Today I met a remarkable man. Mark Radley was just 19 when he fought for Britain on D-Day. Today, at the age of 89 he came to visit the House of Commons to share with me some of his memories of June 6, 1944. He had served on board HMS Hilary on D-Day, detecting and intercepting Nazi communications. My Dad was serving in the Royal Navy on the same vessel where his job was to translate them.
It was deeply moving for me personally to talk with someone who had served alongside my late father. When I travel to Normandy for the D-Day commemorations I will be thinking about Mr Radley, my Dad and the tens of thousands of servicemen and women who left our shores 70 years ago knowing that mortal danger lay ahead. They were part of that great generation who risked their lives on D-Day to fight for the freedom we too often take for granted today.
That is why it is so important that Britain comes together this week to pay tribute to them all – and to remember. Mr Radley told me how he can still vividly recall seeing the body of a Canadian soldier being stitched into canvass and buried at sea – just one of thousands of Allied troops that died in the battle. He told me how their ship came under attack at various times during the Normandy Landings.
He told me how they were told to “splice the mainbrace” and given an extra shot of rum at the end of the Longest Day. And he modestly told me how he felt it was “a privilege to have been part of D-Day”. But the real privilege belongs to those of us who were able to live in freedom because of people like him.
It was a real honour to meet Mr Radley today and I will go home tonight to tell my children about him because I want them to grow up knowing about the service and sacrifice of those who went before us.
— Ed Miliband