Title ID 5108Collection ID722
TitleFifty years on
CollectionH.K Lewenhak
ThemeCommemoration Wartime and Military
KeywordsArmed Forces Aircraft Beaches Communities Commemorative Events Family Memorials Old Age Social Problems Wars Uniforms Second World War (1939-1945)
NationalEngland United Kingdom France Europe
ProductionH. K. Lewenhak
CameraLewis McLeod, Bill Stote, Roeland Ludoph, Maarten Steenhuisen
EditorRichard Hackett, Paul Leonardo, Chris Reeves
SoundRichard Austin
FormatColour Sound
Duration24 min. 45 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


Interviews with World War Two veterans and commemorative events taken fifty years after the D-Day landings are interspersed interspersed with wartime footage from the Imperial War Museum and Reuters film archives. They are asked what they were fighting for and whether it was worth it.


Spoken French plays over footage of the D-Day landings on June 6th 1944. Boats of armed forces near the Normandy beach. The personal piper to Lord Lovitt is introduced. As are Lionel Warbuck, an ex-Yorks Infantryman who is seen walking along the beach, an ex-French Commando, ex-Canadian Unit, ex-RAF and ex-Medical Unit. The mass-parachute landing is commemorated in Normandy every year. Veterans salute, standing to attention. Some hold flags. They are asked "What were we fighting for?" A range of responses follow: freedom, liberation, to beat the Nazis. Some have more personal stories to tell. An ex-US Army officer making a speech is shown, explaining that fighting was necessary to rid France and Europe of "the Nazi beast."

Footage of the French resistance fighting back follows. De Gaul shakes hands with men in the streets after the liberation of Paris. Tanks drive through the streets. It is explained that collaborators were deporting Jews during France's fight for liberation. The President of the Association of Escapees speaks about the exportation of French Jews to concentration camp gas chambers. The aftermath of WW2 is shown, including footage from Belsen concentration camp. The veterans speak of freeing survivors, the terrible conditions and poor health of the Czech and Polish camp survivors in Neustadt camp (Holstein). One ex-Gunner explains that Nazis remained in the power structure, working in industry, economy and the law courts even after D-Day and the German surrender a year later.

Footage of the devastating effects of the atomic bomb on Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki follows. "We were delighted to think that these people were now suffering. We knew nothing of the long term effects." Air Vice-Marshall Furner explains that the atomic bomb ended the war, succeeding in saving many thousands of allied lives. Brigadier Harbottle describes how he is now appalled, that the Japanese wanted peace and it was unnecessary to invade Japan. He questions how many lives would have been saved. The United Nations is described as "the only hope for the world" by an ex-Royal Rifleman. Beachy Head Path is seen, commemorating the United Nations International Year of Peace. The Rifleman explains that peace depends upon the political will of all the countries in the world, "and what's more, all the people of the world." An ex-WRN explains how strong nations impose their will on the United Nations. UN Red Cross vans are seen.

Footage from Reuters Television Library of babies learning to crawl in the 1940s and 50s is seen. An ex-ATS describes the "baby boom" after the war. The expectations of the generation of young people after the war who were starting families had not been lived up to. "Are there going to be jobs when they finish studying," says one interviewee, concerned about his grandchildren. They are worried about accommodation, food, unemployment, ecology and the environment. He explains that the population explosion threatens the future of everyone.

The interviewees are asked about Neo-Nazism in Germany. They argue the causes of radical views, poverty and social problems, are not solved. An ex-Commando describes the upsurge in Neo-Nazism as "just a phase", "a part played by the young people." Recent footage of riots in Germany are seen. "You have to educate each generation as it comes along." The veterans are asked "Was it all worth while?" An ex-Cannadian officer thinks it was worth while for the first thirty years but in the last few years he has thought many men died in vain because "things are not better off." An ex-Airbourne Officer says people have to make things worthwhile. He explains that it is the financial speculators we should wage war against. "Greed took over. No one shares like we did in the war." The interviews play over footage of stock brokers at work. In peace time... greed starts to rear its ugly head again."

"I don't think there are any great threats at the moment," says one veteran. They are asked about security. One worries about the threat of nuclear war, fearing for his children, grandchildren and their children, "if there will be a world for them to live in." An ex-Army Doctor explains that British nuclear fuels are supplying Japan with plutonium, "it looks like the Japanese are considering making bombs from it." The veterans are anxious about the threat of nuclear war after Chernobyl. One is especially concerned about poorly maintained ex-USSR stations. An ex-ATS Officer explains problems have arisen because of armament, "there wouldn't be all these problems if we didn't think selling arms was a moral and legitimate activity for a civilised country, which I don't think it is." Others fear for security at home, of houses being burgled, the lack of law and order, recession, unemployment, pollution and environmental issues. Lionel Warbuck, seen at the beginning of the film, is seen playing boules. He explains that we are all to self-centred, "we don't give a damn about others. We need to help each other more." He feels we are "bent on our own destruction."

The D-Day Project thanks all the Veterans who took part & the many people and organisations who helped. Notably: The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, University of Portsmouth TV Centre, Imperial War Museum Film Archive, Reuters TV Visnews Library, Platform Films, Telecaster Productions, TV History Workshop, Sadie Van Gelder & Rory McLeod, Norman Tozer, Colin Moffat, Dorothy Sheridan MBE. Interviews and research: Jill Sturdee & Ken Lunn... Produced for the D-Day Project by a Normandy Veteran, H. K. Lewenhak.

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