The Dutch town of Arnhem saw one of the most dramatic incidents of the Allies’ advance towards Germany, when an airborne landing failed to capture its crossing over the Rhine – later immortalised on film as ‘a bridge too far’. Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery is testament to the anguish of ongoing occupation as well as eventual liberation, and sits at the heart of a community where remembrance is still an important ritual. We speak to Willemien Rieken, a former ‘flower child’ who’s laid flowers at one grave in Oosterbeek War Cemetery for 75 years; historian Sir Antony Beevor about the wider conflict in 1944; and former Glider Pilot Jim Hooper, who landed troops in Arnhem during Operation Market Garden. We also explore the Arnhem Airborne Museum, situated in the former hotel which was used as a headquarters by Commonwealth forces during the operation.
17 Sep 2019
Normandy [Part 1]
On 6 June 1944, over 150,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy to begin the liberation of France. Inspired by veterans' memories of D-Day, we travel to the cemeteries where the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died were laid to rest. From the graves of paratroopers at Ranville to the story of three Canadian brothers at Beny-sur-Mer, and the vast Bayeux War Cemetery, we explore the legacy of the landings and the experience of visiting these graves today.
5 Jun 2019
In the shadow of a forbidding mountain in the heart of Italy, overlooked by a Benedictine monastery, Cassino War Cemetery evokes the rich history and culture of the landscape in which it lies. From the ancient, classical architecture to the brutal fighting which took place in the foothills around it, this multinational memorial encapsulates a complex and contradictory campaign.We speak to Jim Knox, a 96 year old veteran who fought in the infamous battle, and Carlo Castiglia, Head Gardener at Cassino War Cemetery. We also follow in the footsteps of Commonwealth forces to Rome, and discover war graves hidden in the heart of this historic city.
16 May 2019
Kohima & Imphal
One of the most dramatic battles of the Second World War was fought across a tennis court at Kohima in north-east India. This has been preserved at Kohima War Cemetery, where an epitaph inscribed in stone resonates through the generations: ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow, we gave our today’.We reflect on this remarkable cemetery with heritage expert Rowenna Wood and discover some unexpected connections closer to home. We speak to CWGC historian Max Dutton about the epitaphs chosen by families, and reflect on the legacy of the battles of Imphal and Kohima with writer Annabel Venning, whose grandfather served in India and Burma.
4 Apr 2019
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The Great Escape
So much of our understanding of the Second World War is shaped by film. Perhaps the most famous example is The Great Escape. At the heart of the Polish city of Poznan, in a small glade surrounded by undulating parkland, are the graves of the 48 men who lost their lives in the breakout from Stalag Luft III in March 1944.We visit their graves and contemplate the reality behind the legend. We find out more with historian Guy Walters and and speak to veteran Victor Gregg about his experiences as a prisoner of war. Among those who would never be liberated were War Graves Commission gardeners captured during the war. At the CWGC archive, we discover their heartbreaking stories.
22 Mar 2019