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Posted on May 18, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Paras in Normandy – An ACG Re-enactment Photoshoot

By Steve Lee

As a Reenactor and collector the US Airborne Troops of WW2 have always interested me, last year in June I was lucky enough to be picked to appear in a photo shoot for the Armchair General Magazine, on location here in Normandy.

In June each year, thousands of people descend on Normandy to mark the anniversary of the D-Day Landing is June 1944; many of those who visit are reenactors like myself. Sarah and I run a guest house and gites in an old farmhouse in the little village of La Madeleine situated just behind Utah Beach and between Exits 2 & 3 where the US 4th Division stormed inland on D-Day, it was the task of Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne to hold these exits open for the troops and tanks coming ashore. With so much history on our doorstep it’s easy to see why my interest in the US Airborne is so strong.


During the first week of June last year a group of friends came to stay at our place, amongst them was Seimon Pugh-Jones, the official Photographer for Armchair General, I had no idea of what he had planned for my re-enactor friends and I.

After participating in a Night March, and the Carentan Memorial March, our little group had covered more than 35km in 24 hours in full kit carrying our M1 Garand Rifles and everything else that an Airborne Trooper would have carried back in 1944. For three days we had worn our uniforms and eaten rations in an attempt to get some idea of what it was like to be a Paratrooper in Normandy back then, most of us are ex-serviceman and have lived in the field but to be honest it’s far more difficult when you’re wearing the type of kit and equipment those guys carried so many years ago.

On the fourth day we visited the new Museum and Shop at “Dead Man’s Corner” where there was heavy fighting between US and German Paratroopers as the 101st Airborne attempted encircle and capture the strategically important town of Carentan. We were very impressed with the Museum and after taking time out to look around and spend some money on some much-needed new kit we headed for home, looking forward to a hot shower and a few beers together.

Late in the afternoon we arrived back at Ivy House, Seimon was waiting for us with his good friend Tudor, they told us not to take our boots off as they had something planned for us. They told us to meet them at the Crisbecq Battery in thirty minutes and to take all of our weapons and kit with us; I had no idea what I was letting myself in for!

At around 5pm in the evening we arrived at the Crisbecq Battery, a very well restored example of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, complete with original trenches, dugouts, tunnels and bunkers, this place housed 210mm Skoda Guns capable of firing on Utah Beach and out to sea at the expected Invasion Force. For many years Crisbecq was left untouched, tunnels and trenches bulldozed over after the war and covered by nearly 60 years of bramble bushes, only a couple of year sago was it totally uncovered. It now provided Seimon with the perfect location for a Photo-shoot, the ideal place to re-construct actions that took place on D-Day. Although the Crisbecq Battery was taken by Soldiers of the US 4th Infantry Division many Paratroopers landed in around the Battery on D-Day and had to fight their way out of the area.

Seimon explained to us that he had waited for a few days before bringing us together for the shoot, he wanted us to look tired and dirty, clothes and equipment needed to look grubby and lived in, by now we actually had started to look like we had jumped into Normandy, landed in the marshes and walked all day trying to meet up with our comrades, whilst all the time evading capture from the roving German Patrols.

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