Friday, February 21, 2014

WW2: Ten Poignant Stories (7)

Most books about WW2 contain descriptions of scenes the average reader will never behold in their lifetime. But poignant, powerful scenes, the likes of which would be more familiar to our parents and grandparents, should be a part of our collective memories.

"He slumped in his chair like a hung-over walrus,
but even in the queasy grip of seasickness his presence
still dominated the heaving room."

Above and below are excerpts from AND NO BIRDS SANG by well-respected Canadian writer Farley Mowat (age 93, living in Port Hope, Ontario). He was aboard the heaving Derbyshire in July, 1943 as the largest armada in history, up to that time, approached the island of Sicily, itself slumbering and unaware of an impending invasion. Official start time of Operation Husky was but hours away.

Those Metal Boxes Would Have Swamped

    Beyond the ship
    the scene was something to behold.
    The sky was as harshly bright and clear as ever,
    for the sirocco brought no clouds in its train.

    The sun streamed down
    upon a waste of heaving seas,
    foaming white to the horizon.
    And the great invasion fleet
    - that irresistible weapon -
    was in total and almost helpless disarray.

    The largest warships were being swept
    by breaking seas until they looked like
    half-awash submarines. The big troopers
    were being staggered by the impact of the 
    greybeards that broke over their heaving sterns.

    Most of the smaller vessels had turned about
    and were hove-to, head to the sea and wind,
    and some of them - particularly the square-nosed
    tank landing craft - were obviously nearing
    the limits of their endurance. If the gale had
    increased its strength only a little more, many of
    those metal boxes would have swamped and sunk.

    I thanked my stars I wasn't aboard one of them...
    and then remembered that in less than twenty-four 
    hours we were due to be cast into that turmoil
    of white waters in tiny assault boats which were
    little more than sardine cans and
    not much more seaworthy.
    pg 51

Photos by GH

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