D-Day – The Largest Amphibious Invasion in History
Recently whilst searching the realms of Twitter one evening I stumbled upon an interesting project that got me thinking about today’s perceptions of D-Day. Operation Overlord was the largest amphibious invasion in history as well as arguably being one of the largest operational cooperation of arms between different branches of the military and different nations to date.
When you think of the landings at Normandy on 6th June 1944, many people will probably instantly conjure up the horrifically moving images from the opening scenes of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks epic WW2 blockbuster – Saving Private Ryan – of young American troops storming Omaha beach under a hail of gunfire. Or, perhaps of Band of Brother’s Captain Dick Winters and the troops of Easy Company (101st Airborne) parachuting into a tracer filled sky on the night of the 5-6th June 1944.
There have certainly been some big films down the years which have tried to capture these monumental events, including the likes of Saving Private Ryan, The Big Red One and HBO’s world renowned mini-series, Band of Brothers.
Such is the power of Hollywood though, that as historian James Holland quite rightly pointed out in our recent interview with him, there is an enduring misconception that D-Day was predominantly an American show. Obviously without trying to diminish America’s important role in these events, there were at least 12 over nations involved in the invasion of Normandy, Britain for example supplied around 80% of the naval capacity as well as a force of around 62,000 men so it certainly was not just an American show.
‘On Sword Beach,’ the project that I came across on Twitter is looking set to try and challenge this popular misconception. So I decided to get in contact with the producer and director, Oliver Murray, to learn a bit more about this exciting endeavour.
On Sword Beach
An Independent Feature Film set during WWII
Great to speak again Oliver, I thought we could start off by introducing the film you are currently working on and just explaining what it is about to everyone.
Thank you, it’s great to be speaking with you. On Sword Beach is an independent British feature film currently in development. It follows four young friends in the weeks leading up to and during the D-Day landings, as they travel across the remote English countryside in pursuit of a fellow soldier wanted for murder. So although the D-Day element is a major factor in the film, it serves to essentially frame our story. Where other movies, such as Saving Private Ryan have used D-Day to kick off the film, it will occur at the end of ours. Not much has been said or shown with regards to individual soldiers leading up to the invasion, and where it has been done, perhaps in The Longest Day or in the HBO series Band of Brothers, I wanted to try something different and really do something original.
What was the inspiration behind this exciting undertaking?
Mainly I’d have to say it was a strong compulsion to finally make a modern film which shows the D-Day landings from a British perspective, there’s no doubt about that. It’s been far too long since we’ve had such as film and as a country with such a major involvement in the Second World War we’re quite badly underrepresented. But then war films are traditionally very expensive to make, and so quite naturally only Hollywood has really been in the business of financing and making them. For inspiration as a film maker I can’t imagine anyone attempting to make a World War II movie in 2014 can deny being influenced by Steven Spielberg, particularly with the Omaha Beach scene in Private Ryan. But also I’ve been inspired by a lot of great classic movies about friends, distant as it may sound. Films like Stand By Me and even Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In particular Stand By Me really gave me a lot of food for thought. There you have a film about four young friends, American kids in the 1950s on the cusp of adolescence, they’re all about to go their separate ways into high school and life will never been the same again. So I thought about four slightly older British guys, all good friends, knowing that the invasion of France is coming soon. The second front is finally being opened up, and you’ll be part of it. How would that feel?
How important do you think films like these are to keeping the history of the Second World War alive to new generations?
Very important, particularly when they’re done right. I’m only twenty three, so memories and insight into Second World War hasn’t come to me in a strong sense from a father or grandfather as it might of done thirty years ago. I managed to develop an independent interest as a teenager and began talking with veterans and doing my own reading, but again I really have to credit to watching Saving Private Ryan a few years after its initial release. It was really on a whole different level to other war films in terms of it’s realism and the way in which it conveyed sacrifice and the emotions surrounding remembrance. As we know, film is an incredibly powerful medium, it has the ability to not only entertain and to thrill, but to inspire and to truly move people. So they’re very important in that sense. Of course we’re fortunate that there’s been somewhat of a renewed interest in the Second World War in recent years, particularly with the seventieth anniversary of D-Day last June and so on. But with every new Hollywood movie, be it Monuments Men or Fury, I’m reminded that this country really ought to have a few more modern representations from that era on the big screen. The Imitation Game was a great step in the right direction for me.
How important a tribute do you think this is to those men who lost their lives on Sword Beach and during the Normandy Landings as well as raising the awareness to British involvement in Operation Overlord?
As I’ve said it’s essentially my main driving force behind making this film. Not only to honour the men who landed and died on Sword Beach and further inland on D-Day, but as a tribute to those who fought everywhere during the war, be it France, Italy, or the Far East. Of course I hope to raise awareness for the British involvement in Operation Overlord, however my main hope is that we can just tell a story about ordinary people in extraordinary times, without sugar coating it. These were ordinary people from all walks of life who were called upon to fight and liberate the continent from such a terrible evil, of course as your readers know, Overlord was just one part of a six year war. D-Day was unimaginably huge, and the British side needs showing on the big screen, but I also want to use the landings as they’re the epitome of courage and selflessness in the Second World War, at least to me. The idea that someone would land on a mine filled foreign beach against enemy fire, run up it and fight in order to liberate another country, in many cases die or be seriously wounded for no gain of their own, but merely to do it because it is the right thing to do – that’s true heroism to me. The likes of heroism which we may never see again. And it’s something thousands of men did. I really think it ought to be shown in our cinemas again, in colour and with realism, with all of the horrors of war, the courage, the sacrifice there to be seen.
I know you are aiming to raise £60,000 to help fund this feature film by crowd-funding and donations, and I must say you are offering some fantastic rewards for people to own a unique piece of history. How well received has this been and how much support has there been behind this incredible project?
Thank you. Well our crowd-funding campaign finished on the 6th December, unfortunately we didn’t reach the £60,000 mark within the set thirty day. In the end we attracted something around £31,000 in pledges on Kickstarter, so all in all it went as well we could’ve predicted. Crowd-funding is still very new, so although I’m sure we did all we could in terms of promoting our project I still feel like there’s a certain amount of time that has to pass before films like ours can reach enough people who understand the concept of crowd-funding. People are sceptical about giving money towards helping to actually make a film, and I can understand that. Most of us see a trailer for a new movie and then drive up to the cinemas and buy a ticket to watch it, the idea of helping fund that film in the first place seems a bit odd. But it allows new ideas and new talent to be seen and to flourish, it’s something I hope keeps on growing. The idea that we could see more smaller films up on the big screen in the future because of crowd-funding is quite exciting for me. The whole Kickstarter experience for us was a fantastic learning curve, and it’s raised our profile massively. I should also say that we’ve come into contact with a lot of people, such as yourselves because of it. So I’m grateful for that. But for now we’re looking to the new year for other sources of funding to make On Sword Beach. I’m feeling quite confident about it.
Thank you Oliver, that was very interesting and we wish you all the luck in this exciting endeavour.
If you would like to donate, find out anymore information or track the progress of the On Sword Beach project, you can do so by visiting the team’s website by clicking here.
Or you can follow them on Twitter: @onswordbeach
Photo Attributions: British Commandos of 1st Special Service Brigade landing on Sword Beach on D-Day.