Don't Mention the War!

As genealogists and researchers into the deeds of our and other peoples Ancestors during war time, we delve into the history of our chosen era to piece together all the little bits of information. What we find is almost always fascinating and makes you want to go that little bit deeper.

Yesterday we received a story from a Forces War Records subscriber about their ancestor’s service on a Royal Navy blockade runner HMS Gay Viking. I’d never heard of the ship before or its missions across the North Sea. But reading through the story piqued my interest and I hit the internet looking for more.

What I found was a tale worthy of the classic 1950s and ‘60s war films, with HMS Gay Viking roaring across the North Sea, dodging German Naval patrols and aircraft in order to pick up vital wartime supplies from Sweden, then do it all again to return. I’m thinking Above Us the Waves (1955) where Royal Navy Midget Submarines attacked the German Battleship Tirpitz in Norway, sneaking into the Fjord to lay explosives then back out again.

Now imagine paying homage to the story of HMS Gay Viking or the Midget submarines but not allowing the German military to appear because their presence could be offensive to some.

Well this is what is being faced by a re-enactment group in Barnsley, Yorkshire who were scheduled to take part in the 1940s Goodnight Sweetheart weekend show. Donning official and replica German Army Uniforms and carrying replica equipment the re-enactment group were going to display alongside British, American and Soviet re-enactors as part of a Living History section of the show.

But having received complaints the last time the show was put on with German Uniforms and Equipment on display, Barnsley council have cancelled the event.

Nazi Imagery such as the Swastika and lightning bolt SS, the Black Uniforms of the Gestapo and the red armbands are not used by the Re-Enactment group to avoid the political controversy associated with this period of German History.

Coming back to the war films we all know and love, how would you feel if they did not include the kinds of Uniforms accurate to the period?

Is it right to deny this aspect of history and not teach people about the Germans during WW2 in case they see a Swastika?

And what about hiding away monuments to the Allied Forces for fear of offence? The Memphis Belle memorial at RAF Bassingbourn was fenced off for fear that it would offend visiting Libyan Soldiers.

Memphis Belle nose art on a B-17G at the Duxford Airshow 2013 - Tom Bennington & Forces War Records

What do you think? Are Barnsley council right, or have they been a bit too zealous in banning the re-enactors from displaying?


Blogger: ThoBen


Do you have a story from your family’s military past you would like to share? Send it to Forces War Records at 

The Best Stories we receive will be given a Free Forces War Records Full Membership and feature on our blog.

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