A friend on Facebook posted a Photoshopped graphic today of an elderly man, adorned in medals kneeling on a beach while placing a tiny wooden cross in the sand. It came with a caption that read:
Post a picture of a dumb bloke with a beard or a woman with a huge cleavage and it’s shared worldwide. Who will share this and remember the heroes of D-Day
It missed the question mark unfortunately.
Look, though I really hate the garbage that floats around social media, I’ll go one extra step for everyone this time because pictures posted without their story are just as meaningless and in these days of kids not knowing a thing about history, we owe it to the future to keep the narrative alive.
What follows took me an hour to research starting by tracking down this uncaptioned photo.
According to the UK’s Telegraph, the gentleman pictured here, is 85 year old, Eric Buckley, of Leicestershire (the BBC puts him at 86). The photo was taken during the 65th anniversary of D-Day, in 2009.
Eric is kneeling on a beach that on D-Day June 6, 1944, was simply known as “Sword”, most likely at a spot called Colleville-Plage in the Colleville-Montgomery department.
Eric was a Royal Navy engineer or “stoker”. His job was to attend to an MTB or Motor Torpedo Boat’s engine room.
Sounds like a safe job being tucked away like that but Eric’s crew had a number of serious missions that D-Day: rescue men in the water whose landing craft had capsized during the invasion; tow away landing craft mired on the beach; and hunt for German E-Boats (the enemy’s equivalent of the MTB) as they insinuated themselves within the invasion fleet to cause havoc.
Thing is, on that morning, Eric would find himself beached too—MTBs everywhere hit by German artillery blowing up—in Eric’s case surviving sufficiently for him to abandon ship with the loss of two of his dearest friends.
At its most basic level, D-Day is history’s name given to Operation Overlord or the invasion of France by the Allies in 1944. Five beach landing zones swung along Normandy starting with Utah (on the Cotentin Peninsula) and Omaha at its base. These two beaches aimed to take the port of Cherbourg at the top of the Cotentin, thought essential for the breakout to come. Those beaches fell under the command of the USA. Moving along the Normandy shore going east, were the British and Canadian beaches of Gold, Juno, and Sword. Gold and Juno served to protect the US flank, Sword aimed to take the key city of Caen about four kilometers inland.
The plan was this: after capturing Cherbourg, the US would sweep south into France—at which point, the entire Allied line would pivot on Caen and then roar into Germany.
Forces at Sword were to take Caen on day one. Thing is, controversially, the town wouldn’t fall till six weeks later. So Eric would remain stranded on Sword Beach during that time. And until tamed, Sword was a bitter place to be.
In 2014 we find Eric still a workingman: a father of three (his wife having passed away the year prior). Now a member of the British Royal Legion, he sells poppies and has raised over £8,500 that year. As he tells the Mercury that money goes to helping today’s veterans young and old.
But war is business, as we should never forget. So thanks to Getty Images we can gain a license over that photo of Eric kneeling at the beach for USD $775 for its commercial use.
Thing is, I don’t know if Eric ever receives a cent of those royalties … as he pays respect to his lost mates on Facebook … and pushes flowers in their remembrance.
© 2015 Adam Parker. You’ve just read a Parkerpinion.
Main picture: That “meme from Facebook” arted up pour vous par moi.