Landings – Russell Squires at the Royal Armouries Museum, Fort Nelson

I went to the Gallery at Fort Nelson on Saturday and I enjoyed looking at this exhibition. It is a shame that there were not more students who could get there for a full study visit. Below is the text of my post on WeAreOCA.

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I was fascinated by this subject for a number of reasons. I was born and raised on the South Coast in Bognor Regis and spent a large part of my childhood on the beach, gazing south and imagining the coast of France just short of 100 miles distant. In 1957 my parents took the unusual step (for that period) of taking a family cycling/camping holiday on the coast of Normandy during which we cycled from Dieppe westwards to reach Le Havre, just short of the D Day landing beaches. My father served in the army up until the outbreak of WW2 and while in Normandy was taken ill and medically discharged so did not see active service. I’m not sure if this trip was motivated by nostalgia on his part. Sadly he is no longer around to ask. As I grew up and learned more about the history WW2, the significance of the Normandy Beaches became apparent and my experience of visiting that part of France only 13 years after D Day, has stayed with me.

In this way I was able to fully understand your idea of leaving the viewer to interact with the environment in their own way, having presented the modern landscape with no visual historical references to the past. I remember very little of the 1950’s landscape only that it was facing the “wrong” way, in that my limited experience told me that the coast should face south! I also found it useful that you only captioned the beaches with their WW2 code names so there was no reference to place names or geographical locations. Your pictures contained evidence of people but I don’t recall any figures. All of this gave my mind space to think about what had happened here and there was a quiet reverence in which to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

A few years ago I was privileged to be able to visit the D Day Operations Room at Southwick Park and examine the wall map of the beaches. A humbling sight when you realise the momentous events that took place in that room and across the Channel in the weeks leading up to and following that day.

I’m currently studying Documentary and will take Landscape as my next course. I might even find myself linking the coastal landscapes of southern England and northern France.

To illustrate my historical relationship with both sides of the Channel in the past, I have used modern technology to show the views north and south along longitude 2.2999262°W from  latitudes 48.857798° N and 47.857798° N. (Courtesy of Street view)

England looking south

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France looking north

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