In 2016, John Henry Phillips found himself in France without a hotel room. He was volunteering with a charity that took D-Day veterans back to Normandy. Due to an administrative error he found himself without a room and reliant on the generosity of one of the veterans who had a spare bed. That veteran was Patrick Thomas, who had been nineteen years old at the time of the landings. It was an encounter that would change both their lives forever.
Patrick’s story of survival on D-Day transfixed John, and the resulting search for Patrick’s D-Day landing craft, LCH185, was to consume him. The Sea is Never Still is an emotional story of a devastating day in history, an unlikely friendship and the search for the final resting place of a wartime home and family lost over seventy-five years ago.
This is also John’s attempt to remember, at a time of rising nationalism and hate-mongering, the sacrifices of earlier generations. So many contemporary leaders claim to ‘remember’ what generations before us fought and died for, yet pursue policies that trade citizens’ lives for GDP and dismantle international relationships in the service of a disturbingly familiar nationalist agenda. Patrick’s experiences will resonate with readers as a reminder of a moment in history when people came together and, through countless acts of individual, everyday heroism, were victorious against a terrible threat. The Second World War is as much the story of millions of men and women in foxholes and pillboxes, in planes and at sea, as it is of world leaders and their strategies. Such individual stories are at risk of being lost in a way that the better-known, overarching narratives never will be. They are as deserving of being told, as chronicles of everyday courage, of small decisions and choices that sent one soldier to the bottom of the sea, and another safely back to England.