A couple of weeks ago, when I read the date on my newspaper I remembered that on June 6, 1944, the first of the Allied troops had landed on the beachhead at Normandy. This was a date no Second World War buff, like me, could ever forget.
Only today, I came across these awesome hitherto unpublished pictures taken by “Life” photographer, Frank Scherschel in an article in The Daily Mail. Memories are funny things. One thing leads to another and my mind was soon flooded by memories of that classic movie, “The Longest Day”.The movie was based on a book by an author whom I admired, Cornelius Ryan. I loved his books on the Second World War, starting with “The Longest Day” which was about the Normandy landings in 1944. The title came from a comment supposedly made by the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. Anticipating the landings but not being sure where exactly they would take place, Rommel told his aide how crucial the first 24 hours would be, and consequently how the first would be “the longest day.”
Thereafter he wrote, “The Last Battle”, an absorbing account of the final days of the war centered around the battle for Berlin. He later wrote, “A Bridge Too Far” which was again made into a war movie. This book was about the ill-fated battle for Arnhem in The Netherlands.
I am often asked how I have developed such a liking for military history. I can say that I was hugely influenced by the writings of people like Cornelius Ryan. They wrote about the battle as if they were actually there. It was historical fiction at its finest. I liked the chatty, newspaper style journalism that came through in his books. Yet, these books were thoroughly researched and Ryan gathered a huge amount of information through personal interviews and the like.
The Longest Day was dedicated to the men who fought that battle. Ryan famously said, “What I write is not about war, but the courage of man.”
How I would love some day to write historical fiction like Cornelius Ryan did!