Background: The roots of this project began in England more than 40 years ago. Like so many children of my generation I was fascinated by World War Two and devoured everything associated with it. It was the 1977 epic, ‘A Bridge Too Far’ that sparked my imagination and led to this lifelong fascination with the battle.
The Work: Arnhem Boys is the culmination of four years of work traveling throughout the UK, the US and Canada, photographing and interviewing the allied veterans of the Battle of Arnhem. The project’s name ‘Arnhem Boys’ not only groups this old band of veterans together but also describes how young most of them were when they went into Arnhem, many of whom were experiencing battle for the very first time.
It's been such an amazing and humbling experience to meet these men who had taken part in one of the Second World War’s most ferocious and bloodiest battles. They invited me - a virtual stranger - into their homes and told me their fascinating and often moving stories. Theirs is a tale not of victory but of defeat; it’s one that starts out with optimism and awe but turns very quickly into a desperately sad and frustrating story of disaster. Even after surviving the battle, many who I spoke to, were then packed into cattle trucks and sent to POW camps. Here, they endured months of cold, hunger and deprivation until the end of the war in May 1945.
The work has educated me in many ways. The Polish veterans in particular opened my eyes to a side of the war I was ignorant about; the mass deportations by Stalin of the Poles to Gulags in the Soviet Union. After the hunger and brutality of these camps they then travelled south to reach the Allies in Persia; arriving in rags as just skin and bone. Amazingly they were then eager to recover their strength and join the fight to liberate Europe and their homeland. One veteran summed up his experience very well by stating, ‘He had lived a thousands years and wasn’t yet 25’.
Up until now this has been a self-financed personal project that I’ve been inspired to do before we lose the last of these veterans and their stories. Sadly, 11 have already passed away since I photographed them.
Your Contribution: All of these veterans have felt a strong need to share their stories before they pass. Their willingness to speak with me and their desire to see the project brought to life before thousands of visitors would, I believe, be the most meaningful reward for your generous contribution. You would be helping honour the last of these old veterans during their emotional return to Arnhem on this 75th anniversary. I invite you to come out and experience the commemorations yourself.
If the contributions exceed the $5K target then any surplus will be used to help fund the planned book of Arnhem Boys that I am working on for next year.
Updates: I plan on keeping everyone informed with the progress of the work from the printing to the installation and set up of the frames and images the week of Aug 26th to the final exhibit itself.
After the Show: The 30 exhibited prints after being outside for a month will be recycled. The spare 30 prints which hopefully will not have to be used I would like to find a home for. Please contact me if interested.
The Exhibition: In 2019, on the 75th anniversary of the battle, the Airborne Museum will be exhibiting my pictures in the park outside the museum during the entire month of September. This exhibition is free to view. The museum serves as a focal point for visitors and the media as well as a location for some of the official events.
On Thursday 19th September at 6pm there will be a special event at the museum with invited veterans (5 veterans confirmed attending as of July 5) guests and members of the public. I shall be attending and making a speech.
The Museum: The Airborne Museum was set up soon after the war and since 1978 has been housed in the old Hotel Hartenstein, the former headquarters of the British 1st Airborne Division during the battle. It is a very well established and prestigious museum dedicated to the Battle of Arnhem. During the month of September it plays a major part in the annual events held to commemorate the battle.
10,000 visitors attended the museum in September 2017, and a larger attendance is expected for the 75th anniversary in 2019.
The Commemorations: The annual Arnhem commemorations are a big event for the town and the surrounding area, with thousands of people attending over the four days. There is a commemorative parachute drop on Ginkel Heath, one of the original drop zones on the Saturday which attracts about 30,000 people.
Many people travel from the UK and Poland along with the surviving veterans and their families. Since 1946 they have been welcomed back year after year and are held very close by the locals who host and escort them throughout those few days.
The Cost: The plan is to exhibit 30 images ( 28 veterans images plus 2 Introductory panels); that will be exhibited in 15 frames. Unfortunately a duplicate of each image will have to be made in case of damage/vandalism, making a total of 60 images needed.
Each image will be 5 feet wide by 3.75 feet in height printed on vinyl, hemmed edges and 22 eyelets
$3,900 for 60 Prints
Each print is $65
$900 Test strips of all images and shipping of 60 prints to Holland from London.
Initial test strip to be printed which will be a 40cm x 114cm section of each image. This is for me to view and make corrections regarding color/contrast etc before the final images printed
$200 Incidental costs. To cover any contingencies.
The printing will take place in London at the end of July and the beginning of August. I would like to raise all the money by August 15th. On this date all prints should be completed and shipped to the museum in Holland. I then travel to Holland and oversee the installation of the frames and prints the week of August 26th.
A preliminary test strip made earlier this year to see how well the images could be enlarged - All looking good I'm pleased to say!
The lawn behind the museum where the images will be displayed
Sorry Go Fund Me wouldn't allow a vertical image. Here is the layout of the 15 frames.
The complete work can be seen at https://arnhemboys.com
Many thanks for your consideration. Any donation no matter how small would be greatly appreciated. Even if you are unable to donate it would help me a great deal if you could share my fundraising campaign through Facebook or emails with your family and friends.
Photographs & interviews: Richard Jopson
Brooklyn, New York