Working at one of France’s Second World War museums

Brit Mark Worthington is curator of the Airborne Museum Pegasus Bridge and has been preparing a special exhibition for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June. We find out about his life in France and his work at the museum

This year sees the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, while June marks 70 years since the D-Day landings of the Second World War. The events of the past may be long gone but they are not forgotten in France, where areas of the country are home not only to sites of remembrance that continue to resonate in the present, but also to those who have chosen the area for their new life across the Channel. Five of them share their experiences and connections with us, and explain why they chose to start a new chapter in France.

Mark Worthington is curator of the Airborne Museum Pegasus Bridge – Ranville (Calvados; Normandy).

When he enrolled on a further education course in France, neither his dream job nor a family were on his mind. “At the time I lived in Dartmouth, which is twinned with Courseulles-sur-Mer on Juno Beach,” explains Mark, curator of the Airborne Museum Pegasus Bridge in Normandy. “So when I decided to study in France, I enrolled in nearby Caen.”

Not only did he improve his language skills, but Mark also met Nathalie – now his wife – and when his studies finished, he decided to look for a job. Some 27 years on, he is still employed by the D-Day Commemoration Committee.

“With seven uncles who served in the forces during the Second World War, I was interested in the D-Day story, so I wrote to all the museums. Eventually I was offered a job at the old Pegasus Memorial at Benouville Bridge, before moving to Arromanches for nine years, which was then run by the same charity.

“Arromanches is now a municipal museum, but the profits from Pegasus Bridge still go into the community towards the funding of local commemorative events.”

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Events for the 70th anniversary programme require outside funding, however, and include the rededication of a Royal Marine tank recovered from Sword Beach, hopefully attended by a royal family member as well as one of the original gunners.

Mark is responsible for the historical content of the new Airborne Museum which opened at Pegasus Bridge in 2000; collecting and archiving donations of veterans’ stories and historical memorabilia, as well as researching new displays. For the 70th anniversary, there will be special exhibitions about war correspondents and photographers, and the reconnaissance work carried out by Combined Operations.

“Veterans often find it easier to talk to people outside the family,” he says. “My uncles spoke little about their experiences. One of them flew into Pegasus in a glider but still had nightmares about it 30 years later. We should never forget what they did.”

He also loves the relaxed Normandy lifestyle. “I never feel rushed here, whereas one day driving in England is more than enough. We live at Bernières-sur-Mer where Nathalie is Director of the Juno Beach Centre, so you can imagine the dinner conversation!”

But their joint interest has obviously rubbed off on their bilingual children. Their 14-year-old son has ambitions to be a parachutist, while their daughter is studying at Portsmouth University where she is in the University Royal Navy Unit. A very satisfactory outcome for a career that happened by accident.

Gillian Thornton

www.memorial-pegasus.orgRead about Guy Turpin who is responsible for maintaining the Canadian commemorative sites of the First World War in France