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Veterans remembered

After the War, Sven Berlin kept in touch with the local Normandy Veterans Association, contributing poetry and writing an account of where he was on VE and VJ Day for their newsletter. As Remembrance Sunday approaches we thought we’d recall another thankful moment in his not uneventful WW2 service in France. The pictures below, of the liberation of Flers, are from the Imperial War Museum and were taken by Sgt Laing of the No 5 Army Film and Photo Section. Sven drew many local villagers and their children, some of which were used to illustrate his book I am Lazarus.

In November 1994 Sven and his former WW2 Captain, Harry Mainwearing, were reunited by letter. By then a retired Lieutenant Colonel, Mainwearing wrote to tell Sven about his visit to Anne Marie Duguey, daughter of the Mayor of Flers in Normandy, on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the town. The unit’s foray into Flers in August 1944, their meeting with Robert, her father, a member of the French Resistance and their subsequent confrontation with the German anti-tank gun crew is outlined in Sven’s account of his war service in France, Belgium and Holland, I am Lazarus.

Mainwearing later told John Paddy Browne, Sven’s erstwhile biographer, that Sven, in one of the first four trucks to enter the town, was ‘the bravest man I’ve ever known… Of uncommon character.’ Anne Marie herself wrote to Sven the following year, recalling the arrival of his unit on 16 August 1944 - ‘a moment of great happiness that we will never forget.’

The maps illustrated here are among the original drawings held in our archive, and used in Sven’s account of the war, I am Lazarus. This Imperial War Museum (IWM) footage shows the surrounding area and the troops involved and its worth watching to compare Sven’s evocative drawing ‘Spud Bashing’ (published in the review of I am Lazarus in the Times Literary Supplement in 1961) with the images at 01.39! (August 1944)

Lest we forget... and as we continue to support the people of Ukraine...


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