Archive for April, 2014

Generation War, episode 1, BBC Two, review: ‘never less than compelling’

April 29th, 2014

I’m possibly not alone in having groaned a little at the prospect of Generation War (BBC Two). Acclaimed as this German drama was in its homeland – described in Der Spiegel as “a turning point in German television” – I was pretty much all warred out already by the BBC’s commemorative First World War season. Did I really want to sit in with something just as bloody and depressing about the Nazis and the Second World War?

Well, yes, in many ways. Generation War was certainly well made and never less than compelling. Its theme lay in the title: an examination, by their heirs, of the morals and motives of the previous generation of Germans who followed Hitler and did his bidding. We started out simply enough meeting the main players – five young Berliners full of life and enthusiasm in July, 1941.

That they were quite so brimming with optimism seemed a mite unlikely given that two of them, Wilhelm (Volker Bruch) and his brother Friedhelm (Tom Schilling), were soldiers heading off to serve in a war Germany had been fighting for two years already. Charlotte (Miriam Stein) was preparing to serve as a behind-the-lines nurse, while Greta (Katharina Schüttler) had hopes of being the next Marlene Dietrich. Even less likely was that their pal Viktor (Ludwig Trepte) was a Jew, and openly so, long after associating with Jews became unacceptable under Hitler.

Sure enough, over the next six months their worlds were brutally shattered. On the Russian Front Wilhelm committed acts that betrayed his ideals of German superiority. Charlotte gave up a Jewish doctor to the SS. Friedhelm sacrificed the lives of civilians to save his own. Greta betrayed her great love Viktor not only to save his life but to progress her career; while he was forced to accept her help knowing the nature of her betrayal.

That it was not just war but the Nazi regime as a whole that debased everyone involved is a fair, if obvious, point. But there was much missing from Generation War. Chiefly any sense of responsibility on the part of its characters for the existence of that regime in the first place. This is a question always argued about the Holocaust: how much did ordinary Germans know? Here the sense of general ignorance seemed to cover every aspect of life under the Nazis. Not excuse-making as such, but certainly there were times in this opening episode at least – for all the excellence of the drama being enacted – when it felt as if the central, most difficult question was still being dodged.

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The 20 best war movies

April 29th, 2014

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) / Lewis Milestone

Winner of two Oscars in 1930, All Quiet on the Western Front explored how the Great War affected young soldiers. With minimal dialogue the film focuses on acting and cinematography to portray the horrors of war. Allegedly, during the film’s showings in Germany, the Nazis interrupted screenings by shouting martial slogans and releasing rats into the theatres.

Picture: PR

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War cemeteries: gardeners’ labour of love to honour the fallen

April 28th, 2014

Edge-trimming at a war cemetery

For David Richard this is quite a challenge, even with his team of 850 gardeners. Maintaining the gardens in England using outside contractors did not give the high level of finish and consistency needed, so using their own staff everywhere is thought to be essential.

The gravestones are kept clean, white and legible, quite unlike church headstones, which become covered in lichen with the engraving slowly dissolving. Their stones, often white Portland, are chemically treated to kill the moss. Other stone apart from Portland is now used to replace disintegrating headstones. This includes stone from Bulgaria, India and Italy.

The commission is becoming more conservation-minded and is considering whether the clean, stark look is still imperative. Where once all the grass was cut with cylinder mowers to give a strong stripe, these are being replaced with rotary mowers. To avoid grass collection, mulch mowers are being looked into where the cuttings are left in situ having been finely chopped. Picking up cuttings easily takes half as long as cutting again. Scarifying and fertilisation of the grass is rarely undertaken as it is extremely time-consuming and they find that unless you can change the structure of the soil it does not do a lot of good. Surprisingly, even after a hundred years in some places, the soil has not returned to normal structure after the massive compaction that took place in the war, especially in wet areas such as the Somme. Verti draining does help, though this uses tines to penetrate and aerate the soil.

Elsewhere, meadows and wild flowers are being used but not between the rows of graves.

