On June 6th 1944 Jim Radford, aged just 15, was serving on the HM Rescue tug Empire Larch at Gold Beach tasked, amongst other things, with building the breakwater and later the mulberry harbour there. 70 years later an 85 year old Jim stood up in front of a packed Albert Hall in London and, accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra, sung his autobiographical composition – The Shores of Normandy.
On the night, Jim spoke about how he felt to be a survivor, seventy years on.
Glad and sad. I’m glad that I survived. I’ve had seventy years of a good life, and very sad every time I think of D-Day, and of all the poor devils who never made it back. And that’s the people I think about, on this day, every year.
He also gave some background on the song itself.
It’s actually the first song I ever wrote. And the clue to why I wrote it is in the last verse. I didn’t go back to Arromanches [Gold Beach] until about 1960, and I didn’t expect to be moved. But when I did go back, and stood on a beach that I’d last seen covered in bodies, and saw children building sandcastles, I wept.
And that’s when I decided to write this song.
Another version of the video can be found on the BBC site here. You can read more about the D-Day landings in The Longest Forecast, the story of James Stagg’s battle to beat the British weather and find a suitable day for the invasion.