Soldiering on

British soliders in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944 (© Wikimedia Commons)

“Throughout the history of warfare technology changes rapidly. A revolution in technology can occur in the space of 20 odd years, but the human emotions of those involved in a battle remain the same. Earliest surviving accounts can identify the same underlying emotions as those who fought in Vietnam. Fear and euphoria . . . they don’t change.”

Warfare is used by nations as a way to control and determine events. Leaders and demagogues have used it since the birth of civilisation to enhance their powers and destroy others. It causes death, destruction and mayhem on an almost unimaginable scale, and yet it is resorted to so frequently to resolve disputes that it has become almost second nature to the human species. But what of the soldiers who must fight those wars? Their individual stories are all too easily forgotten in the greater picture and the distanced recounting of historical events. Millions of men have lost their lives and endured appalling hardships in battle. In ‘Soldiering On’, two veterans of the Second World War tell their stories, accounts that can be seen as the story of the common soldier through the ages.

The speakers are Robert Taylor, who landed with the British forces in Normandy on D-Day and John Jones who was parachuted into the Battle of Arnhem, and historian Steve Brumwell.

Producer: Chris Chambers

Broadcast: June 1, 2004