Last veterans of the 6th Airborne Division honoured in poignant IWM Duxford exhibition

6th Airborne veteran Danny Mason featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford

6th Airborne veteran Danny Mason featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford - Credit: Robin Savage Photography.

June 6, 2022 marks the 78th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Some of the last surviving veterans who fought in the 6th Airborne Division of the British Army during the Second World War are to be celebrated in a poignant photographic exhibition at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in Duxford.

6th Airborne veteran Bob Sullivan featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford.

6th Airborne veteran Bob Sullivan featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford. - Credit: Robin Savage Photography.

'First In, Last Out - The last men of the 6th Airborne Division' will be produced by Airborne Assault – The Museum of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces, and launches in the run up to the 78th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings.  

The project, conceived by London-based actor’s photographer Robin Savage and the Airborne Assault Museum, will run from Friday, May 20 to November 2022.

Honouring the last veterans of the 6th Airborne Division, it presents the portraits of 17 veterans, in their homes, as they reflect on their wartime service but also their post-war lives and how the experiences shaped them.

6th Airborne veteran Harry Read featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford.

6th Airborne veteran Harry Read featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford. - Credit: Robin Savage Photography.

Robin said: “I had the great privilege to spend time with the veterans, photographing them as they shared remarkable stories and personal memories.

"I want to ensure these people, who all volunteered to brave the most extreme dangers of the war, are never forgotten.

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“This exhibition is all the more significant, I believe, as it may well be our very last chance to honour wartime Airborne veterans while they are still with us.

"It is a thank you for the immeasurable cost and sacrifice paid by these great men, the likes of which we will never see again.”

As well as a collection of portraits, interviews of each veteran have been filmed and will be shared in a documentary following the exhibition in 2024 at the Airborne Assault Museum to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. 

6th Airborne veteran Roy Burr featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford.

6th Airborne veteran Roy Burr featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford. - Credit: Robin Savage Photography.

Jon Baker, curator of Airborne Assault, IWM Duxford, said: “It’s a pleasure to be working alongside Robin once again.

"We collaborated back in 2014 on an exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings.

"This new exhibition will now see us commemorate the last of the airborne veterans from their consequent operations liberating Europe.” 

'First In, Last Out - The last men of the 6th Airborne Division' is included in general admission to IWM Duxford.

6th Airborne veteran Bill Gladden featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford

6th Airborne veteran Bill Gladden featured in the 'First In - Last Out' exhibition at IWM Duxford - Credit: Robin Savage Photography

Members and visitors under five enjoy free admission to the museum in Cambridgeshire.

The museum is open daily from 10am to 6pm (last entry 5pm). Advanced booking is advised.

To book, visit www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-duxford 


About the 6th Airborne Division  

The 6th Airborne Division was formed on April 23, 1943.

It took part in the invasion of Normandy on 6th June 1944 (D-Day), remaining in the line until the breakout to the Seine in late August. During this time, casualties amounted to 1 in 5 men. 

It reformed in the UK and was rapidly deployed in the Ardennes during the 1944-5 winter German counter-offensive (the Battle of the Bulge).

In March 1945, the Division took part in the largest airborne operation with the Rhine Crossing and subsequent advance to the Baltic at the war's end in May 1945. 

In late 1945, the Division was despatched to Palestine on internal security duties until the end of the British Mandate in 1948.

In April of that year the Division returned to the UK and was disbanded.