I have just returned from Normandy with a group from Leger Battlefield Tours which included members of the York Branch Normandy Veterans Association, with whom I have travelled to Normandy many times. As ever it was a memorable weekend and great to spend time in company with the veterans.
However, it once more begs the question about what the future of remembrance is in connection with the D-Day story. It gets harder each year for the veterans to return, although many are still in good health despite their age. The importance of D-Day and the story of the Second World War is something that should never be forgotten and as we approach the 75th Anniversary it is perhaps time to start thinking about the ‘legacy’ the veterans have passed us.
What might this ‘legacy’ be? Remembering lost comrades the veterans had, and those who survived and came home would be a good start but it goes wider than this. We have to make sure that the annual commemoration events focus on the history and the sacrifice and do not simply become about re-enactors.
Re-enactment has it’s place, and there are some very good groups who put on some amazing displays. Our party met one in Ste Mere Eglise (above) who took time to speak to the veterans. But equally everywhere we went there were people in what can only be described as ‘half-hearted’ uniforms, or were so massively overweight, long haired, had beards or were too old that the wearing of such a uniform made them look out of place. Such people likely have the best of motives but I am not sure it really honours the subject in any way. In the future one would hope re-enactors would look to work with those interested in the wider history as well as the tourism authorities to ensure that the annual commemorations of Normandy remain both dignified and impressive.