I was honoured to be asked back to Operation Neptune in Belgium having first performed there 2 years ago. This small but perfectly formed event is one of our favourites; jam packed full of living history and some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet!
“Operation Neptune, as our full name suggests, is an association where people come together with the same dedication and interest to collect, allied items, uniforms, vehicles and especially knowledge from the period of WWII.
One of our main goals is to honour veterans who fought for our freedom during WWII and the commemoration of historical events from that period.
Another objective is to present our displays as authentically as possible on historical events. In our association, the emphasis lies not on the vehicles, but on the overall presentation of the “living history” which is depicted”
Driving to the site of operation Neptune on the Saturday morning from our small hotel in Hombeek was something we had been looking forward to for weeks and finally we had arrived; Jayne had been here in 2015 for the second staging of the event, the first being in 2013, having drove the 370 miles from the UK on the Friday we were well rested for the event.
We parked up and unloaded the car and proceeded to set up the stage equipment for Jayne’s performances through the weekend, setting up the wireless speakers outside so Jayne could be heard all around the camp then a walk round to say hello to everyone. Jayne already knew a lot of the re-enactors from 2 years ago , and some of the faces were familiar to me from seeing them on Facebook.
There was so much to look at in this fairly small area; a living history museum , Hospital Tent set up for tending to the wounded soldiers, a cinema showing films from the era, American Aircrew having a briefing before going on the mission, RAF control tower, which had a display and parts of a Lancaster bomber that had crashed in Belgium during the war. So sad that some of the crew parachuted out of the plane but the altitude was too low and they didn’t survive the fall.
On the Saturday Jayne performed throughout the day, with the final performance starting at 8pm at the Stage Door Canteen Party. Before this we had enjoyed the amazing retro BBQ, Andre and Tina performing throughout the day and evening as well as lots of other activities. Jayne finished her final set of the night with the Hokey pokey and the conga, and then DJ Jonathan finished the night with some cracking songs from the 40s and beyond.
Reunion with good friends
It was of course fantastic to see Tina and Roger again but we also caught up with Marc Husk and the wonderful Andre who serenaded us with some Frank Sinatra numbers. Everyone is so friendly at these events and makes us very welcome.
This event is to me true reenactment – the displays are amazing, the reenactors are passionate about history and this really is a living museum rather than a fancy dress knees up that many events have ended up becoming. It’s very much about remembrance and reflection but most importantly the people there are so relaxed and laid back. We absolutely loved the event and would have liked to have spent longer exploring the local area.
I was absolutely blown away on Sunday when a veteran called Leopold dropped by the event in his best suit with his medals. Leopold is 91 now and a little unsteady on his legs but we still managed a dance! I met Leopold 2 years ago when he had with him a picture of himself as a young man. He actually looked younger this year than he did 2 years ago!
It was with a heavy heart that we had to say goodbye to the event and our good friends. The team had worked so incredibly hard to put the event together and they were rewarded with a steady stream of visitors and a sold out BBQ / dance on the Saturday. I truly hope that this event goes ahead in another 2 years as it really is a jewel in the crown for Mechelen.