ST GEORGE’S Church in the heart of Lisbon, set amidst the many gravestones of those who gave their all in the Second World War, was a sombre setting last Sunday. Many of the international community and a contingent of serving personnel and their families from NATO HQ at Oeiras gathered in a service of thanksgiving to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War.
The first hymn – “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come” – must have been sung many times in the war years, but, with the bombings in London fresh in the minds of the congregation, will our hopes be better for the years to come? The Rev. Michael Bullock reiterated these thoughts in his sermon, Air Commodore A.G. Walton CBE of the RAF and NATO, and Commander Ron Goddard of the Royal British Legion laid wreaths at the Second World War memorial.
Rev. Bullock gave a rousing sermon and then introduced ex Sergeant Ben Bensusan, who remembered his time in Italy during the Second World War with the following words: “Italy, February 1945. It is snowing in no man’s land and fighting continues, sporadic rattling of machine guns, the enemy’s and our own, can be heard in the distance. It is dark and very cold, and the full moon is in a clear sky, illuminating the great mountains not so far away, the searchlights sweeping the skies, probing, attempting to spot enemy planes, fill the night sky with silver and beauty. ‘No man’s land is not a place to be in,’ I thought; it is sad and depressing, the bodies of men and animals killed when the battle was on, not quite two hours ago, make it a horrible sight in contrast with the beauty of the night and the snow. I asked myself: ‘will there be a tomorrow?’ I thank the Lord for having spared me.”
The poignant ending of Bensusan’s words must have been mumbled by hundreds of thousands of men serving in that horrible war: “Thank the Lord for having spared me.” Bob Hughes