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Those who came after...

"My life is a feather, Caught in a sudden breeze." from the poem, Hill 312 by Sven Berlin

As we commemorate D-Day, we also remember the many thousands who continued to fight after that momentous day. Among them Sven Berlin, a Forward Observer. Bomb Berlin as he was dubbed, was assigned to a regiment of the 2nd Army formation in the 21st Army Group. He had waited some ten days in the English countryside to leave for Normandy, before arriving on Juno Beach on D-Day+18.

Berlin's service took him to the area known as The Pocket (Granville, Colville, Cheux) and onwards towards Caen, taking the Bayeux road to the beginning of the Bocage where he made this self portrait. En route, Berlin produced some 60 sketches of villagers, refugees, soldiers and several self-portraits, as well as writing a diary and numerous letters to art critic Adrian Stokes, which would later become his book I am Lazarus.

He would continue to witness the devastation, the displaced villagers and feel the loss of fellow soldiers onwards into Flers and then through Holland where he developed hepatitis ("I was the colour of amber", Sven told his wife Helga) and was suffering from shell shock. Too ill to continue, he was repatriated to the UK in mid-December 1944 from Eindhoven via Brussels.

An honest account and a thoughtful book to read at this time, reflecting the experiences of many an ordinary soldier, but with a poet and writer's insight.


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