A new free-to-enter photography exhibition has opened at the National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire, featuring 29 portraits of D-Day veterans. Created by Stuart Wood, SIX.SIX.FORTYFOUR is a reflective collection of images conceived as a tribute to those who were part of Operation Overlord in 1944, capturing the true essence of service and sacrifice.
Robert Purver from Derby is one of the veterans featured in the exhibition. Landing at Juno Beach alongside Canadian forces, he sprinted from his landing craft as soon as the front lowered, holding the responsibility of identifying the quickest routes off the beach for the soldiers. As he advanced toward the enemy lines shells whistled over his heads from the allied naval bombardment and a squadron of Spitfires soared by, opening fire on the German defences to make them easier for the landing force to breach. As men fell and died all around him, Robert persevered and kept running.
People who worked diligently behind the scenes to ensure D-Day went to plan also form part of the exhibition, including Nanza Downey from Birmingham who served as a wireless operator. Working at Forest Moor Y-station in North Yorkshire, she listened to German stations, copying their coded messages which were then passed on to Bletchley Park. Nanza was working the night shift at 3am on 6 June 1944 when she was informed that the invasion had begun following the unexpected appearance of army intelligence officers and the Germans broadcasting un-coded messages, signally that something highly unusual was taking place.
SIX.SIX.FORTYFOUR is part of the Arboretum’s programme of activities to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It is on display until 1 September 2019.
Chris Ansell, Exhibitions Officer at the National Memorial Arboretum, said: “This exhibition is part of our summer programme of commemorative events as we mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a heroic endeavour on the part of tens of thousands of individuals and a turning point during the Second World War. Our exhibitions programme continually seeks to offer ways of engaging with Remembrance through cultural experiences and Stuart’s work is a fantastic tribute to all who served in D-Day”
Stuart Wood, said: “SIX.SIX.FORTYFOUR is the culmination of several years work, capturing the spirit of these veterans on camera and documenting their stories of heroism, resulting in a unique tribute to service. I’m immensely proud of the finished exhibition and urge everyone to visit and learn more about these incredible individuals who did so much for us and our country.”
Photo: Robert Purver © Stuart Wood