Former Walsall Poet Laureate To Read In Memory of Uncle On 80th Anniversary Of D-Day
1st June 2024
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A former Walsall Poet Laureate has been invited to join other Poet Laureates as the nation commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, known as D-Day,  on Thursday 6th June.  D-Day, which took place on 6th June 1944, was a pivotal moment in World War II.      



Ian Henery, who was Mayor of Walsall`s Poet Laureate for Cllr Rose Burley 2021 - 2022, will join Poet Laureates of Wednesbury and Staffordshire at Victoria Park in Stafford as the nation remembers the Allied Forces who launched a massive invasion of Nazi-occupied France that marked the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.      



"You know you`re old when you say things like "When I was a boy" and  "Back in my day"" said Ian Henery.   "Well, I never thought I would get old and become a cliche but when I was a boy, back in my day World War II was everywhere - films on the TV and cinema, stories from our grandparents, games in the playground where we`d take it in turns to be Great British paratroopers or Nasty Nazis.      



The 1960`s and early 70`s were a world of comics full of World War II strips and Airfix models.  We had an air raid shelter in our garden in Bescot Crescent, my headteacher at Blue Coat School  in Walsall was a captain in a tank regiment who lost his eye in Normandy taking on a Panther tank and for it he was decorated with a Military Cross.      



Three of my  Uncles saw combat duty in the infantry and another in the artillery.   One uncle was in the D Day landings on 6th June 1944 in Normandy.  My Grandad was unfit for military service but volunteered as a fire officer and witnessed Coventry become an inferno but that was a long time ago, a different century and millennium."    



Nearly 20 years ago Walsall Council staged a community arts event called Walsall`s War with a play written by poet and playwright David Calcutt to celebrate 60 years since the end of the war.  Ian Henery  was one of the researchers and interviewed a number of World War II veterans including his Uncle Horace Degville who had landed on the beaches on D-Day.        



"He was one of the soldiers who landed on the coast of Normandy - the start of the campaign to liberate Europe and defeat Germany" said Ian Henery.  "Uncle Horace has passed now and the research I did - and poems I wrote based on Uncle Horace`s experiences - have remained in a folder in a cabinet at home for nearly 20 years.  On the 80th anniversary of D-Day I want to read them again and remember him and all of his generation who paid the ultimate sacrifice for my generation and the generation of my children".    



Horace Degville grew up with his family in Palfrey and Walsall and joined the Welsh Guards.  "One year at the Remembrance Day Parade at The Cenotaph in London" said Ian "the Prince of Wales asked him "What is a Brummie like you doing in the Welsh Guards"?  to which he took exception.      



Uncle Horace was a Walsall man through and through and at the end of the War he took a job with Walsall Council and finished his working life working for the Housing Department. "I`m not a Brummie", he replied, "I`m from Walsall.  You couldn`t get any decent blokes in Wales so you had to come to Walsall"" said Ian Henery.      



It took 60 years for Horace Degville to talk about his experiences on D-Day and only after his wife had passed away as if somehow the horror would infect her with the brutality and carnage of war.  He finally opened up about his experiences for Walsall`s War to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day.  These poems will be read by Ian Henery as he remembers his Uncle Horace on the 80th anniversary of D-Day 2024.                                                



                                     Normandy Tan  

6th June 1944 - it`s D Day

Did not want to remember, tried to forget

Landing craft door opening, bullet spray,

Almost drowned by waves, no time for regret.  



Summer sun, on the beach, Normandy tan,

Bombs, grenades and machine fill your ears - 

Shooting gallery - not a master plan

And no cigarettes to calm all your fears.    



Blood and bodies in water, hidden mines,

Pushing aside corpses of friends to shore

Human beings ripped apart along the shoreline,

Scenes of an abattoir, sands caked in gore.    



First night in France and spent in a fox hole

Beside the bodies of comrades in arms.

For years you kept silent, good of your soul

Now removed from all that could do you harm.      

About the Author

Ian Henery

Member since: 4th February 2019

Presenter Black Country Radio & Black Country Xtra

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