The compaction and destruction of the grass by many visitors also can be a big problem. The Tyne Cot cemetery and memorial in Belgium gets up to 700,000 visitors a year, so the grass really suffers. They are researching ways to toughen the turf in collaboration with the Sports Turf Research Institute and are trying different techniques, such as reinforcing matting, putting rubber crumb substrate in with the soil and growth retardants.

In 1917, the director of Kew was on the board and it was the intention to use plants indigenous to the countries of the fallen to enhance the connection between place of origin and death. Plant material from Kew and Wisley was sent out to many places. This is no longer feasible, though certain exotic plants that are good performers are used. Olearias and eucalyptus may be used to commemorate Australians, for instance, in the Yokohama war cemetery in Japan. Acers are often used for Canadians in France, but generally plants selected have to really thrive in the area. In arid zones, such as Egypt, for example, cacti and succulents are used.

For planting borders choosing reliable plants is key and as every site is unique and different parts of the site have radically variable conditions, there is a wide range used. The headstone borders are 450mm (18in) wide, so there are miles of grass to be edged. They use edging machines (made in Australia) and edges are cut at every mowing to keep them sharp.

Care and duty: Gardeners for the CWGC chemically treat the stones

The ideal plants are indestructible: they must not need staking, they must flower for long periods and have a range of textures. Often they include a mix of alpines (frequently saxifrages) and other low plants that limit the rain splash that discolours the white headstones. Roses, usually red, repeat-flowering and compact so they do not swamp the headstones, are used frequently. Top repeat rose varieties are ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ (a great pink), ‘King Arthur’ (peach) and Remembrance, a scarlet floribunda – bred for the commission by Harkness. These are planted with mycorrhiza, routinely fertilised and sprayed to manage disease.

Good sustainable herbaceous plants are key too. For instance, phlox and arabis, Alyssum saxatile, dwarf campanulas and armerias are used in many of the Somme sites, such as Villers-Bretonneux. Other good, low- maintenance herbaceous plants for England and France include coreopsis, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and alchemillas. Sourcing these plants in far-flung places is not easy and Richardson says they used to have their own nurseries in Belgium, France, Italy and Egypt, among other places.

Weeding is a large part of the maintenance. Mulches for the narrow headstone borders migrate too much but they are used in the peripheral borders. Pre?emergent sprays of residual herbicides are frequently applied in spring. These last for about six weeks.

For borders in Turkey and other farther-flung places, they are using many indigenous plants, but this is not straightforward since these plants are difficult to obtain commercially.

The gardeners are key and they have a lot of lifers – many stay tending the graves all their lives, maintaining the high standards required. Shortly they are starting to reinstate some of Gertrude Jekyll’s original planting plans on one or two French sites, such as at Corbie La Neuville (where she worked with Lutyens). She did not have headstone borders but had scatterings of iris and narcissus informally among the stones. In the outer areas there were plantings of lavender, shrub roses and wisteria.


Peter Francis of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives his recommendations

The commission’s aim is that in another hundred years we will not forget all those who tragically lost their lives.

Anyone interested in visiting the war graves should start by looking at Use the online searchable database to find the place of burial or commemoration for any of the 1.7?million war dead we commemorate. You can also search for cemeteries and memorials by name or country, access historical information about them and advice on how to visit them. Other significant dates this year include:

May 31

There will be an event at one of the CWGC’s most remote locations – Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery in the Orkneys – to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland. Information panels at the site will use smartphone technology to reveal the personal stories of some of those commemorated.

June 6

The CWGC commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings and there will be a large event at our cemetery in Bayeux. Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest Second World War CWGC cemetery in France.

August 4

The British government will hold one of its opening events to mark the 100th anniversary commemorations of the start of the First World War at one of the CWGC’s cemeteries in Mons, Belgium.

St Symphorien Military Cemetery is highly significant as it contains an almost equal number of German and Commonwealth war dead. It also contains the first and last British and Commonwealth casualties of the war on the Western Front – Private John Parr and George Ellison respectively. Ellison was killed on November 11 1918 – the day the Armistice was signed. Ellison and Parr are buried just a few metres apart.

The cemetery also contains the graves of the first person to be awarded a Victoria Cross and the first German soldier to be awarded an Iron Cross.

