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News > Heritage > The Campbell College Bugle Pipes & Drums - Normandy 2023

The Campbell College Bugle Pipes & Drums - Normandy 2023

Normandy 79 years on..
30 Aug 2023
Written by David Graham

I was genuinely delighted to see that the College pipe band toured battle areas of Northern France during July to commemorate those who took part in the Normandy campaign and particularly those from Northern Ireland and the Royal Ulster Rifles.

It is sobering to think that young men of a similar age to those in the band travelled to Normandy 79 years ago to fight and often die there.

My father joined up as a 17-year-old in 1944 and some weeks later faced the might of the German war machine with his comrades in the Ulster Rifles. Somehow, after two long years, he managed to survive and returned home to Northern Ireland in 1946.

He, like many of his generation, said little about the war, which was something we all felt we should respect. Indeed, in his 90 years, he perhaps provided only a few lines about his wartime experiences, preferring to simply say “it was a long time ago”.

However, one fact he shared particularly sticks with me.

He said that he was in a “lucky platoon” (which was around 30 men). The Ulster Rifles definition of “lucky” was that 12 of the 30 came home. Apparently if you were in an “unlucky” platoon, just 3 of the 30 came home.

Whether you're at school now or school is a distant memory, 30 is about the size of one class. If you think about your own class, the odds were never in your favour.

It is impossible to underestimate what we owe those young men and what they fought for. Indeed, a sense of gratitude goes a long way.

Democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of movement are all rare concepts in the history of mankind and so I think it is our collective duty to hold onto them dearly.

I have above my desk, the words of a well-known U.S. Navy Seal from a much more recent conflict which resonate strongly with me: they are

“Millions before me have suffered too much, fought too hard and been blessed with too little, for me to squander this life. All my actions matter…”

David Graham 6423

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