Archive for August, 2014

Paris to celebrate 70 years since liberation from Nazi occupation, with little contribution from US or UK

August 24th, 2014

The exception was a parade on Saturday by French and American forces to mark the entry into the capital of the French 2nd Armoured Division and the 4th US Infantry Division.

There was little mention of the deportation to the Buchenwald concentration camp of more than 2,500 “political prisoners” from a suburb of the capital on the day the uprising began, and even less of the arrests of nine Jews by Paris police only four days earlier.

“The French government has made the Liberation of Paris a purely French celebration,” two young French commentators, Fabrice d’Almeida and Sophie Roche, wrote in the Huffington Post.

Gen. Charles De Gaulle (AP Photo/Constance Stuart Larrabee)

De Gaulle used the liberation of the capital as a way for France to begin recovering from the dishonour of its surrender in 1940 and the years of collaboration.

In his victory speech, he said: “Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people with the support of the armies of France, with the help and support of the whole of France, of the France that fights, of the only France, of the true France, of the eternal France!”

The historian Jean-Pierre Azéma noted de Gaulle accorded “only perfunctory thanks to the soldiers of the 4th US Infantry Division who accompanied the (French) 2nd Armoured Division.”

A tank from the French Armored Division passes the Arc de Triomphe during the final hours of the struggle to liberate Paris from German occupation (AP)

The novelist Ernest Hemingway, who entered Paris in uniform as a war correspondent with American forces, gave a rather different version, reporting that thousands of Parisians lined the streets to welcome them, shouting “Vive l’Amérique, Vive la France” and waving American flags.

Hemingway created his own legend of liberation by taking command of the bar at the Ritz hotel, requisitioned by the Nazis in 1940.

“Where are the Germans?” he reportedly demanded when he arrived at the hotel with a group of Resistance fighters. “I have come to liberate the Ritz.”

The manager, Claude Auzello, replied: “Monsieur, they left a long time ago and I cannot let you enter with a weapon.” Hemingway duly put down his gun and is said to run up a tab for 51 dry Martinis in the company of his “irregulars”.

French poet, journalist, and a member of the French Resistance Madeleine Riffaud (AP)

Three weeks earlier, Madeleine Riffaud, a Resistance fighter who was not yet 20, encouraged Parisians to rise up by shooting dead a German officer on a Paris bridge on a a Sunday afternoon.

“Everyone saw that a young girl on a bicycle can do this,” she told the Associated Press.

Fred Moore, the son of a former Royal Navy officer who was born and brought up in Amiens, northern France, said he was welcomed with warm embraces by the women of Paris when he entered the city as a French soldier on August 25.

“One of them later became my wife,” said Mr Moore, 94.


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Lancaster and Vulcan bombers fly over new WW2 memorial site

August 22nd, 2014

A flypast by the last two airworthy Lancasters and the last flying Vulcan bomber took place in Lincolnshire.

The event was to mark the first turf-cutting of the new memorial centre at Canwick Hill, which will tell the stories of those involved in the conflict.

The Lincolnshire flypast was a poignant moment for all of those who attended as, during the Second World War, it was home to thousands of crew from Bomber Command.


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Remaining flying Lancaster bombers united again

August 16th, 2014

A Canadian- based Lancaster Bomber joined a Lancaster from the Royal Air Force to fly in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The flight, which was due to pass over Lincoln Cathedral with the Red Arrows, was cancelled, due to bad weather.

The event was due to reunite the two remaining flying examples of the Second World War plane for the first time since the 1960s.

These aircraft are the only airworthy examples in the world and this will be the first time since the 1960s that they have flown together.

They will be displayed together at events up and down the country before the Canadian Lancaster flies home.


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Couple of 67 years re-enact historic Times Square kiss for V-J Day

August 15th, 2014

Sydnor and Harriette Thompson, who have been married for 67 years, struck a pose next to a replica statue based on the photograph taken in New York City on 14 August 1945, the same day Japan surrendered and brought the war to an end.

Mr Thompson said the greatest thing he ever did was marrying his wife.

The event marked the start of a year-long effort to boost awareness of Victory-over-Japan Day, which reaches its 70th anniversary next year.

Source: ITN


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Remaining flying Lancaster bombers reunited for memorial flight

August 15th, 2014

A Canadian- based Lancaster Bomber joined a Lancaster from the Royal Air Force to fly in the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The flight, which was due to pass over Lincoln Cathedral with the Red Arrows, was cancelled, due to bad weather.

