The Shores of Normandy

jim radford 1
Jim Radord, D-day veteran and composer.

The Shores of Normandy is an incredibly moving song written by Jim Radford in memory of the crew mates he lost on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. It can stand alone as a powerful poem, but is even more impressive as a song.

This is how the poem begins:

In the cold grey light of the sixth of June, in the year of forty-four,
The Empire Larch sailed out from Poole to join with thousands more.
The largest fleet the world had seen, we sailed in close array,
And we set our course for Normandy at the dawning of the day.

There was not one man in all our crew but knew what lay in store,
For we had waited for that day through five long years of war.
We knew that many would not return, yet all our hearts were true,
For we were bound for Normandy, where we had a job to do.

The poem goes on to tell of the experiences of a galley-boy on board the Empire Larch, a deep sea tug, as it crossed the channel and landed at Normandy. As Radford writes:

I little thought when I left home of the dreadful sights I’d see,
But I came to manhood on the day that I first saw Normandy.

This is a poem in the style of story-telling ballads. It is straight-forward, packed with action and emotion and will appeal to people of all ages.

In the video below, Jim Radford performs his composition at the Service of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in November 2014.

Suggested activities

1. Begin with the words. Give the poem to the children. Do not give them the context, but ask them to highlight key words or phrases that give clues as to what this poem is all about.

2. Discuss what happened at Normandy. Why did the people die? What were they doing there? What did they achieve? What must it have been like to have been aboard the Empire Larch that day in June, 1944?

3. Prepare a class reading of the poem. Individual groups could work on particular verses.

4. Add artwork to your performance. Could children draw the boat and the servicemen on board?

5. What do those children who might play video games about war think about it in reality? Has it changed the way they feel about warfare and being a soldier?

6. Show the children the recording of Jim Radford performing the song. Do they think it brings the song to life? What questions would they like to put to Jim Radford? He can be contacted here.

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