Ken Riley, Normandy veteran :: Hope not Hate [repost]

Originally posted 15.06.09

Not all the pictures I take are for national press or well-known organisations. Occasionally I provide images for much smaller publications, including the Burngreave Messenger, which is a community newspaper delivered to around 7000 homes in my part of North Sheffield.

Last month I had the privilege to photograph local resident Ken Riley for the Messenger. He is a veteran of the Normandy landings, and the interview with him is available on the Messenger website here. He was incredibly gracious, and generous with his time. But he also went on to write to people locally about the BNP before the European elections:

Sixty-five years isn’t a long time ago to me, it often feels like yesterday. I was in a tank division on D-Day 1944. It was a long, long day for us all – and the horrible, lonely sacrifices made that day by men scared yet brave is something I think about every day.

These European Elections are personal to me. Some of the lads who went on D-Day and who never came back were barely old enough to vote. If they had made it through the fight against fascism, they would be voting now, voting to stop the BNP for the same reasons they fought in 1944.

It is a source of great pride that the slog and sacrifice of my generation freed Europe from the tyranny of Hitler’s Nazis. The sadness brought by the price we paid is overshadowed by the happiness that we made the modern Britain we have today possible.

Our nation has so much to be proud of – but the BNP want to drag Britain down. They would drag us back to what I remember Churchill calling “a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime”.

I was barely into my twenties on D-Day 1944. We didn’t fight then just to allow the Nazis a route back 65 years later. And while I am getting on, I will be back on the streets this Tuesday doing my bit withHOPE not hate.

Ken Riley, Royal Armoured Corps

I think that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? I’m immensely humbled that men and women, who, like Ken, have already been through the enormity of fighting fascism and hatred in Europe, haven’t given up, or gone away to rest, but are still standing for what they know to be true and right. Thanks.