The event was due to reunite the two remaining flying examples of the Second World War plane for the first time since the 1960s.

These aircraft are the only airworthy examples in the world and this will be the first time since the 1960s that they have flown together.

They will be displayed together at events up and down the country before the Canadian Lancaster flies home.


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Two Lancaster bomber planes fly together for first time in 50 years

August 14th, 2014

Flying in the skies above RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, plane enthusiasts were treated on Wednesday to a display not seen since the filming of The Dambusters in the 1950s.

Two Lancaster bombers flew around together one behind the other for the first time in more that five decades.

Their reunion had been difficult because Lancaster Thumper is based in Britain as part of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial flight and the Lancaster Vera is based in a museum in Ontario in Canada.

But now the aircraft have been brought together for a series of air shows and events around the UK over the next few weeks.

The Avro Lancaster bomber is one of the most recognisable aircraft from the Second World War and was made famous in the Dambuster raids in 1943.


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Second World War camp survivor and wife both die on 76th wedding anniversary

August 13th, 2014

The couple, who fell in love at first sight, met in Cardiff and married on August 5, 1938, three years before Mr Hartland was posted as a gunner to Singapore following the outbreak of war.

His regiment of 700 men surrendered to the Japanese the following year and Mr Hartland, like thousands of others, was tortured, starved and worked to the brink of death by his captors.

An estimated 13,000 people died building the railway, most of them buried near to where they fell along the unforgiving 250-mile route stretching to the Thailand border.

Mr Hartland, who was 11-stone when he left for Singapore, survived to the end of the war, by which time he weighed five stone and bore a scar on his leg – the mark of a poisoned bamboo shoot pushed through his leg by a camp guard who had caught him smoking banana leaves.

Having survived 15 different camps and been forced to dig his own grave, Mr Hartland was welcomed home to Cardiff in 1945 with a street party and a letter of thanks from King George.

Mrs Pearson said: “I don’t know how dad survived, mainly luck and determination, I think. There were 700 men in his regiment when they went out, but only four ever came back. Dad was the last to die from his regiment.

“In 1942, Mum got a letter from the colonel of the Coast Regiment saying Dad was missing, presumed dead. She had the papers to claim a widow’s pension.

“She absolutely refused to believe it. At the time, she was conscripted to work in a parachute factory in Cardiff Bay. She hated it: it was dirty and rat infested.

“But every day, on her way to work, mum would go into the church she passed and pray that dad would come home. She lived without him for four years, but she never believed he was dead.”

Last year, Mr Hartland said: “The worst thing was when we had to dig our own graves. We were due to be shot on the day the war ended.

“Then the ‘all-clear’ sounded. You can guess how I felt.”

Mrs Pearson, the couple’s daughter, was born in 1946 and the family moved to Wyken, Coventry in 1947, and Mr Hartland worked for Morris Engines as a factory foreman until he retired.

She said: “Dad was in hospital for a while after he came back from Burma, but neither of them cared. They were just so happy to be together again.

“They had an incredible marriage. They never, ever argued. Dad idolised Mum, and she adored him.

Mr Hartland died at Saint Martin’s Rest Home in Woodway Lane, Coventry, last week, hours after his wife was discharged from hospital with a broken leg.

Mrs Pearson, a mother of two, said: “We think he was waiting for her to come back to the room they shared before he died.

“Afterwards, Mum just kept saying, ‘I can’t live without him’. That night, Mum rang me.

“She was upset and I told her to think about all the happy times they’d shared in their marriage while she drifted off to sleep.

“She died at 1am, and I like to think that’s exactly what she was doing.

“It’s a perfect love story. I’m devastated they’re gone but so happy for them – they’ve never really had to live without one another.

“The undertaker said he had never seen anything like it, when he came to collect Mum. Paramedics said she died of a heart attack, literally of a broken heart.”

A joint funeral has been arranged for the pair, which will take place in Coventry on Tuesday.


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Hero who led D-Day landing craft dies aged 95

August 13th, 2014

Mr Purser, who was 95 when he died, defined his life by his time in the Royal Navy, according to his family.

He joined HMS Raleigh in late 1940 for training and later HMS Vanquisher, a 1918 Destroyer, for convoy duty in the North Atlantic from Iceland to the Azores.

He was then commissioned in May 1942 and undertook training to sail landing craft capable of taking infantry ashore – vessels that would play a crucial part in the D-Day landings.

Mr Purser trained by sailing from Scotland for beaching exercises on the mud in Chichester Creeks.