Other graves to visit:

Brookwood Military Cemetery, Woking, Surrey

Harrogate (Stonefall) Cemetery

Oxford (Botley) Cemetery

Plymouth (Weston Mill) Cemetery

Cambridge City, Cambridge

Runnymede Memorial,

Egham, Surrey

Portsmouth Naval Memorial

Cardiff (Cathays) Cemetery

In France…

Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery, Saulty, Pas de Calais

Etaples Military Cemetery

In Belgium…

Tyne Cot Cemetery

And my personal favourite:

Ramparts Cemetery, Ypres

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Who put secret D-Day clues in the ‘Telegraph’ crossword?

April 27th, 2014

When the boys heard of the scandal, they were appalled. “We were astonished at the thought that Dawe was a traitor. He was a member of the local golf club. It was a complete mystery to most of us.”

Dawe did little to dispel the mystery when he returned to the school a few days later. He resumed setting crosswords, and said nothing at all about the incident for more than a decade.

Then, in a BBC interview in 1958, he described the ordeal. “They turned me inside out and collected naval intelligence. They went to Bury St Edmunds where my senior colleague Melville Jones [the paper’s other crossword compiler] was living and put him through the works.” Despite their suspicions, Dawe explained that the interrogators “eventually decided not to shoot us after all”.

It took another three decades for an apparent explanation to emerge. As part of the commemorations for the 40th anniversary of D-Day, the Telegraph revisited the crossword saga. Bill Deedes, then the paper’s editor, was alarmed by the scandal afresh, and instructed the puzzles editor to check that no codewords relating to the Falklands had appeared in the crossword during the recent conflict. None was found.

A few days later, Ronald French, another Old Strandian who had been encouraged by the renewed interest, wrote to the paper to admit to inserting the clues himself. Dawe, it emerged, would invite his pupils to fill in his blank crosswords with any words that came to mind. He would later devise clues to match the boys’ solutions.

With the war at its height, the excitable teenagers were obsessed by the vocabulary of the era, which is why other solutions of the time included “warden”, “Poland”, “aircraft” and “disarm”.

Likewise, the codewords were no coincidence. US and Canadian soldiers preparing for D-Day were camped close to the school, and the boys would regularly mix with them.

“The soldiers were obviously lonely,” recalls Bryan Belfont, a year below French. “Many had children of their own, and they more or less adopted us. We’d sit and chat and they’d give us chocolate.”

It was during one of these conversations that French heard the codewords. Security was remarkably lax, and he had struck up close friendships with the soldiers, regularly taking the colonel’s dog for a walk and even, on one occasion, driving a tank.

“Everyone knew the outline invasion plan and they knew the codewords,” he explained. “Omaha and Utah were the beaches, and they knew the names but not the locations. We all knew the operation was called Overlord.”

Perhaps to show off his knowledge, he slipped these words into the crossword. He bitterly regretted it, however, once he learnt of the trouble he had caused.

“Soon after D-Day, Dawe sent for me and asked me where I had got the words from. I told him and he asked to see my notebooks. He was horrified and said that the books must be burnt at once.

“He then gave me a stern lecture about national security and made me swear that I would tell no one about the matter. I have kept to that oath until now.”

Even French’s son, Simon, knew nothing of the affair until his father wrote to the Telegraph. “At the time, it was quite a scare for him,” he says now. “He was genuinely worried about what might happen, and whether he would cost the headmaster his job. But when it came out, he was quite proud of being involved.”

Ronald French retained his youthful enthusiasm for words, and continued to complete the Telegraph’s crossword every day until his death a few years ago.

One riddle remains, however. Nearly two years before the D-Day affair, on 18 August 1942, “Dieppe” was one of the paper’s crossword solutions. A day later, a disastrous raid took place on the port, with 3,623 of the 6,086 men who made it ashore killed, wounded or captured.

At the time, a War Office investigation concluded that the incident was “a remarkable coincidence”. Given what we now know about the later episode, this judgment seems open to question.

Perhaps one day someone will figure it out. For now, all these years later, Dawe’s crosswords remain cryptic.

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Chelsea Flower Show 2014: promise of peace in war-inspired gardens

April 25th, 2014

“I had the idea in October 2012 at the Imperial War Museum,” Rowe says. “Standing in front of John Nash’s painting Over the Top, I had a eureka moment to do a garden to mark the centenary.”

