“Take no Prisoners” was the battle cry of The London Hospital Rugby Club’s second IV, as we ran on the spot, hoping that the sound of studs on concrete and the shouts of young men would deliver success on the pitch.  It was years later before I realised the significance of that cry.

D-Day preparations
Preparing for the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 (Farnham Herald)

Reading about D-Day (6 June, 1944) I came across a little mentioned snippet of history.  There was indeed an order from the Allied Commanders that for the first few days after the Normandy landings, our forces were to take no prisoners.  It’s chilling; no German soldier was to be allowed to surrender.  It was in fact an order for summary execution.

That order would have been issued at the very top of the political/military command structure.  It was based not on a desire for revenge or killing for killing’s sake, but rather a hard headed recognition that the Allies did not have the logistics to deal with prisoners for those first few days.  If Operation Overlord was to succeed, then getting men and supplies over to France was the only thing that mattered. The focus on that was laser sharp and nothing was to get in the way.  It was an order intended to save Allied soldiers’ lives.

The order was disobeyed, almost totally.  Officers and men of all ranks throughout the Allied Armies just weren’t going to behave like that.  And if you want just one example of why democracy is better than totalitarianism, remember that story.

This week is the 80th anniversary of D Day.  Surviving veterans are now in their very late nineties or older, and their numbers are rapidly dwindling.  So as we now head to a general election, remember what we owe those brave men and women.  Their willingness to fight and die for decency and liberty allows us to choose our government.  We don’t have to go into battle; we simply put a cross on a bit of paper in the sanctity of the ballot box.

Many of us despair at the apparent ineptitude of all of our politicians.  It has led to a cynicism and apathy.  It is said that many young people now favour a more autocratic form of government.  But I wonder if they have really though that through?

Look at the way Putin sends tens of thousands of young men into the meat grinder.  Or how Xi in China deals with his Uighur Muslim “problem”.  Or how Kim Jong Un takes his people on an “Arduous Journey” (mass starvation) whilst he lives it up and builds rockets.  Or how the Islamic fundamentalist Iranian regime deals with gays (public hanging for some teenage boys).

Taking our democracy for granted is perhaps a sign of a people who have become a little bit spoilt. So whatever you think and whoever you support, you should exercise your right to vote.  The question is how?

My allegiance is well known and the Editor wouldn’t allow me to use this column for canvassing, rightly so!  But there are some big questions and we should be looking to our politicians to answer them.

Speaking recently to a rural primary school headmistress, she reported that parents are worried that some year soon, they will have to watch their children march off to war. Professional soldiers think the same.  We have ignored defence of the country for too long, taken peace for granted and forgotten that the best way to prevent war is to be ready to fight it.  Defence needs more money and urgently.  It also needs some very clear thinking.

Health care has been a political football for too long.  Record sums of money are going into the NHS, but productivity is falling.  In Wales, things are worse than England, despite greater resources being available.  When are politicians going to recognise that the NHS is a concept and not an institution?  Who is going to stand up and deliver us better health care, rather than politically weaponised healthcare?

Who has got a plan to tackle the boats and illegal migration?  Some dreamers think that they can turn the boats back mid-channel; anyone who has served at sea knows that this won’t work unless we are happy to watch people drown.  Like our D-Day soldiers who didn’t obey “take no prisoners”, most of us find that abhorrent; we are too good for that nonsense.

Who really cares about giving our young people a great education?  In some parts of the UK, our PISA scores are now well above average (England now better than Sweden) and in others (Wales included) our scores are shameful.

Who is going to focus on the economy and getting sustainable growth back?  Focus in the way that the D-Day commanders did to get men, ammunition, equipment, fuel and supplies on to those Normandy beaches.  Without that growth our children and grandchildren can wave decent public services goodbye; they won’t exist.

Demand answers from our politicians and make your choice.  Find out who has the experience and backbone to deliver on these difficult issues.  And then vote, remembering that we are lucky enough to be able to change things without picking up a rifle.