D-Day praise for Portsmouth's 'natural kindnesses' - Nostalgia

Letter from a much-decorated general.
Letter from a much-decorated general.
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I must thank Pat Daley, son of Sir Denis Daley, former Lord Mayor of Portsmouth for five consecutive years during the war, for showing me this letter received by his father from Lieutenant General John Lee.

The letter was unfortunately addressed to Councillor Dalen, but that does not detract from it.

A man of strong religious conviction, Lee was an engineer who commanded the Communications Zone in the European Operations of the Second World War. 

He passed out of American Military Academy West Point in 1909 and served on the Western Front during the First World War.

He was in command of the Pacific Coast in the last war and after the attack on Pearl Harbour supported Operation Torch and Operation Overlord, D-Day. 

He must have spent some time in the Portsmouth area to have got to know Sir Denis. To send a letter of such esteem says a lot about Portsmouth people of the time.

In one sentence he wrote: 'The hospitality and helpfulness of your people on so many occasions has enabled us to administer these forces...'

I have not the space to tell more on this man but the internet tells of his life.

He received many awards during and after the war including a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

• Owing to editorial timings, I must have my Saturday copy in by Tuesday night so I could not comment on the D-Day events on Wednesday, June 5.

For the president of the most powerful country in the world to honour Portsmouth with a visit was a privilege to say the least.

Some leaders of the city had a hissy fit over the visit which I found completely crass.

He was here to remember those fallen American soldiers for crying out loud. Do get a life.

I must say that Melania Trump ought to smile more.

She always looks so solemn but when she was introduced to some of the veterans after the memorial service her smile lit up the room.

She really is a beautiful woman and that smile would break down a few walls when meeting other world leaders.

Mind you, the sunglasses were a little over the top.

We certainly missed a few brownie points by not having the royal train running.

That would have shown full respect for the Queen and also showed Mr Trump how we do things but no, no royal train.

I am sure Mr & Mrs Trump would have loved travelling through the Surrey and Hampshire countryside.

Imagine him seeing the chapel on the hill at Idsworth as the train passed and him being told it was 1,000 years old.

On the memorial service itself, the Queen was her usual self despite her age with a perfectly timed speech.

The most moving speech for me was when President Macron of France read out a letter written by a 16-year old French Resistance boy about to be executed by the Nazis.

How he stopped himself from welling up was beyond me.

I am sure there was not a dry eye anywhere.

The most amusing was the drill officer who, when addressing the ranks of sailors, kept yelling ‘Stan’ still, STAN’ STILL.’ 

The singer Sheridan Smith was okay, but she is no Vera Lynn.

Which brings me to matters of respect. I was at the very well-attended memorial service on the 6th at the D-Day memorial stone on South Parade.

Not only did many onlookers wearing hats not remove them for the Lord’s Prayer but also kept them on for the two minutes silence.

Andy George dropped me a line about his late father-in-law Colin Gardner.

He always was the first D-Day casualty although not fatal. 

When an evacuee in the New Forest he was knocked down by a US Jeep while painting names on the vehicles of the GIs. 

While in hospital, he was visited by the driver.

The GIs collected their chocolate/candy rations and gave them to the poorly children.

We never knew if he survived the Normandy landings.

Sadly, Colin passed away a few years ago, and Andrew never learned of the soldier’s name.