In early June 2004, thousands of veterans of the D-Day landings converged on Normandy to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the largest amphibious assault in military history. Their ranks were much thinned from previous commemorations, and even those fit enough to make the journey were often so frail that this would be their final pilgrimage. The performance of personal acts of remembrance at military cemeteries was an important priority for these elderly travellers. Seventy-nine-year-old George Marsden paid his respects at the grave of childhood friend Fred Ambler, dismembered at his side by a German mine at the age of 19, leaving a small wooden cross with the simple inscription ‘school-time pal, war-time buddy’.2 Yet this was also a social occasion, as the veterans caught up with former comrades and chatted in cafes with members of the local population who fêted them as heroes. Indispensable, too, were visits to the beaches and landing grounds where old soldiers recalled in blazing sunshine what they had done and suffered there the best part of a lifetime ago. Some were eager to tell stories of the horror, terror and sacrifice they had witnessed; others were more reticent, either from natural reserve or lingering trauma: ‘it was bad, very bad’, recalled Maurice Cox of the 6th Durham Light Infantry, ‘but it could have been worse’.3