183. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 1)


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Introduction
Friday 6 June this year was the 70th anniversary of the DDaylandings inNormandy. My Grandad Dennis was one of the soldiers who landed on the beach that day. Along with thousands of other men he risked his life to fight the Nazis in the 2nd World War. Many of his fellow soldiers did not survive. Last Friday I went to Caen in Northern France to take part in the D-Day commemorations and to see my comedy hero Eddie Izzard performing stand-up in 3 languages. I recorded a podcast during my trip, and some unexpected things happened! Listen to the episode to join me on my adventure.
6 June 1944 – D-Day
D-Day was a very important moment in World War 2. This was when the Allies fought back against the Nazis on the Western European front. It was a key victory for the Allies, but it was also very costly, particularly for the Americans, who lost thousands of men on June 6 alone. For more information about why D-Day was so important, click here to visit the website of the Imperial War Museum in London.

Ultimately, D-Day was a success, but it came with great destruction and loss of human life. The success was due in part to the very careful planning of the Allied forces before the day, but also to the extremely tough fighting in which the Nazis were engaged in the east with the Soviets.

Why was it called D-Day? Click here to find an answer to this question on the BBC Newsround website.

My D-Day Diary
In this episode you’ll join me on my journey to Caen, a town in Normandy that was a very important location during the Normandy campaign in WW2. Caen is where most of the commemorations were taking place (or so I thought). On Friday the town was visited by lots of people including heads of state such as The Queen, Barack Obama, Francoise Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel. They were all very excited to learn that Luke from Luke’s English Podcast was also going to be in town ;)

I was podcasting regularly during the trip. First you hear me on the train, then walking through the streets of Caen on the way to my rented apartment room, then sitting on the steps of a church with my friend Sebastian Marx (from episode 130), then in a car with Yacine, on the street again, and finally in the train on the way home the next day. In the episode I talk about D-Day, my Grandfather’s involvement in D-Day 70 years ago, my experience of seeing Eddie Izzard’s comedy show, the dumbfounding excitement of having dinner with Eddie Izzard. All in all it was quite an emotional experience all round. I hope you enjoy the episode…

My Grandad, Dennis Hallam

Dennis is 94 this year. 70 years ago he was just 24 years old but he was an officer in the army, in charge of 35 young soldiers. It was his responsibility to lead these men off the boat, up the beach and ultimately all the way through France and deep into enemy territory. It was very brave of him, and he fought for my freedom. Without Grandad, I wouldn’t be here today and there would be no Luke’s English Podcast. Thanks Dennis.

Recently my Dad (Dennis’s son-in-law) wrote to Dennis to thank him for what he did on D-Day. Here is a copy of Dennis’s reply, typed onto a computer by my Mum (Dennis’s daughter). Some words are defined below.

Dear Rick,
Thank you for your “Thankyou” card which made me feel both proud and embarrassed – I was only one of thousands.

It was pretty hairy, and for me and many others it started long before we reached the beach. The Channel crossing was vile – I was dreadfully sick. At some point during the night it was my turn to be Duty Army Officer on the bridge and I had to climb up there being sick and miserable. So it was almost a great relief to get onto the beach, even though wet through, having had to wade ashore, and even though there were assorted bits of metal flying around. What amazes and horrifies me is to think that I was just 24 and in charge of and responsible for a platoon of 35 soldiers. If there were privileges attached to commissioned ranks – and there were, of course, I think we deserved them – a lot was asked of us.

However, it was a war that had to be fought, I think, and one simply called on one’s training and did what seemed right at any situation.

I hope the celebrations will go well and it is good to know that what we did is remembered and honoured.

Thank you again – it was very kind of you.

Yours, Dennis.

Thank you too Grandad.

Eddie Izzard
He’s a stand-up comedian from the UK. I’m a huge fan. I won’t write more about him here because I’m planning to do an episode about him soon, in which I’ll play you some of his stand-up comedy. On 6 June he put on a special show, doing 3 performances – one in German, one in English and one in French. That’s really impressive, especially considering he is learning both German and French as second (or third?) languages. I was pretty awestruck to actually meet Eddie on Friday and then sit down to dinner in his company. I still can’t believe it happened because he’s sort of a hero of mine. Listen to the podcast to hear my reactions. I was quite excited.

Here’s some video of Eddie talking about how Anglo-Saxon English evolved, including his version of how English became a non-gendered language, distinct from the gendered French which existed in England at around the same time.

Here is a video showing footage of the D-Day operation. To be honest, the video doesn’t really show us how big the operation was. It was the biggest naval armada the world had ever seen, and has ever seen since. It must have been an overwhelming sight to behold.

War Is Hell

“Some of you young men think that war is all glamour and glory,
but let me tell you, boys, it is all hell!”
-General William T. Sherman

  • Hamid Naveed

    Hi Luke,how are you? Just a few days ago,I listened to this episode. I loved it. I am always fascinated by WWII veterans and their stories. I have watched a lot of movies on WWII. You said your grandad is alive at 94. Great!

    I have a request.Would it be possible to interview him about D-Day and record a podcast on this subject? Please, please,please. Thanks.

    Hamid Naveed
    Pakistan

    • I would sincerely love to do that Hamid, but sadly he passed away a couple of years ago.
      In any case, he was never very forthcoming about his actions on D-Day. I think he was quite happy to leave it behind him, but we understand that he was quite heroic, winning a medal for what he did.
      I would love to know what happened. There may be some old service reports somewhere in storage. If I find them, or any other records, I might tell the story on the podcast one day.

      • Hamid Naveed

        I am sorry to hear about his death. May his souls rest in peace.

        That would be great! Please do share that when found.

        PS. Sorry for a late reply. I just found your message. Thanks Luke.