“Now I’m going to relate to you a couple of anecdotes.
Now the first of these was when they were going through Holland. Now they’d just been liberating bits of Holland. They received an ecstatic welcome. The streets were filled with people waving Union Flags and orange flags and the girls were throwing flowers and climbing on top of the tanks and kissing all the crewmen. Quite amusingly, he says that they quickly found out that it was impossible to be selective with who kissed you and so they found it’s only better to duck.
And something that is commonly reported actually in memoirs is how embarrassed people are to receive ecstatic welcomes. Because, when there was a column of troops and tanks and vehicles moving through a town like that and the streets were filled with people… That’s because the town has already been liberated. The guys who did the hard and dangerous work of liberating their town, they’re not the guys, who are getting all of the applause and love and flowers and kisses and wine going through the town. So those guys were often quite embarrassed to get this heroes’ welcome. And they didn’t think, “Oh, we actually didn’t liberate you . We’re not the heroes here.”
So at this point the Germans are in fast retreat. And Bill Bellamy had not seen any hostile Germans for some while. Though there’s been very fierce fighting in the past. But now he’s feeling a little bit safer, little more relaxed. It’s a lovely summer day, he’s zooming along in his tank, he’s got wind in his hair, it all seems very nice. And to his right there was a forty-food embarkment. And he’s been sent to scout if a particular bridge is usable. And he can’t see the bridge because it’s on the other side of the embarkment.
Anyways, he looks behind him. He sees that the other tanks are quite a bit further behind him. Their tanks are slower. And he’s zooming along and he notices the place where you can go through the embankment ahead of him. And so he goes through and…
Normally what he would do, is he would get out of the tank and go up the embankment, have a look around with is binoculars first. But you know, “We haven’t seen any hostile Germans for a while, that’ll be fine.”
[…just reading that last sentence, my guts start to clench… but find out the rest of the story in the video below…]
(“Look at the size of those price tags!”)
I can’t help but notice that the feel of the Western Front of the Second World War is vastly, vastly different from the modern wars from Vietnam to the Gulf Wars (Iraq/Iran, US vs Iraq round 1, US vs Iraq round 2) and Afghanistan…. or even the Eastern Front of that same Second World War…
I wonder how a PC squad would adjust to going through these very different wars, all within a five-year period or so: from women running up and kissing you to women running up and just blowing up.
Or, perhaps, an Imperial Army officer, after investigating so many distasteful wars for violations of the Imperial Laws of War, run into something surprising… well, cheerful and heartening, like the liberation of Holland.
After double-checking to see that this kind of thing was actually real (and not some paper-thin propaganda tale), he’d might want to talk to his commanding officer/noble and convince the man to give him some extra time, and write up a report to spell out exactly why this war was different from all the others. “Can the special sauce be found? And can it be brought into other wars?”