Before the D-Day landings, Mr Purser also took command of Landing Craft that were used in th eSicily landings and also helped to relieve the Channel islands.

He later married Pam, who was a wren in the Royal Navy, but was only allowed to be away from his ship for half an hour.

Following the war, Mr Purser, who became an accountant, continued sailing as part of a club in Topsham, Exeter, where he lived with his family.

The couple had two children, Simon and Stephen. One of their grandsons, Mark, has also seen active duty with the army in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.


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The best remembrance and battlefield tours

August 6th, 2014

Travelling over 450 miles along the Western Front from the Belgian coast to the border of Switzerland, the seven- or nine-day itinerary includes the vestiges of several battlefields: memorials, cemeteries, trenches and museums. The seven-day tour, departing on August 25, is now reduced to £499 (from £620), while the nine-day tour (which allows more time in Nancy and Reims) departs on various dates between April and September 2015, from £799, including coach travel.


British troops go over the top during the Battle of the Somme

3. Corners of a Foreign Field
Titan (0800 988 5823; titantravel.co.uk).

With four nights in Lille, this tour focuses on the Flanders battlefields and Ypres and Passchendaele between 1914 and 1917. Two expert guides accompany the tour, Rhydian Vaughan (a former Welsh Guards officer and war historian) and Barrie Friend. Limited places are currently available on the September 18 tour, but there are plenty of other departures until October 2015. Prices start at £895 including coach travel.

4. First Ypres and the Christmas Truce
Holt Tours (01293 865000; holts.co.uk).

This wintertime itinerary is guided by an expert First World War lecturer, Simon Jones, who explains the gruelling, month-long First Battle of Ypres, including the Christmas Truce, examining the conflicting accounts of the famous football match and whether it really took place. The three-day tour departs on December 12 2014, and costs from £535 with Eurotunnel crossing.

5. Bruges and The Battlefields of Ypres
Great Rail Journeys (01904 891215; greatrail.com).

A leisurely itinerary allows plenty of time to explore the sights of Bruges, however, the third day packs in the key monuments of Ypres, including Tyne Cot Cemetery, the Bayernwald trenches and the “In Flanders Fields” museum. The five-day tour departs on September 7, 14, 28 and October 19, 2014 (note that availability is limited for September 14 departure). Prices from £495 including travel by Eurostar.

6. Battlefield Weekend
Back Roads Touring (020 8987 0990; backroadstouring.co.uk).

An insight into the major involvement of British and Commonwealth forces is compressed into three days and aims to give participants an understanding of strategies at the Somme, Villers-Bretonneux and Vimy Ridge. The three-day tour departs on various dates from September to October 2014 and from April to October 2015. Prices from £595, excluding travel from the UK.

7. Western Front and Ypres
Bartletts Battlefield Journeys (01507 523128; battlefields.co.uk).

These all-inclusive, tailor-made tours to the Western Front and Ypres are planned around the requirements and interests of individual guests (outline itineraries are available), in groups of up to seven people. Tours depart regularly until mid-December 2014 and cost from £845 (for three days).

8. First World War Battlefields
Insight Vacations (0800 533 5622; insightvacations.com).

Starting in Paris, the itinerary includes a visit to Flanders and the Ypres Salient (including Hill 60, Polygon Wood, Tyne Cot Cemetery and the Last Post sounded at the Menin Gate). It continues to the Somme and a visit to the Franco-British memorial at Thiepval. The four-day tour departs on various dates until mid-October 2014, and costs from £685 per person, excluding travel to Paris.

9. First and Last Shots: Mons in the First World War
Battlefield Breaks (02920 761379; battlefield-breaks.com).

This tour examines the beginning and end of the Great War, from the first shots fired by Corporal Thomas of the British Army to the canal and battlefield east of Mons where the final casualty fell. The four-day tour departs on September 19 and October 30, 2014, and costs from £279 including coach travel.

10. The Somme and Ypres
Somme Battlefield Tours (01202 880211; battlefield-tours.com).

Discover the battlefields at your own pace on a self-drive, tailor-made tour with a detailed guide of the key sites, road directions and historical information, including original trench maps, battlefield diagrams, panoramic and aerial photographs and descriptions. Hotels, sea crossing and local, English-speaking guides can also be arranged. The tours are available throughout the year and prices depend on individual requirements.


Britain declared war on Germany 100 years ago this week

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This article was first published on November 10, 2013, and updated in full, with new recommendations, on August 5, 2014.


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