Re-blogged from The Independent.
Today is D-Day plus 25,565. The pivotal Western European battle of the Second World War is about to pass over the horizon of living memory. Of the 61,000 British soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago this Friday, fewer than 500 are still alive.
The ranks of the 130,000 Americans, Canadians and other nations who took part in the greatest amphibious invasion in history have also been cruelly thinned by time. This week’s commemoration of the Normandy invasion – attended by the world’s leaders from the Queen to Vladimir Putin to Barack Obama – will be the last witnessed by large numbers of survivors.
A year ago, The Independent helped to launch an appeal to ensure that the voices of British veterans of the entire 10-week Normandy campaign – the survivors of the survivors – were not lost for ever. The appeal, though not complete, has been a great success.
Thanks largely to the £10,000 raised by Independent readers, more than 100 interviews have been filmed for a permanent archive, organised by the Normandy Veterans Association (NVA). At least another 150 interviews are being arranged. To reward our readers’ generosity, the NVA has allowed us to publish a selection of the interviews given by the dwindling band of British D-Day veterans. Their memories – recorded in some cases for the first time – offer a compelling eyewitness account of the invasion as seen from different vantage points: the infantryman; the sailor; the airman; the officer; the tank man; the gunner; the landing-craft commander.
Like D-Day itself, recording the “Normandy Voices” has been a race against time. Several veterans have died since their memories were recorded, including Ernie Brewer, the gunner represented here, whose funeral takes place today. His wife, Jeanie, has given permission for the interview to appear as a tribute to him…