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The Sands of Normandy ©

Baba
Stewarton, Scotland
2004

They scrambled down the netting into bobbing landing craft
Without a keel and bottom flat, they're tossed from fore to aft
These lidless metal boxes with their hinged and blunted bows
Gun their engines shoreward toward impending bloody row

Hundreds of these vessels, raced, charging to the beach
Which, for those aboard this voyage, seemed forever out of reach
Warrior human cargo crouched, life's meaning keenly sought
The religious with his mumbled prayer while atheist deep in thought

Their worth and personal measure self examined at some length
Nervous darting narrow eyes disguise that inner strength
Adrenaline now coursing as their nerves begin to bite
For some their final day has dawned now battle is in sight

Minutes seemed like hours, a time for contemplation
Inching ever closer to the waiting conflagration
And what of all the passengers, who were these khaki souls?
Heroes and unfortunates for each would play their role

And high above the barrage boomed to soften up the rival
Crashing down upon him in a prelude to arrival
Warship's countless volleys struck their targets on the shore
The obstacle, the stronghold hit, and still they fired more

The landing crafts were fired upon: defenders deadly mortar
A few were hit, their journey's end, denied the enemy's quarter
But still they advanced through churning sea their purpose not rejected
They rushed towards their destiny: their course was not deflected

And then they were upon it, boxes grinding on the sand
The troops within preparing, changing crouch to steely stand
With splash and thud announcing them they poured down landing ramp
The human tempest gushed ashore to storm the enemy camp

Despite the fearful pounding most defences stayed intact
Mustered to repel the horde, rallied to react
No sooner had that first foot stepped and touched the land to free
The enemy countered graphically: he's not prepared to flee

Snaking raking machine gun fire arcing through the air
Ripping, shredding, scything, tearing tissue without care
Flaming shiny ribbons whipped from left to right and back
Hellish bursts from countless guns: invader on the rack

Bodies fall like dominoes on that sandy billiard table
That horror faced by every man, he questions if he's able
And on the beach its panic, seeming pointless to proceed
Men are dying all around, how could this plan succeed?

Flashing crashing snapshots blink from countless wild eyes
Commit to permanent record, haunted memory testifies
Invasion stalls, its mayhem, an extended pregnant pause
Suddenly, collectively they rally to the cause

No cover offers sanctuary from the murderous leaden rain
They must run this deadly gauntlet, regardless of the pain
So on they press still further, challenge individual fate
Now at the final hurdle: once breached will be a gate

When they'd finally broken through, to rout the worthy foe
The heights of hard fought victory were tempered by a low
Their comrades lying on the beach, denied the chance to live
Sacrificed for greater good they've nothing more to give

Every man the hero who, that day set fateful sail
How they faced the hell of war, God knows they didn't fail
May you never ever witness war: to these men give salute
A testament to courage that we never will dilute


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