The idea had a personal resonance for Rowe. Her paternal grandfather went over the top on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and was wounded. He returned to the fighting, and also saw action in the Second World War, landing in Normandy on D-Day. On the other side, her maternal grandmother left a box of papers in which she revealed that she had served as a nurse behind the front line, and been awarded a Military Medal for gallantry.

“Those were the inspirations,” she says. “They took me to Flanders and the Somme a couple of months later, in early December 2012. I thought it was amazing that you could still see traces of the trenches, mines and bomb craters that had been created over the course of the war. The lines hardly moved, and the landscape was completely destroyed. The topsoil was removed, trees were stumps and there were crevasses in some areas.

“The tie-in with the ABF charity is this whole idea of no-man’s-land – what today’s soldiers should not have to come back to. I’m trying to bring together ideas of the landscape recovering with the human spirit and body recovering – it’s quite conceptual, really.”

Rowe: ‘I’m trying to bring together ideas of the landscape recovering with the human spirit and body recovering’

This concept will take form in three stages. The front of the garden, inspired by mine craters, has a large water basin as its focal point. This will be surrounded mostly by moisture-loving and waterside plants, such as reeds and irises, and a group of three river birches (Betula nigra).

“They are majestic, and also they are pioneer trees, the kind that come in when an area is disturbed,” Rowe says.

The central part of the garden is a “lost” area, inspired by the village gardens that became overgrown when their populations fled or were killed. There will be peonies, euphorbia and a field maple, among other ornamental plants. Finally, the end of the garden aims to evoke the chalky downland of the Somme, with the kind of woodland that inspired the war poets. Three wild cherries will provide structure, while Wildflower Turf, the firm that made the mound for the Olympic opening ceremony, is providing the mix of flower and grass for the hillocks. Unifying the garden is “quite a long, slightly Brutalist, gently sloping wall” – a reminder of trenches, tunnels and pillboxes. Other details will be made from Portland stone, the material used for many of the First World War headstones.

In contrast to all this period inspiration, Matthew Keightley of landscaping firm Farr & Roberts has designed a garden for the Help the Heroes charity, “Hope on the Horizon”, which addresses the war in Afghanistan. Keightley, 29, has a brother serving in the RAF Regiment who has been deployed for his fifth tour. Last time he was fighting as a helicopter gunner, covering medical evacuations.

Matthew Keightley’s garden for Help the Heroes

“Talking to him got me thinking about how all we hear about is the tragic wounding and then, much later, the soldier who has recovered heroically,” Keightley says. “I wanted to represent the recovery process through a garden.”

Keightley is unusual in never having designed a show garden before. He is more of a hands-on, practical landscape designer. Another unusual aspect of this project, sponsored by The David Brownlow charitable foundation, is that rather than being broken up or sold off, as is often the case with Chelsea show gardens, “Hope on the Horizon” will form part of a larger landscape at the Help for Heroes facility Chavasse, near Colchester.

“The challenge is to adapt it so it doesn’t look like a 15m?x?10m plot plonked in a landscape. The whole thought process has to be positive,” he says. “Not just for people looking at the garden but for the soldiers using it to help with their recovery.”

The garden is arranged along two axes, in the shape of the Military Cross. At one end is a sculpture by the Scottish artist Mary Bourne, depicting the horizon. The hard landscaping is in granite, which becomes more refined as you move through the garden, to represent soldiers growing physically stronger.

The planting, meanwhile, is intended to represent psychological well-being. It becomes more deliberate as you progress through the plot.

It will also be a tactile space, he says. “I am using herbs that will release a scent when the soldiers brush past, and plenty of grasses that can be touched. There is an avenue of large hornbeam trees, to frame the view.” Other plants include acanthus, agapanthus, geraniums and poppies.

Keightley: ‘I am using herbs that will release a scent when the soldiers brush past, and plenty of grasses that can be touched’

Battling this symbolism, of course, are the usual weather issues that affect every Chelsea designer.

