I’m proud to say that tomorrow I will be accompanying Bill Betts, a 91 year old D Day veteran, back to Normandy for the D Day 70 commemorations on friday. Bill lives in a village near me and we met in the local pub one Remembrance Day a few years ago. Bill joined the Essex Yeomanry in 1942 and trained as a radio operator on Sherman tanks. He was one of the first ashore on Gold beach on D Day where he was directing fire against German gun emplacements defending the small village of Le Hamel. Within 45 minutes of landing he was shot by a sniper hiding in a field above the beach who also killed the soldier next to him.
Bill knew the sniper would finish him off if he moved a muscle so he pretended to be dead until the village was eventually cleared. He then spent an agonizing 10 hours lying injured on the beach until he was evacuated at the end of D Day. After six weeks in hospital Bill rejoined his regiment and fought his way into Germany being one of the first people across the Rhine in a floating Sherman Duplex Drive tank. This is commonly known to the troops as a Donald Duck! Bill still has the scar on his leg and told me that 70 years on he never thought he’d see that bloody beach again. I’ll be tweeting throughout the commemorations and also posting pictures on my website.
Seventy years after the Second World War there is a second battle going on in Malta. As an amateur historian who studies the war I know Malta has earned its place in history. Now its time once again for the people of Malta to rise up in the defence of their island.
During the Second World War Malta was the most bombed place on earth as the RAF fought the Luftwaffe for control of the stategically placed island. Last year I saw a programme on the BBC about the battle in which the historian James Holland found the remains of a Spitfire still buried in a field. During the war the bravery of all the people was officially recognised by King George VI, who awarded the George Cross to the entire island.
This time the battle for Malta features real birds, not warbirds. Chris Packham is highlighting the illegal slaughter of migrating birds over the island by hunters in a project called ‘Malta massacre on migration’. Its a self financed project which is very close to Chris’s heart. Every day this week until saturday he will post a video on YouTube at 9pm UK time to publicise the slaughter. READ MORE
I’m currently taking a course at Stratford College on writing for newspapers and magazines. Each pupil was asked to write a feature on a specialist subject. This is Thailand by Richard-Neil Weatherhead.
Thailand, a backpackers paradise and the hedonistic capital of the world. A place that can pull you in and spit you back out again just as fast if you’re not paying close enough attention. From its stunning topical islands and beaches to its bustling cities, adventure lurks around every corner. It is the ultimate escape, everything you have heard about Thailand is probably true. There are an unlimited amount of places to explore and stories to be told. So when my friend Rory mentioned that he was going there for his scuba divers license, I knew that I couldn’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity to tag along and see it all for myself. READ MORE
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