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"The Royal Marines by Sea, by land" Topic


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304 hits since 17 Mar 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Mar 2018 12:51 p.m. PST

"Tony Lilley was/is my eldest son, Liam's godfather. We have long since lost touch, as I imagine that, if we're honest with ourselves, many of us have with godparents too often chosen with a logic – or lack of it – that the maturity of the years can only wonder at. Tony was the quintessential hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners property developer and financier who revelled in his alleged capacity to enter a revolving door after the opposition and come out of it ahead of them. A line from one of Nicholas Monsarrat's brilliant character delineations in "The Cruel Sea", that of Sub-Lieutenant John Morell fitted him like a glove: "He was living reproof to the solecism of displaying emotion. He was, inevitably, an Old Wykehamist". So, when he spoke emotively of what he described as one of his life defining experiences, I took particular note and one story of his has remained with me for over 40 years.

In July 1940, during the opening phase of the Battle of Britain, Tony was serving as a very young RAF ground crew member at Lympne, a satellite airfield in the Biggin Hill sector of II Group, Fighter Command on the Kent coast. It was at the epicenter of an area aptly described as Hell Fire Corner on account of its being subjected to continual daylight bombing by the Luftwaffe's Air Fleet 2. The attacks were spearheaded by the Junkers 87 dive bomber, better known as the Stuka, than whom there has been no more compelling embodiment of aerial bombardment, due to the banshee-like wail it emitted in a vertical dive. A straw poll of students of the Second World War would probably rate it among the top half dozen of the conflict's most chilling images – and arguably the very top relative to the period in which the Nazis were triumphant. Two months earlier the devastating psychological effect of that wail linked to the precision of the Stukas' bombing in support of the surprise German panzer offensive through the Ardennes (memorably defined as the Blitzkreig) had shredded the morale of the opposing French divisions and heralded the total collapse of their country in a matter of weeks.

Now what the German High Command had come to regard as the successor to long range artillery was being unleashed against British shipping in the English Channel and adjacent coastal targets. Tony said that, for the rest of his days, he would recall with emotion – and in detail – three vivid memories of one Sunday afternoon raid. The first was of a tenor so intense, as he crouched in the fragile security of his allocated slit trench, that in, between praying fervently to the Almighty with the promise not to waste one moment of whatever life was left to him were he to be granted survival, he actually thought that death – provided it was quick – might almost come as a relief. The second recollection was of the gunners of the anti-aircraft battery defending the airfield. In the midst of the maelstrom he could hear the closest of the gun crews going through its drill steadily, almost metronomically, the No 1 calling out the orders, the layer and the loaders responding in similar stentorian fashion. They went on doing that in the most disciplined way until, almost inevitably, they were obliterated by the direct hit of what must have been a 500kg bomb. And the third thing that Tony Lilley remembered about that bright, dangerous English high summer afternoon, at a point in time when free people everywhere were holding their breath as to the outcome of the greatest air battle in history, was that those young men at the heart of it – scarcely more than boys, for the most part – were Royal Marines…"
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Amicalement
Armand

Mark 118 Mar 2018 2:14 p.m. PST

Thank you, Armand, for finding that, and for posting the complete portion which you have placed here.

I find this to be a compelling read.

For me, and I imagine for those others among us, who have had to confront the actual emotions we so glibly label as terror, the image of men stoically going about their necessary work is compelling.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP18 Mar 2018 3:08 p.m. PST

A votre service mon ami!. (smile)

Amicalement
Armand

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