We go behind the scenes with photographer Matt Cardy who describes his journey with the D-Day veterans and their exceptional stories on the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landings.
I have just spent the last week completing what I can confidently describe as a career highlight.
That is because I had the privilege of travelling to Normandy in France with some of the dwindling number of veterans of the heroic D-Day landings that happened 70 years ago on June 6 1944.
Survivors, including 91-year-old Raymond Shuck a paratrooper who dropped on Pegasus Bridge and was later shot by a sniper, Pat Churchill who was 20 when he landed on Juno Beach as a Commando with Canadian troops and Vera Hay, who even now she is 92 can clearly recall landing shortly after D-Day to work in the field hospital under canvas as a Queen Alexandra nursing sister.
In a very small way, it felt a bit of a pilgrimage for me too having been in attendance for numerous annual D-Day commemorations including the 60th, the 65th and last year’s 69th. And this is really where the planning for our coverage of the 70th anniversary event started.
I felt very strongly that the story that needed to be told was that of the veterans who still travel each year to show their respects to fallen comrades. Without the heads of states in attendance and the subsequent surrounding security apparatus it meant great access to them who, I always felt were the real VIPs in the story.
A number of chance meetings on the beaches last year and with help from the Pegasus Bridge Museum a list of possible contacts were formed for a portrait project of veterans that was to be completed ahead of the June commemorations.
For the 70th anniversary the eyes of the world and the focus of the cameras was always going to be on the main international events, but working as part of a larger team of Getty photographers meant I had the opportunity and privilege to get alongside some of the veterans who had decided to travel too.
One of the highlights of this was being aboard the ferry that took the largest group of returning veterans across to France and showed to me that although it was to be a time for reflection for many, it was also to be one of celebration to be back amongst their comrades.
One extraordinary story that emerged just before catching the ferry was of two veterans, Joe Cattini, 91, and Denys Hunter, 90, who were both in the same unit of Herefordshire Yeomanry on Gold Beach on D-Day had only met up again for the first time in 70 years the night before!
I had been concerned that the event was going to be hijacked by politicians and royalty, however travelling with the veterans to a number of smaller events in the towns and villages that were off the main media radar showed that they were very much and deservedly the focus receiving celebrity like attention and focus wherever they went.
There will be veterans returning next year, and they will continue to do so for as long as they can. But I think it is far to say that the 70th has really marked the end of an era and will be the last time we will mark an anniversary alongside the brave people who actually bore witness.
Matt's images featured in many publications including this piece in the Telegraph
You can see more of Matt's D-Day coverage HERE
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