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80m knitted display of D-Day brings Normandy landings to life





An 80-metre (260ft) knitted depiction of D-Day has brought the Normandy landings back to life.

The Longest Yarn, a 3D wool-art recreation of June 6, 1944, depicts the war-time scenes thanks to an army of 2,000 volunteers.

The project has captivated knitters from across the world and consists of 80 historic scenes from the fateful day - and is longer than the Bayeux Tapestry.

Jane Elsdon, of Ipswich, and her Omaha Beach, part of The Longest Yarn, a 3D wool-art recreation of June 6, 1944. Picture: SWNS
Jane Elsdon, of Ipswich, and her Omaha Beach, part of The Longest Yarn, a 3D wool-art recreation of June 6, 1944. Picture: SWNS

Troops from the UK, the US, Canada, and France attacked German forces across five beaches in northern France during the Second World War.

It has been unveiled as part of this week's 80th anniversary commemorations of the historic event.

The Longest Yarn is a non-profit association based in France and are now fundraising to transport their tapestry to the UK and America.

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS

Tansy Forster, creator of the organisation, said she was inspired to start the project following her own war-time family history.

Mrs Forster, 69, said: "My father was in the Royal Air Force for 35 years. He was conscripted in 1950 and although he was too young for the war, both of his brothers were bombers.

"One of his brothers was shot down on November 10, 1942 off the Isle of Texel in Holland.

"We moved to Normandy in 2001 and started a vacation rental business. We met a huge amount of veterans in the area who came and stayed with us.

An 80-metre (260ft) knitted depiction of D-Day has brought the Normandy landings back to life as the 80th commemorations begin. Picture: SWNS
An 80-metre (260ft) knitted depiction of D-Day has brought the Normandy landings back to life as the 80th commemorations begin. Picture: SWNS

"I like to knit and when I saw the Yarn Bombers and their displays getting bigger and bigger every year, I was intrigued by it.

"I thought I should knit a topper for my garden gate, and soon it became a display 80m long, representing 80 years, 80 days of battle and the 80 hours starting June 6."

The resident of Houesville, near Carentan, has since fostered an army of knitting volunteers to fulfil the historic depiction.

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS

"We've had 2,000 people involved - some have created the actual panels while we have an advanced party who made the dolls, stuffies and decorated shop windows with poppy cascades.

"We've even had an old folks' home involved near Stockport, with the old ladies there making little soldiers and poppies to sell."

Each panel is 1m long, 50cm wide with a maximum height of 55cm. Other contributors to the project have made poppies and other knitted items for auction.

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS

The woollen creation is currently at the Notre Dame Church in Carentan, where the exhibition will be on display from Tuesday (May 28) until the end of August.

Mrs Forster said it was crucial younger generations continued to learn about the atrocities of war.

She said: "I was absolutely horrified when I learnt the results of a survey were that people under the age of 35 don’t actually know what D-Day is.

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS

"If we don’t remember this we’re going to walk blindfolded back into more conflict.

"The importance of a project like this is enormous - we have got to wake up and stop shuffling towards major conflict."

The Longest Yarn hopes to transport the project to the UK for seven months and then later America - but the panels need special transportation.

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS

The non-profit organisation is hoping to raise 40,000 Euros (£34,000) in 3 months for boxes to get it over the Atlantic by road, sea or air.

Mrs Forster added: "We are desperately trying to raise funds to get this work of art over to the UK and America.

"We cannot do it without the fundraising and we'd love to get it over the Atlantic."

A display from The Longest Yarn, a 3D wool-art recreation of June 6, 1944, at Notre Dame Church in Carentan. Picture: SWNS
A display from The Longest Yarn, a 3D wool-art recreation of June 6, 1944, at Notre Dame Church in Carentan. Picture: SWNS

"I'd like to give a heartfelt thanks to everybody that’s been involved in the project."

Jane Elsdon, from Ipswich, created a metre-long panel depicting Omaha Beach a few hours after the initial landings.

Her project took eight months to complete and she said she "hadn't dared" work out how much the cost of wool has been.

Mrs Elsdon, 65, who lives with her husband Jon, also 65, said it was important for people to remember the legacy of the war.

The retired teacher said: "You can’t woolly over some of the terrible injuries. We need to understand the horrors and war and it cannot happen again.

"It's so important - there’s more than 9,000 soldiers buried in the Omaha cemetery alone."

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS

Omaha Beach, in Normandy, was the most restricted and heavily defended beach and the allies found themselves under intense fire.

Mrs Elsdon said: "My panel depicts the battle after it had raged - there's a lot of death and destruction on the beach and the sea is red with blood.

"We went to Omaha last September as I said I needed to go and see it to do it justice.

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS

"I even photographed the sand so I could match the colours up as each of the beaches are slightly different colours.

"I went to some of the museums as I wanted to do justice to the story and give justice to the men.

"I decided to depict the house which was used a killing field across the beach which killed hundreds and hundreds before they managed to capture them.

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS

"It was just a massacre. There were enormous guns firing on these people. I felt that needed to be shown."

Mrs Elsdon used different textures in her stitching to show the waves and sand on the beach.

She added: "I tried to use textures to show in the stitches the waves and sand. It's two bits of wool knitted together to show the shingle isn't just one colour."

Picture: SWNS
Picture: SWNS

Mrs Elsdon said she and her husband researched the battle and the soldiers, and used pictures to create a faithful recreation.

She explained: "I knitted every evening and almost every day from October until the middle of the March. In the end it was quite a mammoth undertaking.

"My poor old Jon he took over housework, cooking and cleaning. My children would ring up to talk to me and I would joke 'No, I'm not at home, I'm in Omaha'.

"They'd say 'Where are you? Ipswich or Omaha?'"

Mrs Elsdon added that her grandson Alexander, 5, has learnt the names of the beaches through her work and is even dressing up as a battalion pilot who landed on the beach for a D-Day event at school.

She said: "Having nursed two parents and a father-in-law who you lose, it’s given me back so much to be able to do this.

"You find yourself a bit lost when you’ve finished work as a retired person. You get to mark the sacrifice and meet others with so much passion for telling the story to generations to come."

To donate visit https://www.thelongestyarn.com/