The aspiration of the Normandy Veterans’ Association (NVA), supported by The Independent and its many readers, is finally coming into realization. An appeal to create a D-Day film by the NVA is now taking shape as witnesses come forward to relive the accounts of the Battle of Normandy almost 70 years ago.
The appeal of the veterans was publicized by The Independent. Their intention is to create an archive of accounts of memories of those who witnessed the fateful event on June 6, 1944 and the exchange of hostile fire that lasted for ten weeks.
A few months ago, a group of British veterans, mostly already in their nineties, have documented their first-hand accounts of the Battle of Normandy including the roles they played in the historic event to pass on to the next generation. Many veterans, however, have chosen not to relate the traumatic experiences they went through and have decided to keep the horrid memories to themselves.
The publication of The Independent sparked the support of many of its readers. Many witnesses to the event also surfaced to speak publicly. The voices of who remained of the survivors of the war will finally be recorded and heard.
The D-Day Museum at Portsmouth has committed to permanently place in archives the interviews of over 150 witnesses. As of this writing, NVA has completed 60 interviews and hopes to complete 200 by next June. Each veteran is given at least 30 minutes to tell their tales and personal accounts of the Battle. The film is estimated to run to 100 hours.
George Batts, honorary secretary of the NVA, is among the passionate veterans who set the project in motion and vow to see to the completion of the footage. Already 87 years old, Mr. Batts relates his role as a “Sapper” of the Royal Engineers. Assigned at Gold Beach, the then 18-year old Batts helped cleared the mines and later on helped in constructing and securing the “Mulberry” harbour at Arromanches.
“I can’t say how touched and delighted I have been by the response, both from those who have sent money and from the many veterans who have contacted me wanting to tell their story,” Mr Batts expresses his gratitude.
Another staunch supporter of the project comes in the person of General Sir Nicholas Houghton, the new Chief of the Defence Staff. Sir Nicholas firmly expresses, “I would urge all with an interest in the Normandy campaign to support this project to ensure that the memories of those who took part in the events which changed the course of history are preserved for future generations.”
Another pleased enthusiast and supporter of the project is the director of the D-Day Project at Portsmouth herself, Dr. Jane Mee. She has committed to preserve the”invaluable” archive of the veterans of the Battle of Normandy. She sees the first-hand accounts as a vital piece in history and a legacy of the heroism of the veterans to future generations, historians and members of the academe.
Alastair Dutch, executive producer of the project and retired diplomat, recollects the interviewees as coming from the ranks of soldiers and sailors, a nurse, and a woman who performed with singer and comedian George Formby in a concert party to entertain the troops.
The NVA sees the footage as unmatched among the D-Day films. They appealed to raise a total of £50,000 for the production expenses. However, they have not yet reached the projected amount. They hope to catch up with the finances before the 70th Commemoration of the Battle of Normandy.