A drawing-down of blinds

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

A genuinely just war is a rare thing, so it’s easy to understand why, even today, World War II is such an important part of our history. Certainly here in Britain, the pride that a country not much bigger than Idahostood up a megalomaniac who was cutting a swathe through the rest of Europe – and initially didn’t even plan to attack the British Isles- is tangible. And 67 years ago today, on D-Day, history’s largest amphibious invasion was mounted by Allied forces after months of planning, accompanied by airborne troops.

Today, we remember the 14,000-19,000 wounded, missing and dead on both sides of the conflict, cherish the peace they tried to bring us, and here at Pencils and Whatnot we take a look at their names. Historically, great victories have proved a rich source of patriotic monikers – Alma took a boost from the Crimean War, for example – and while the general focus of war has changed from empire expansion and protection to hopefully more moral issues, inspiration can still be found in the D-Day records for parents who want to encourage bravery, tenacity and morality in their offspring.


Arthur – this RAF Marshall’s first name is already climbing the charts, thanks to its vintage pedigree and soft but clearly masculine nature. His surname, Tedder, also brings to mind the sweet nickname Teddy – try Theodore, Edmund, Edward or Edwin.

Bernard – a British commander, this would make a great alternative to the popular Benjamin. His nickname was Monty, from his surname,Montgomery– also an option for fearless and grander parents.

Bertram – another Brit and the bearer of this brilliant vintage name. Bram could appeal to those who are fond of Thad and the like … or fans of horror fiction. B. Ramsay was killed in a plane crash before the end of the war.
Ike – the nickname of Dwight D. Eisenhower, and perhaps a better option than his real name. The similarity to tyke makes this one a cheeky, friendly choice for a little boy, and it works well as a short form of the more responsible Isaac.

Miles – Dempsey’s friendly first name makes a solid choice that it’s hard to object to, although some would argue Milohas the edge. His nicknames apparently included Bimbo (perhaps not such a good option) and Lucky, which would work as a sweet nickname for a young Lucas, Luca or Luke – or even Lucy, Lucinda or Lucille.

Neptune – D-Day was the commencement of Operation Neptune, although this Roman name for the god of the sea might be a bit too powerful for your wee baby – or even the adult he’ll become.

Omar – a Hebrew name meaning ‘speaker’, perhaps more well-known today as the homonymous Arabic name derived from the word for ‘life’ (could be an interesting statement on an ongoing conflict). A possible alternative to Noah, Ezra et cetera, and perhaps preferable to his somewhat tired surname, Bradley.

Pax – the aim.

Trafford – T. Leigh-Mallory, a British commander, proves that surnames as firsts are not a modern American phenomenon, although his moniker is probably more likely to call to mind the Man U stadium Old Trafford for UK residents. He was killed en route toBurmabefore the Battle of Normandy ended.

Victor – this strong choice, much less frequently used than the also-wonderful Victoria, has both an off-beat vintage vibe that should appeal to those who like to be one step ahead of the trends, and the strength parents are looking for in classic Celtic choices and harder surnames.


Autumn – an established choice, having charted within the top 100 for the past 11 years, but still beautiful, friendly and retaining something of its gentle, nature feel. Chanson d’Automne is the Verlaine poem from which two lines were quoted ahead of D-Day on the BBC’s radio broadcasts inFrance, coded messages calling the French Resistance to sabotage railway lines and other infrastructure needed for the Nazis to combat the Allied attack.
Juno – while Omaha and Utah don’t make such good names, and even Sword is probably too much for those seeking an alternative to Gunnar, the name of this beach makes an accessible, modish choice for a daughter. Moving past its movie association, this is a goddess name that succeeds whereNeptune falls short. Responsible for marriage, women and finances, she’s still a great choice for a modern girl. The Canadian forces landed on this beach, and managed to advance the furthest inland of all divisions.

Maple – another, later part of Operation Neptune involved the laying of minefields to force German ships out of protected areas; this was Operation Maple. This word name would be a sweet (pun not intended) choice, easily confused with the equally lovely Mabel.

Marigold -Gold Beach was another destination, this time for the British, and despite heavy casualties they achieved the second largest inland advance. This is a beautiful and unusual floral choice that doesn’t chart in SSA’s Top 1000 names, despite being an elegant twist on Mary and offering up the vintage Goldie nickname, who would be right at home amongst today’s little Maisies.

Normandy– this one never rose as Brittany/Britney did, but I’ve twice seen Normandy or Normandie used on a child, and it might make a good compromise between a parent who prefers sweeter names (Daisy, Sophie et cetera) and one who likes boys’ names on girls. There’s the similarNormanfor a son, too, although for some he’s yet to shake off his Fifties vibe.

Do any of these appeal? Indeed, has anyone visited memorials and cemeteries in Normandy, and can share the names of some of the thousands of lower-ranked heroes?


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