By Andrew Hawkins.

Eighty years ago tomorrow, 156,000 Allied troops landed by sea and air on five beachheads in Normandy.

It was the start of Allied operations which would ultimately liberate Western Europe, defeat Nazi Germany and end WW2.

To mark this incredible event, Whitestone has published a new poll revealing extensive pride in Britain’s part in what was known as Operation Overlord.

The poll was conducted in early April, prior to the the build-up to the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Despite concerns that Britain is a divided society, especially so when it comes to judging the nation’s historical military involvement, the country remains united over the part played by its armed forces in the major global conflicts of the 20th Century – and in the two World Wars in particular.

By asking whether people recall being taught about specific conflicts at school, we also found a correlation between being taught about a conflict and feeling pride in Britain’s role in that conflict.

In the case of D-Day, 81% of those taught about it at school feel ‘very’ (55%) or ‘somewhat’ (26%) proud of Britain’s role, compared to 67% of the population overall who feel proud of that role.

Q. Do you feel proud or not about Britain’s part in each of the following?

Very/somewhat proudAll%Taught at school %18-24s65+Not proud at allDon’t know
D-Day67814787825
WW1 generally62n/a46741325
WW2 generally71n/a5486920
Falklands War485824731735
Cold War344122481650
Ukraine War40n/a28572535

Across all age groups there appears little recall of having been taught at school about many of the events of the significant global conflicts of the 20th Century. Recall of school teaching about D-Day tops the list of events for the population overall and for 18-24 year-olds, but almost one in four of that younger age group (23%) said they recalled being taught about none of the events listed below.

Q. Which of the following do you recall being taught about at school?

 All%18-24%65+%
D-Day353930
Battle of Britain312832
Battle of the Somme221923
Cold War21418
Dunkirk Evacuation202025
Berlin Wall20339
9/11730
Falklands War77
The Korean War6133
None/can’t recall442360

The findings are a salutary reminder that we must never forget why we went to war or what was sacrificed for our freedoms. Schools must continue to tell each generation afresh what their forebears went through for their sake.

The poll was sponsored by Whitestone to help support fundraising for my participation in the Help for Heroes Big Battlefield Bike Ride, from Sainte-Mère-Église (near Utah beach in the Contentin Peninsula) to Paris later this month.

The 2024 Big Battlefield Bike Ride is a special commemorative cycling event to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings and will follow the path of British expeditionary forces, through Bayeux, Lisieux and Bernay, ending at Paris on 29th June.

The fundraising page is at https://www.justgiving.com/page/andrew-hawkins-battlefields2024  and I am aiming to raise £3000 for Help for Heroes in order to provide life-changing services to veterans and their families.


Andrew Hawkins is Founder and CEO of Whitestone Insight. Follow Andrew on Twitter / X here.
Photo credit: British Troops, D-Day. Imperial War Museums (CC BY-NC-SA)

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