“It has been a mild spring, so I have had to make some amendments – some of the digitalis, for example, flowered too early, and I will replace them. But I staggered most of the planting to give myself options,” says Keightley.

He hopes that the garden won’t be seen as gloomy. “It’s obviously poignant that this is the anniversary of the First World War. But the garden is a celebration of the soldiers who have fought in Afghanistan, rather than dwelling too much on the past.”

*Exclusive offer for Telegraph readers: enjoy tickets to Chelsea Flower Show, a Q?&? A with Helen Yemm and one night’s b?&? b, for only £290pp.

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Japanese politicians defy critics to worship at controversial shrine to war dead

April 23rd, 2014

Washington expressed “disappointment” after Mr Abe went to Yasukuni in December, while Joe Biden, the vice president, called on all sides to take measures to “lower the tension” in the region.

Speaking to reporters after visiting the shrine on Tuesday, Hidehisa Otsuji, a member of Mr Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said the decision not to attend the festival in person “reflects the prime minister’s judgement in view of Japan’s national interests.”

Other senior members of the administration said the prime minister’s offering and the visit by politicians “should have nothing to do with” President Obama’s state visit.

Members of the cabinet who have visited the shrine during the festival include the health minister, the minister of internal affairs and the cabinet member charged with overseeing the return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.

Activists from Japan and South Korea filed a legal complaint against the Japanese government on Monday seeking damages for Mr Abe’s visit to the shrine in December, on the grounds that it violates the constitutional principle of the separation of the state and religion.

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Vanished WW2 plane found in Black Sea

April 22nd, 2014

Objects found on board include uniform (a cap, briefcase, boots and a perfectly preserved belt with a silver buckle bearing Nazi insignia) and personal items including a shaving brush, toothpaste and toothbrush, torch and thermos flask.

The plane was also carrying official documents – Nazi maps sealed in foil to protect them from fire.

It is speculated that the weather turned bad during the crossing, and that pilot Leutnant Horst Ringel, crippled by poor visibility, directed his plane off course and crash-landed in the Black Sea.

Underwater photographer, Andrey Nekrasov, 42, was in the team of divers which found the wreckage (Medavia)

Records show the plane had been carrying 9 passengers, including observer Oberstleutnant Baron Axel Freiherr von Jena and signaller Karl Kroch, whose name was found on the remains of a sword belt recovered from the wreck.

Mr Nekrasov said: ”There were no records of a crashed plane of this type in this area.

”The wreckage was very deep down so visibility was poor. We could only see three metres in front of us at any time.

”We have tried to recreate the whole picture of the events using just a couple of artefacts which were 70 years old and found at the bottom of the sea.

”A plane on the seabed always looks very strange. It turned out the story behind this one was even stranger.”

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President Obama visits Asia with North Korea high on the agenda

April 22nd, 2014

“It’s not a geopolitical fad, it’s not a political expediency; it’s about protecting American economic interests, security interests, and continuing to build our people-to-people ties that we’ve had for many decades in the Asia Pacific.”

For Japan, the most critical issue is reconfirming the security alliance at a time when China is making vigorous claims to sovereignty over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which Beijing knows as the Diaoyu archipelago.

Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, told a delegation of visiting US politicians on Monday that he hoped his meeting with Mr Obama on Thursday would lead to an even stronger alliance with the US.

The Japanese leader will have been encouraged by comments by Ben Rhodes, the deputy US national security adviser, who reiterated Washington’s commitment to Tokyo by stating, “There should be no question that the United States will always honour its obligations to the defence of Japan.”

The behaviour of North Korea will be the focus of the president’s discussions when he arrives in Seoul, with analysts suggesting that Pyongyang is making preparations to carry out what would be its fourth underground nuclear test.

April 27 marks the 61st anniversary of the signing of the armistice that halted the combat in the Korean War, but left an uneasy peace on the peninsula that remains to this day. North Korea has threatened to carry out a “new kind” of nuclear test – analysts believe it may be the regime’s first plutonium-basaed device – and could very well be keen to time it to coincide with President Obama’s visit.

White House officials have condemned the North’s threats and say they merely demonstrate a lack of willingness to participate in negotiations to reduce tensions in the region.

