D-Day Landings

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The following is dedicated to the memory of
Sgt. Frank Eugene Bradway, Jr.,
who was there!

D-Day Landings
By A. J. “Tony” Chapman

A Quiet Place
It’s quiet here … so quiet
Standing on this hill
But if I stand here too much longer
My eyes with tears will fill.
Looking down … I’m there again
On that beach
 … just down below.
Far different … to that morning
That I remember so.
That beach … it was a hell on earth
Where no man … should ever go.

I remember,
I was down there
I should know.
Don’t cry now … dear old soldier
That was many years ago.

The Coxswain
There are forty of us waiting
In this little LCA,
We sailors … and these soldiers
We’re taking in today.
They came aboard our mother ship
Now several days ago,
They’re growing very pale
As the strain begins to show.
They’re only boys … the most of them
Eighteen to twenty-three.
For some of them … tomorrow
Is a day … they’ll never see.
I can’t promise we’ll all make it, lads
But I’ll do my best … you’ll see,
I’ll remember you
 … you young soldiers
This day … in Normandy.
God bless you, lads … and keep you safe
We’ll meet again … one day.
This is it, then lads … keep your heads down.
AWAY ALL BOATS … AWAY.

Any moment now
The noise … it will begin
As bombarding ships and rocket ships
Send their salvos whistling in.
Any moment now
These landing craft will move
Making for the beaches
Defenders … to remove.
Any moment now
There will be many a silent prayer
As these craft attain the beaches
So close now … see them there.

Any moment now
Men and craft … they will be hit.
It is then … we’ll be required
To show we have true grit.
Any moment now
I will be watching comrades fall,
Be ready Lord … above the noise
Listen … for my call.
I do not know if I will cope.
Please … stand by me … show me how
I’m going to need you … more than ever
Any moment now.

Keep moving
Keep moving lads … keep moving
Don’t huddle on this beach
Don’t make yourselves a target
For those guns up there to reach.
Keep moving lads … keep moving
There’s the seawall … over there
Keep moving lads … keep moving
Don’t falter … or despair.
Don’t look … at comrades falling
Around you … everywhere
Keep moving lads … keep moving
We can take this … on the chin
Keep moving … and keep praying
Before those guns … they zero in.

I stand here now
I stand here now
Amongst … brave men
With whom … I’ve stood before.
The last time … when we landed
On June 6th of ’44.
Back then … we were all young men
Eighteen or little more.
Their lives … cut short … that morning
On this distant … windswept shore.

I stand here now … and wonder
What would they … have become
Had they survived … that morning,
Their lives … allowed full run?
One thing … I know … for certain
Of which … there is … no doubt
These brave young men
My pals
 … from then
Would be … old
White haired … with wrinkled brow

Just like me …
As I stand here … now.

***

Tony Chapman was not one of the young lads of the 20th century who joined the Navy to see the world. He was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England, in 1924. At age 16 he watched with horror as the historic High Street of Southampton burned down in a firestorm caused by a heavy German bombing raid on the night of November 30, 1940. At the edge of a city pier that night he promised himself that he would join the fight and do his best to teach the world the horrors of war. He vowed to join up and fight back. Tony joined the Navy and was posted to the Motor Gun Boat Fleet as a telegraphist.

Chapman’s first involvement in war came at an engagement when his flotilla took on a force of thirty German E-boats. (E-boat was an Allied designation for a fast attack craft (German: Schnellboot). Although his unit of two MGBs sank three E-Boats, it was at a high cost. Half of Tony’s shipmates were killed or injured.

As a sailor in a service that has received little attention in the literature of World War II, Chapman successfully made his way in life as a veteran, an archivist, an educator, and a historian. Partially, but not wholly because of his presence at events like the invasion of the Normandy beaches on D-Day 1944.

Tony Chapman’s obituary is dated February 28, 2022. He was 97 years old. His promise was kept.

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Nice tribute to Tony.

Thank you for publishing this poem/reflection. It was sad, sad, last night listening to the TV new broadcast and hearing one of the veterans who charged ashore say he thought: ‘we have not learned from the past.’

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