Last of the Lib­er­a­tors

Robin Sav­age pho­tographed D-Day vet­er­ans in France for a 70th an­niver­sary com­mem­o­ra­tive book and ex­hi­bi­tion

NPhoto - - Over To You… -

I’m a Lon­don-based free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher, and I spe­cialise in shoot­ing por­traits of ac­tors and pho­tograph­ing theatre pro­duc­tions. I be­came in­ter­ested in the Sec­ond World War at an early age, and I was fas­ci­nated with D-Day and the Bat­tle of Nor­mandy. In 2011 I be­gan a project that would cul­mi­nate in an ex­hi­bi­tion and book, pro­duced with the help of Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum Dux­ford, to mark this year’s 70th an­niver­sary of D-Day.

These por­traits were among 33 that I shot in Nor­mandy dur­ing the 68th and 69th an­niver­sary com­mem­o­ra­tions,

I was im­mensely moved… be­ing in the com­pany of such ex­tra­or­di­nary people has been one of the great­est plea­sures of my life

and they’re a poignant record of some of the fi­nal vis­its that these brave and dig­ni­fied men and women will make to the places that im­printed them­selves in­deli­bly on their lives.

Wil­liam Bray [3] of 7th Bat­tal­ion, The Para­chute Reg­i­ment, was part of the force that cap­tured the strate­gi­cally im­por­tant Pegasus Bridge in the early hours of D-Day, and this por­trait was taken on 6 June 2013 – ex­actly 69 years to the day af­ter Wil­liam parachuted

into the fields you can see be­hind him. It’s a long walk from the road to this van­tage point, and it was a spe­cial mo­ment to watch Wil­liam’s face as he turned the cor­ner and recog­nised the field.

Vera Hay [2] en­dured the hor­rors of the Blitz while train­ing as a nurse in Lon­don. She vol­un­teered for the Queen Alexan­dra’s Im­pe­rial Mil­i­tary Nurs­ing Ser­vice, and landed on Gold Beach about a week af­ter D-Day. She served at a field hospi­tal set up in a chateau a few miles in­land, as part of a team that treated up to 200 ca­su­al­ties per day.

This was a tricky photo to set up – Vera hadn’t been back to the chateau since the war and only had a rough idea of where it was. I was even­tu­ally able to pin­point it, and I asked the own­ers for per­mis­sion to bring Vera there, which they gave. It was an amaz­ing mo­ment to see the glint of recog­ni­tion in Vera’s eyes as we ar­rived at the chateau, and I think the own­ers en­joyed hav­ing her there as much as she en­joyed be­ing back.

John Shana­han [1] of the Royal Ul­ster Ri­fles landed on Sword Beach on the morn­ing of D-Day, and on June 7 his unit at­tacked these woods at Cambes-en-Plaine, a vil­lage close to the key ob­jec­tive of Caen. They had been led to be­lieve the woods were lightly de­fended, but in fact they were held by bat­tle-hard­ened troops from the 12th SS Panzer Di­vi­sion. Af­ter their ini­tial at­tack was re­pulsed, the Ul­sters launched a sec­ond at­tack two days later and even­tu­ally cleared the woods, but at a high cost in dead and wounded.

The com­mem­o­ra­tions in Nor­mandy are a busy pe­riod for the vet­er­ans, but it’s also a time for pri­vate re­mem­brance for these in­di­vid­u­als, and I was im­mensely moved by their kind­ness, and their gen­eros­ity with their time. Be­ing in the com­pany of such ex­tra­or­di­nary people has been one of the great­est plea­sures of my life.

01 John Shana­han Nikon D3s, Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, 1/160 sec, f/10, ISO500

02 Vera Hay Nikon D3s, Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, 1/250 sec, f/13, ISO200

03 Wil­liam Bray Nikon D3s, Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, 1/250 sec, f/11, ISO200

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