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Dambusters deserve proper medals not a brass clasp, says wartime bomber hero

April 20th, 2014

There is even a specially commissioned Bomber Command Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, opened by the Queen, to commemorate the 55,573 Allied air men who died during WW2.

Arctic convoy veterans have recently been awarded the Arctic Star medal after a 70 year fight in recognition of what Churchill called the worst journey in the world. Nearly 3,000 perished in the freezing waters supplying the troops on the front.

“A medal was produced for the Arctic survivors. If a medal is good enough for them it’s good enough for us,” said Mr Johnson from Bristol.

“We deserve a medal not a clasp. The 55,000 doesn’t include the injured or those taken prisoner and the sacrifices they made.

“If that’s the last thing I do it will be to get a medal for us.”

Mr Johnson, who flew 50 missions during his 22 years service was the bomb aimer on the night of May 17, 1943, as part of Operation Chastise to cripple the Nazi war effort.

He dropped the bomb on Sorpe dam and was awarded a raft of medals including the Distinguished Flying Medal for his part in the daring 617 Squadron raid.

He is still considering whether to wear his clasp he describes as an “insult.”

“I have got, much to my disgust, one of the clasps but still not made up my mind whether to wear it,” he said.

“All those people died and we get that. To get that little copper job instead of a medal, no, I’m sorry I am not sure I’ll bother to wear it.

“Although I am Conservative through and through I am not quite happy with our present Prime Minister. He should have done more for this medal business. It is the politicians who make the final decision.

“There was all the hassle with politicians to get the Memorial then they had front row seats. It’s hypocrisy.”

Next week, Mr Johnson will be at the London unveiling of his portrait by artist Richard Stone dedicated to the whole squadron and will make a speech about their huge sacrifice.

“I didn’t want to do it but my family told me to!” he added.

“It is amazing to think there is still all this interest in the Dambusters. I have insisted on a dedication to the whole squadron. It will go on the portrait as it is for everyone who took part, not just me.”

In May he will again renew the call for a medal with the release of his life story The Last British Dambuster released to mark the 71st anniversary of the raid on May 16, 1943. He worked on the book published by Ebury Press with a ghost writer.

“I am pleased people still want to know what we did,” said Mr Johnson.

“I go to schools and talk to children about the raid, they are fascinated. It is a part of our history and they really listen to my stories that are real, not like something off the television.

“I can still remember it all quite clearly after all these years. That raid was a turning point in the war.”

Mr Johnson is also an adviser to Hobbit director Peter Jackson who is working on a remake of the classic black and white Dambuster movie that starred Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave.

The widower has gone deaf because of his valiant service in the RAF from the noise of the planes. For his sacrifice he gets a £140 a month war pension in recognition of his service.

“I call it Lancaster Ear, I’m deaf in both ears and have got hearing aids,” he said.

“The noise from all those aircraft didn’t help. They didn’t give us any warnings just blow your nose as you come in so your ears don’t pop.”

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D-Day 70th anniversary travel guide: events and tours in Normandy

April 17th, 2014

Only a privileged few can attend the governmental ceremonies, but the anniversary week will also see several large-scale public events. The most spectacular is likely to be a huge firework display on the evening of June 5, which will be visible from 24 beachfront towns. There will also be a massive picnic on Omaha Beach on the evening of Saturday June 7, featuring a Glenn Miller tribute band, while that same evening Bayeux, which became the first town in France to be liberated on June 7, 1944, will mark the anniversary with a Liberation Ball and an open-air jazz and gospel concert. Other events will include an outdoor film screening and concert at Arromanches on June 6; a children’s international football tournament in various coastal towns on June 7 and June 8; and 1940s flash mobs dancing in the streets of Carentan on June 7, and Ste-Mère-Église on June 8.

The crucial role of parachutists in the Allied invasion will be honoured by mass parachute jumps over Carentan at 1pm on June 4; Ste-Marie-du-Mont at 7.30pm on June 5; near Ranville, close to Pegasus Bridge, later that evening; and over Ste-Mère-Eglise at 11am at June 8. Members of the public can even join tandem parachute jumps at Ste-Mère-Eglise on June 6 and June 7 (€365 per person; 0033 233 21 00 33), while the Patrouille de France, the French equivalent of the RAF’s Red Arrows, will perform above Arromanches at 4pm on June 7.

