Wednesday, May 05, 2010

#177: Ace Of Spades

If Richard Todd offered you a dart then you'd better have taken it, and smiled, if you knew what was good for you. Richard was one of the original tough guys. Although he didn't look the part he was a genuine war hero. In World War II Captain Todd participated in the British Airborne Operation Tonga during the D-Day landings and As impressive as that is, it's nothing compared to his later exploits as part of the main assault against Pegasus Bridge near Caen.

Here's Todd's own recollection of events, beginning with his sighting of a dead German on the way to Pegasus Bridge. "It was the first time I'd seen a shattered dead body like that," admitted Todd. "I remember thinking, 'Poor sod.' It meant no more than that.

"Then, just as we got to Pegasus Bridge, there was a huge explosion about 200 yards away. We thought it was the beginning of the German counter-attack. In fact a German tank had been hit by a bazooka and exploded.

"We thought our chaps must have been under heavy fire so we scrambled over the bridge to join them as fast as we could. When we met up with John Howard, I greeted him with a quick, 'Well done old boy!' My CO then told him to go into reserve and we took over. We then bore the brunt of the German counter-attack. It took 10 or 15 mins before they struck back and by that time we were in position.

"But we were down to a fraction of our strength because chaps had been dropped all over the place or shot down. It was one of my jobs as assistant adjutant to get a list of casualties.

"We had dropped 610 men but by 10am we had just 200 odd left. I think 65 men were killed during fighting at the bridges alone.

"The first time I used my weapons was on the way from the bridge to a place I'd set up as our HQ," he said. "We had a little bit of a fight with some Germans. They didn't seem to like us very much. It was a bit of a shooting match.

"But I never did see if I'd downed anybody. It was quickfire running about stuff mainly. The only time I did think I'd downed somebody was the following day when I was in a position near Ranville close to the glider landing zone.

"The Germans were using the gliders as cover and there was quite a lot of shooting. I fired quite a few times and thought I might have downed a few but I can't say for sure.

"You couldn't always see the source of fire. You just had to shoot in the general direction it was coming home from and hope you hit somebody or at least shut them up."

"But one thing I'll never forget is the stench of death. It was easily the worst thing. Thousands of animals, mostly cows, lay dead and rotting, killed by bullets and bomb blasts. And as the Germans were driven out of villages, the Allies never had time to clear the dead so they lay there stinking.

"It was overpowering and, thankfully, something you never got used to."

Impressive.  Once he returned to Britian he eked out a career in movies and theatre, with one of his most famous roles being Wing Commander Guy Gibson in 1955's The Dam Busters.  Great movie, if somewhat inaccurate.

I wonder what they're going to call the black dog in Peter Jackson's remake of The Dam Busters?  After all, anyone who has seen the movie, or read the book, knows full well that the dog's name was...Nigger.

However if Todd offered you a coffin nail these days you'd want to take it due to the high cost of smokes.  There's no heavy tax on fast food, but there is on fags.  I can't work that out really, as we're always told that obesity is the biggest health risk to the nation today, not smoking, which we know will kill you eventually.  There is a show called "The Biggest Loser" which is devoted to the spectacle of fat people losing weight, and good for them, but why is there not a show called, "Stub That Smoke" which could be devoted to people trying to give up smoking?

Because it might rate.  And the less people who smoke, the less money the Government make from taxing an addiction.  Simple as that.  Fast food offers up more than enough revenue for all involved, even with the extra sauces added.  Remember the slogan, "I'm Lovin' In It".  You can work out what it means.

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