Millions dead, cities burnt to the ground and unrest and turmoil cast across the globe.
After six years of the bloodiest war in history, with an estimated 50-85million people dead, Word War Two was finally called to an end 69 years ago tomorrow.
And while September 2, 1945 might be a date resigned to the history books by some, others are keeping the remembrance of those who lost their lives firmly going.
Rochdale-based Adrian Wild is one of thousands in the UK who takes part in re-enactments, proudly wearing the uniform of servicemen who fought in WWII and passing on tales from those who fought in the bloody conflict.
“It’s all about remembrance, don’t forget, learn from the mistakes that were made in the past and don’t let it happen again,” he told MM.
“And to a degree we are becoming that voice because by doing this we have talked to so many veterans and we are now passing their tales on for them.”
VICTORY! Re-enactors in full Soviet uniform and tank
Ranging from panel discussions talking to the public, to being perched in the back of a vehicle with planes flying overhead in a skirmish battle, the role of a re-enactor can vary greatly.
Adrian’s interest in war re-enactments and shows stemmed from his childhood after witnessing a Viking society performing a battle – and coupled with his fascination for military history he has been performing in shows and events for almost 30 years.
“I’ve always had a massive interest in military history and especially the WWII period because it went from biplanes and two man tanks to 70tonne beasts and nuclear weapons,” the 46-year-old said.
“The tactics used in WWII are still the tactics that are being used today and I have just a massive interest in military history.”
Although the events are used as a way of remembrance, they are also a social gathering, family oriented and it is a ‘good bunch of mates getting together at the weekend’ according to Adrian.
However, the maintenance engineer dismisses claims by people who think that by having a drink and a laugh they are disrespecting those who lost their lives.
MAN DOWN: The events are often attended by thousands of people
“No matter what we do we will always have that element of ‘oh yeah fancy dress playing soldiers at weekends’ and that is never going to change, we are never going to get away from that,” Adrian said.
“And there are some people who don’t turn up in fancy dress, and as re-enactors ourselves we look at them and think ‘oh for god’s sake, if you’re going to do it, do it right’.
“I have my class-A uniform, and I would never dream of going out in that anything other than that and dress as smart as you possibly can be because of the respect for the unit I’m portraying.”
The unit that Adrian portrays is the US 82nd Airborne Division, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which was activated in 1942, and is the oldest still serving parachute unit in the world.
“To me it’s very important being allowed to wear the uniform of a fighting unit still in existence and still serving its country and to a large degree that is a privilege,” he said.
“They could turn around and say ‘you’re not wearing that you haven’t earned it’, but they know what we do around the world, and we’re in touch with groups in America and everything like that.
“Us and the lads in our group obtained permission from the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division to have two plaques cast for us and they presented us with them and these are normally only given to retired veterans of the 82nd Division.
“It really does mean a lot and is a massive honour – they have pride of place on the wall.”
All walks of life take part in the gatherings, ranging from serving soldiers, policemen and even wrestlers with ages ranging from 17 to 54 in Adrian’s US 82nd division.
And although having not jumped into any events, as UK law forbids this, Adrian has been to countless events across the country and even abroad in Normandy for commemoration services.
And the Rochdale resident has noticed an increasing number of people attending the shows and events.
THE BIG BANG: Pyrotechnics are often used during ‘battles’
“We were at Lytham St Annes last weekend which is a big event and there were thirty to forty-thousand people there over the weekend,” he said.
“I still think it’s a growing hobby, as at the Victory Show next weekend we have two new members coming along.
“It’s always growing, not just WWII but all over the place with other periods from Ancient Greece to the Vietnam War.”
New members are always welcome and kit is often shared out amongst new recruits so that they can purchase their own equipment over time.
And although ‘troops’ might not actually be firing at each other with live ammo, there is still very much a real danger of being out in the battlefield.
“There are a lot of safety aspects even though it is a show for the public and we do at least four risk assessments at every event,” said Adrian.
“Pyrotechnics are set up in a certain area, well clear of the public, we use blank ammunition and you never fire if someone is up close to you because of the blast area.
“We do a full safety briefing before the crowds arrive and for people who are taking part for the first time, the pyrotechnic team take them into the field and set a couple off to show them that’s what they are facing.”
SIR, YES SIR: Adrian Wild prepare his men for the ‘conflict’
Plans are already well underway for events next year and Adrian has no intention to stop doing what he loves, regardless of being asked why he does it time after time.
“I get asked all the time, my usual reply is it’s not a second childhood I just never came out of my first one,” he joked.
“I’ll put it this way, if I said to you next weekend you could come and play with tanks and get involved in a battle, what would you say?
“I’ll keep on going as long as the missus allows.”
For further information on how to join, visit http://www.nww2a.org.uk/
All images courtesy of Paul David Drabble PR News Editorial Photography, with thanks