Operation Overlord

I know that some of you, who know me well, might believe I’ve a heart of stone. It’s not true, but I’m not one for wearing my emotions so obviously, in the professional context. We are all different and we can and should all be able to present to our colleagues in the way we are most comfortable.

All that said I have been deeply moved by the testaments of, and on behalf of, the D-Day veterans. Their humility and thankfulness for life has been so movingly shared throughout this week. Their conduct, in their youth and through to this day, is an example to us all – as we struggle with the challenges that we face – as they faced down the challenges of that terrible period in our nation’s history. They all understood, from the start of their training, through to the events of 6th June 1944, the real and present danger and yet often describe it, to this day, as ‘just doing their job’.  All too often their friends and colleagues didn’t survive. Yet they charged on, across the beaches, across the farmland, into the unknown and an uncertain conflict.

All of that is enough itself. Further to this, I cannot help but look at those aged men and women (they are all well into their nineties or are centurions) and see our children and young people. Simply by a quirk of history or geography I, you, they don’t have to fight or risk lives. Those who had to fight had nothing special, weren’t any different to youth, of any other time in history. And it is only by that quirk of history or geography that I, you, we haven’t had to face the horror of war. Our older pupils and students, at another time, would have had to fight. It seems inconceivable, it seems impossible, but it happened; and it happens. It’s all too painful to contemplate.

And it goes on across the globe. Children and young people continue to be drawn into or are victims of conflict. It is incredibly difficult to contemplate what those children and young people might face.

I offer no solutions, only that I will take some time to reflect upon the horrors faced and to be faced. I continue to commit to offering our children and young people the very best educational opportunities; alongside promoting those wider values, supporting their resilience, encouraging responsibility and respect. We do what we can do, we do it now for this generation, we do it out of respect for those who fought for our right to be free and able to promote independence, individuality and community.

‘I want to pay my respects to those who didn’t make it. May they rest in peace. I was 19 when I landed, but I was still a boy … and I didn’t have any idea of war and killing. ‘This is the last and only opportunity for me. The last there will ever be. And it is because of the lads. I want to pay my respects to those who didn’t make it. May they rest in peace.’ Joe Mines, 99, in words read by the actor Martin Freeman.