Ready for D-Day!
Paul & I On Board & Off On Tour!
It’s been an extraordinary couple of weeks and for those of you who follow me on Facebook I expect you have already seen some of my photos from our Normandy 75th D-Day Commemoration tour. Paul and I have been working non stop and it’s easy to underestimate the level of hard work and dedication it takes to make things look seamless for this special event. I’m constantly working, thinking ahead and forward planning. I’ve learn’t from experience the devil is in the detail and with every show plan it’s important to factor in a few either or options. If you fail to prepare properly, you prepare to fail and to be a good entertainer it’s important to feel the moment and read the mood!
For Paul and I our D-Day tour officially began on the 31st May when we caught the 8.15am ferry from Portsmouth to Ouistreham although this doesn’t take into consideration the months and years of planning which go before.
I know the Normandy weather of old and the clothes Paul and I need to pack with regards the possible changes in the weather often means loading Belinda my van to the full extent of what she can carry. Utilising every inch of available
Behind the Scenes Working on Show Plans!
space. Paul has become quite a fashion plate with his own male facebook following and as a soprano and costume artist it’s not just about my voice and getting the show plans right, but having the right clothes and uniforms for each occasion.
When in uniform it’s important every detail is correct which involves setting time aside to polish shoes and brasses ready for parade. There’s nothing more disrespectful than a shabby ill kept uniform and as an entertainer who performs the music of the 1940s the least I can do is to see my uniforms are properly turned out before stepping out on stage.
Out and About in Bayeux!
I first had the honour of performing for the Normandy D-Day Commemorations back in 2004 for the 60th and I’ve been privileged enough to perform for the commemorations every year since. As you can imagine each year is precious and with every year that passes we see a few less veterans which is very sad. To begin with many of the veterans would join me on stage for my finales and flag waving and I’m so fortunate to have a wonderful video taken of Len Cox and I in 2012 singing together on stage in Arromanches. Every photo and video is precious which I look upon as priceless documents. They capture moments in time which are all too quickly slipping away and possibly within the next 7 years the veterans experiences will be out of living memory.
It’s all too easy to get solely wrapped up and consumed in the job of performing, getting to the appropriate place on time, setting up and then singing but this year was very special
Between Shows with Paul Chapman!
and now I’m home and able to take a step back. I feel very honored that Paul and I were chosen and were able to have played a small part in this momentous occasion. As such I have decided to split my blog into 3 installments as I have so much to record.
This year the French paid tribute to all our wonderful veterans by having their photographs displayed on the lampposts up and down the Normandy coast line which was delightful to see. So many of the faces I knew but this year we were able to see them all as young men which was very moving. I was taken with how young and hansom
Remembering Our Brave Veterans!
they all looked, so full of life, all doing their bit and ready to play their part in the big D-Day push.
Our shows didn’t begin officially until the 5th June which gave Paul and I few down days to prepare as we met up with friends and did a little sight seeing. It’s surprising how quickly those days flew by which begin with shoe polishing and uniform prepping not to mention show programming.
Our first show was at Pegasus Bridge and for this year Paul and I had been engaged to work ENSA style off the back of a WW2 K2 RAF lorry thanks to military vehicle owners Paul and Sally Chapman. Paul and I had had the pleasure of working with Paul and Sally last year in Arromanches and this year we had been engaged to perform 2 shows at Pegasus Bridge and one at Arromanches with Paul’s lorry. The weather can always be a little touch and go over D-Day which was why Paul Marsden and I
On Stage at Pegasus Bridge!
Paul On Stage Doing His Thing!
packed our macs!
A great deal of thought goes into my shows and for our first performance I decided to wear my WAAF uniform to tie in with Paul’s lorry. I had been booked to wear my ATS uniform for the D-Day Breakfast in Arromanches so it was important to wear something different and to have a different song selection to tie in with the title “We’ll Meet Again”. True to Normandy form it started to rain just as I was due to began but we persisted and the sun came shining through. Considering the weather I was very touched that people stayed to see our performance. One lady lent me her umbrella as Paul and I sang on regardless. Part of our show was caught by the BBC which was shown on news 24 and a photographer from the Metro newspaper climbed up onto stage behind me during “The White Cliffs of Dover ” and took my picture which was published the next day. Thank-you to James and John who very kindly sent me the cutting and to Katie Thomas who posted the cutting on Facebook.
Performing ENSA style off the back of a lorry is
Off On the Caen Canal!
fun to do as we got the local children involved and a group of Polish WW2 re-anactors to lead in the flag waving. I even had one American Airbourne re-anacter joining in with “Hands Knees and Boomps a Daisy” which went down extremely well with his friends and audience.
Before hand the two Paul’s Sally and I had the privilege of going for a spin down the Caen Canal in HMS Medusa which took position on the edge of a minefield off Omaha Beach and acted as a marker during the D-Day invasion thanks to our friend Steven Oldrid. Later that night we had a quick change as Paul and I sang for the veterans
All Change for the Veterans Dinner!
dinner in Benouville before dashing back to our B&B at St Vigor le Grand.
In my next blog I shall tell you about our D-Day Breakfast show on Arromanches beach, 6th June but for now I will leave you with a few photos. Keep Following and Toodle Pip! 😉
Out and About in Arromanches!