From Normandy to Nottingham - a VE Day story
As the country marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day we wanted to share the story of Dr Ronald Fearn (Physics, 1952) who landed in Normandy just after D-Day before studying here at Nottingham after being demobbed from the army in 1948.
He has provided some recollections of his time at the University with us, as well as generously giving permission to publish a selection of his poetry - written mostly during the course of his time in France, it is a moving and vivid account of the conflict.
He was recently awarded the Legion of Honour, the highest possible French decoration, for, as he describes in his letter from the French Embassy: "Recognition of your acknowledged military engagement and your steadfast involvement in the Liberation of France in the Second World War."
From Lee-on-Solent on an LCT
Over Homer’s wine dark sea
Normandy bound to join the fight
Sailing silent through the night
Vehicles waterproofed with sticky muck
So they could wade ashore like a duck
Sea sickness tablets before we sailed
As a precaution that certainly failed
A soldier after eating maconicie stew
Up on the deck began to spew
The shells of the peas floated away in the breeze
The rest splashing down upon his knees
Somewhere below a clarinet played
An unforgettable Mozart serenade
In the early morning light
Sword beach hove in sight
Off the boat safe ashore
Couldn’t ask the navy for anything more
Up the beach on to a road
Waterproof off and away with a Compo load
"My time at Nottingham was very different to what a present day student would experience. Between studies I worked as a draftsman in a Derby firm: I joined the TA - the 5th Foresters based in Derby - which took up quite a bit of my free time. Was my time at Nottingham worthwhile? Yes. It gave me basic knowledge and skills. It opened up a wide field of opportunities. I made lifelong friends, and had several professional contacts over the years with the University."
A battle joined
A wooden cross
A steel helm
A battle lost
A field of gold
Hell is here, heaven where?
"What would I say to a student starting at the University today? No matter how difficult it is stay with it and be flexible. It is well worthwile. Enjoy the social life the University offers as you will make many friends. Give some thought to your future career."
Germany 1945 VE Day
One May morn victory came
For us things remained much the same
The fighting quietly fizzled out
With a whimper not a shout.
People at home danced in the street
Expressed their joy through their feet
But still we have mines to clear away
And still the Japs fight us this day
So Tommy Atkins soldier on
Tho’ peace declared, your job’s not done
If all of this wasn't enough Ron has also published several books and become a talented watercolour painter. Truly a remarkable man, who we are honoured to recognise as an alumnus.
A watercolour of Florence by Ron Fearn.