The return of the last surviving veterans to the D-Day beaches

Fragile men cautiously returning for something they lost 65 years ago

After asking everyone I knew to see if they wanted to help make a documentary on one of the last significant anniversaries of the D- Day landings, I ended up going alone. No one could make the time before, but most wished they had after. On a whim I turned up at the port of Dover and boarded a ferry full of WW2 veterans heading for Normandy.

I had just downloaded a new firmware allowing a much anticipated feature be able to record video on a stills camera. This was 2009 and a huge innovation. With a couple of EOS 5D’s, lenses, boom pole and a full-on sound kit stuffed into my jacket I looked like a complete amateur as I ran around, my kit spilling onto the floor.

My colleague Gill Hadley got me permission to ride on the tour bus, but without official passes, access or accommodation, I camped in fields nearby and generally floated around. Over the following days, I Interviewed, filmed and wrangled sound simultaneously.

Interviewing Harry at the back of a reversing coach he told me of his regret not buying his younger brother a motorbike…”I was worried he’d hurt himself…but I should of bought it for him…he died anyway. These wars do a lot of damage, they did to my family anyway” As Harry began to well up, tears filled in me too, I was holding a camera I couldn’t see through or check focus, just hoping his story would come through.

As time went on the veterans seemed to respect my tenacity, with equal curiosity and desire to share their story. Without permission I was initially held back and refused access to the private meetings with prime ministers and heads of state. But then the veterans would refuse to enter unless I was allowed in with them forcing the their security to give way.

Incredibly I got access to everything. What my friends at agency's and papers spent months seeking permission for, I walked in alongside these men who wanted their story told. A clumsy piece of work, but one of my most memorable and moving projects. I've kept in contact over the years and as I write this Louis Martin recently celebrated is 107th birthday!

best viewed in landscape mode

Individuals remember in silence, overlooking Port-en-Bessin, France, during a D-Day commemorative service.
Major John Anthony of the Yorkshire Regiment walks hand in hand with his grandson, Philip, on the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Ranville, France.
98 year old leader of French Resistance, Marie Jo Hoeul reaches out to embrace an old friend.
The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, France.
War veteran W. Ewan rests on a wall overlooking Omaha Beach, Normandy, France.
An infantry soldier from the D-Day landings, looks across the English Channel, on his way to the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France.
Memorial service at Ranville War Cemetery. Ranville was the first village to be liberated in France in the early hours of June 6th by troops of the 6th Airborne Division.
A D-day veteran shows his daughter an old picture of himself amongst his old squadron.
Veterans outside the church at Ranville War Cemetery.
War veteran W. Ewan looks over a map of Normandy allied offensive. The operation given the codename OVERLORD, delivered five naval assault divisions to the beaches of Normandy, France.