Today Show on BBC Radio 4

Written by Rachel on June 6th, 2009

Dan was on the Today Show this morning, click here to listen.

More than 9,000 men were laid to rest in the cemetery, close to Colleville-Sur-Mer – codenamed Omaha beach – after the D-Day landings. Historian Dan Snow remembers the thousands of UK and Canadian troops who came ashore on 6 June 1944 and during the following days.


James Naughtie:“Hello John, once again. I’m down by the water’s edge here. You can probably hear the waves. The tide’s coming in pretty fast. I’m with Dan Snow, military historian – familiar from your television screens. We’re just about to get wet, Dan, but this is the very place where British troops began to come in, in the early hours of D-Day itself, 65 years ago, gold beach. And it’s extraordinary looking at the crowds in the village of Arromanches around us and the villages along the coast, you know, time does not seem to dim the enthusiasm for the rekindling of this memory.”

Dan Snow: “I absolutely love coming here for all the D-day commemorations and what’s so poinient as well is that all the villages, as you drive in to this area of Normandy, all the villages, every single house, decked out – Union Jacks, Canadian flags, maple leaves, stars and stripes – it’s just, there is a sort of carnival atmosphere and it doesn’t seem to get any more tired or any smaller. I was here 5 years ago and I think this year’s bigger! More people involved, more sort of, events going on – dancing in the square last night.”

JN: “I wonder, talking to young cadets with some of the old soliders who were here, passing on their stories and what have you. Was there a sense that they are aging? They’re slipping away? Most of the people who landed here are in their late eighties – there’s almost a hunger for making sure that it’s passed on and people, rather as happened with the First World War, maybe a couple of decades ago, people want to make sure that it doens’t slip from view.”

DS: “Absolutely. And this is the huge question Jim is, whether, when these veterans start to really pass into history, they start to die off as a mass, whether we will lose that connection with the past. Actually, the lesson from the First World War, where, of course.there are only a handful of veterans left, seems to be, no. Every single year I talk to the people who work in the great battlefields of the Western Front. I say what’s tourism like? Numbers up or down? And every single year they tell me more and more people come. And I can’t help thinking this is something to do with a real step change. We’re not talking about events in the past like the Battle of Waterloo which seems dead and gone – it’s quite inaccessible. I think We’re talking about events that were recorded . These veterans recorded interviews on radio, on camera – I think their words and their stories will live on in a way actually previous generations’ haven’t. And so although in the words of Chow Yen Li, the Chinese statesman – it’s almost too early to tell what the effects of the media are going to be. I think we’re looking at a very serious revolution in the way we look at the past.”

JN: “We’ll be hearing you as part of the BBC 1 programme this afternoon from here, look at some of the e vents but finally as we go, we’re looking out to the horizon where those ships, a vast armada arrived here on the morning of dday. The hulks of the floating mulberry harbours poking up through the waves. Its impossible to look at the this scene without thinking what went on here day after day week after week in that summer of ’44.”

DS: “Absolutely. Of course, there was D-Day itself and then the unbelievable logistical effort that went on afterwards. The oil, the vehicles, the people landing – the stuff of war. That’s the real reason for the Allied victory. And today there’s one lone minesweeper riding at anchor out in the bay which I think looks fantastic but actually the best thing of all is the noise of these waves.”

JN: “It will be a quite scene here later – commemoration and celebration. Dan Snow, thank you very much.”


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