Vintage military vehicles will parade along Omaha Beach from Vierville-sur-Mer on June 5; in Ste-Mère-Église on June 6; between Grandcamp-Maisy and Isigny-sur-Mer on June 7; through the streets of Bayeux and Carentan on Sunday June 8; and in Arromanches on June 9.

During the anniversary week, several communities will host reconstructions of Allied camps. The Arizona camp in Carentan is expected to welcome 420 participants and 150 military vehicles, and similar encampments will open in Colleville-sur-Mer, St-Laurent-sur-Mer, Vierville-sur-Mer and Ste-Mère-Église.

Accommodation is already over-subscribed for the anniversary week itself, though places are still available on some of the tours listed below. Visit at any other time during the summer, however, and it shouldn’t be hard to find a place to stay in the low-key resorts that line the invasion beaches, or the towns of Bayeux and Caen just inland.

Pegasus Bridge

Telegraph Travel’s D-Day drive

You don’t need a special itinerary through Normandy to see the impact of the 1944 Allied invasion. The effects are everywhere, from the reconstructed hearts of bombed-out cities like Cherbourg, Caen and Le Havre to countless damaged village churches. That said, for anyone interested in tracing the course of the Battle of Normandy, honouring the soldiers who took part, and learning more about how and why the D-Day landings took place, driving westwards along the Invasion beaches is an immensely rewarding experience and our Normandy guide includes an ideal itinerary to follow.

Before you start your tour, it’s well worth visiting either or both of the museums, a few miles back from the coast, that best explain the overall story. The Caen Memorial, just off the ring road that circles Caen, documents the build-up to war and life in occupied France as well as the invasion itself, and also covers postwar attempts to bring about world peace. The Musée Mémorial, on the edge of Bayeux, describes the battle itself, using easy-to-follow graphics as well as genuine artifacts.

Organised Tours

A selection of UK-based tour operators offering D-Day themed tours and cruises this year can be found here. They include: Holts Tours (01293 865000;, Leger (0844 504 6251;, Travelsphere (0800 112 3313;, Trafalgar (0800 533 5616;, Titan (0800 988 5823;, Shearings (0844 824 6351;, Martin Randall (020 8742 3355;, Remembrance Travel (01473 660800; and The Cultural Experience (01935 813700; Other operators offering bus or van tours of D-Day sites include the Caen Memorial museum (, Normandy Sightseeing Tours (, Victory Tours (, and Normandy Tours ( The D-Day Academy ( explores the Landing Beaches in vintage military trucks, with some trips including adventurous drives over rough battlefield terrain and tastings of 1944 foods, while Les Vedettes de Normandie run boat excursions from Port en Bessin to the Pointe du Hoc, Arromanches, and along Omaha Beach (

A great resource for active travellers, details self-guided walking routes along the Landing Beaches as well as guided hikes to battlefields and monuments on weekends throughout May and into June. The programme continues all summer, featuring organized hikes to different destinations each Wednesday during July and August.

That same website also itemizes seven self-guided D-Day cycling itineraries of varying lengths, with links to cycle-friendly accommodation, plus four organized one-day cycling excursions between May and August. On six dates in July and August, anyone aged ten or over can also join an offshore kayaking trip from Grandcamp-Maisy to see the fearsome heights of the Pointe du Hoc, as stormed by American commandos at dawn on D-Day. The site also details a three-day horse-riding trip from Utah Beach to Mont-Ormel, starting on August 20, and Nordic walking expeditions along Sword and Omaha beaches on September 20 and 21.

No single website lists the full programme of events, but useful options include;;;;

Getting to Normandy

The following ferry operators offer crossings to Normandy ports. For full details see Newhaven-Dieppe

DFDS Seaways (0800 917 1201;, operated with LD Lines); Brittany Ferries (0871 244 1400; and Condor (0845 609 1024;

More on France

Normandy travel guide
A complete travel guide to Normandy, including the best hotels, attractions, restaurants, beaches and scenic drives, from our expert Greg Ward.

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World War Two

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