.
It is claimed that over 40 million people of all races died in those six and a half years. On the desert and all the other battles we fought, thousands were killed. Wounded prisoners who we captured were sent behind the lines and treated honourably. Only at the end of it all did we learn of the horrors imposed on helpless women and children, babies slaughtered in front of mothers. The majority of the killers escaped justice and in fact were made welcome when they returned to their own communities, the massacre of millions of innocent children and parents quickly forgotten and forgiven.
In the year 2007 we visited Nice in southern France, a place of outstanding beauty. The sun shone throughout the day. Taking a car, we drove high in the hills and in the distance saw the wonderful sight of St. Paul with its cluster of houses crammed together, cobbled streets just a few feet wide hundreds of years old and well preserved.
Driving even higher led us to the peaceful and charming town of Vance. Alighting from the car I noticed four stone columns each four feet high. I examined them and to my horror saw the names of all the French citizens of Jewish origin who had been transported across the whole of France in cattle trucks, mainly into Poland and Germany, and then murdered in concentration camps.
Compliant civil servants forced their fellow citizens from their
property and homes. Leaving this beautiful town behind, most of the time bathed
in sunshine and unmarked from the ravages of war. The misery forced on them
is almost unbearable to think of, families with children of all ages. I wondered
at the time whether any one here was punished for this dreadful betrayal,
who took over the properties of these helpless people?
Standing there and surveying the beautiful countryside, I wondered at the thoughts of those innocent French citizens when leaving such a perfect place and being transported in cattle trucks to certain death in the foul camps. What had this to do with a war which by then had lasted over three years, and who betrayed them? It appears that the French people betrayed their own citizens.