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It was an entirely fortuitous and serendipitous encounter.  Major Howard was

sitting at a table outside Arlette Gondree’s cafe. (Arlette’s house was the first

French home to be liberated.)

I was in the company of Major Michael Hickey, a military historian who

was with my choir.  We were singing The Brahms Requiem seven times

in ten days, all over Normandy, along with a French choir and the

orchestra of Basse Normandie.  We sang in different towns

and we sang in German.  The audiences were in tears.  It was an

emotional and healing experience for all involved.


Photo: 9th June, 1944.  Wikimedia Commons


Pegasus Bridge

Generous gesture – German flag festoons,

hoisted with the Allied banners.  Bunching,

fussy boudoir blinds. Here swooping platoons,

like death’s head moths, stealthily came gliding.

Across the bridge John Howard bravely strode,

piper ahead, deflecting sniper shot.

Now European coaches block the road;

the dispassionate stamp postcards they’ve bought,

sending snapshots of Hell to those who knew

the mark of Caen first-hand. Wish you were here!

He was: a fact to startle and imbue

those that have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The café’s bright umbrellas shelter all

from noonday’s heat, so one could fail to spot

cool nonagenarian. By the wall,

hero’s crutches propped, ready for action.

His longest day is past; his time now short:

German beer his major satisfaction.