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Book Review – D-Day and Normandy – A Visual History


D-Day and Normandy – A Visual History by Anthony Richards

THIS sumptuously illustrated book is drawn from the mighty collections at the Imperial War Museum and proves a striking addition to the growing canon of works marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Among its 230-plus pages are the most stirring, gritty and illuminating images of the men, objects, documents, art and even life on the home front ever seen – all are dynamic representations of the events of June 6, 1944 and the days leading up to it.

Readers must prepare themselves for an evocative experience. The photographs, so beautifully curated, have the power to transport us back to a moment in time when the actions of so many men, often only in their teens, led to the liberation of Europe.

There are ten articulate and engrossing chapters written by the head of Documents and Sound at the IWM – Anthony Richards. The structure of its content (overseen by David Tibbs and Ian Carter) has been elegantly designed by Kirsty Macdiarmid, who selected the photographs that tell such a serious story.

Readers will be led into the Normandy invasion from the time the Allies first began to plan for a second front in northwest Europe, up until the end of August 1944, when they had victoriously established themselves along the dramatic French shoreline and made ready to begin the great advance to Berlin. The main focus though is rightfully on the D-Day landings and we learn so pertinently the Normandy invasion is one of the finest examples of how individual bravery and military planning can achieve ultimate success. These stories of bravery are at the IWM’s archival treasure trove of social-historical information – a collection of global importance. It is these memories that inspired and shaped the creation and photographic magnificence of this large and extraordinary volume.

What an evocative book with many images never seen before and yet now proudly brought to light by the author and an excellent associate team at the IWM. Letters (including those from General Montgomery), memoirs, oral histories and detailed diaries form this elegantly written text which leads us through from – The Coming Storm, Planning the Operation, Training and Technology, Deception Operations, The Great Crusade, D-Day: Airborne Operations, D-Day: The Beach Landings, D-Day: Consolidating the Bridgehead, The Battle for Normandy to the final chapter; Legacy. Then, just to add to the menu of tantalising and individualistic photographs, is a selection of objects carried into battle by the troops. A pocket watch, a vomit bag (rarely unopened) and a portable medical kit also feature.

Despite all the careful planning and the rigorous intelligence that led up to June 6, it’s clear no man expected the invasion to be easy or danger-free. The outcome was uncertain. We look into their eyes, which reveal hearts and minds that say ‘this is it!’

Publisher: Imperial War Museum.  ISBN: 9781912423040. Hardback – 232 Pages. RRP: £25


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