Veterans are joined by comedian Eddie Izzard
(2nd R, back) during the Normandy Veterans' Association parade and service in
Whitehall, central London on June 21, 2009. This year marks the 65th anniversary
of the mass landing of Allied forces in northern France during the Second World
War. Eddie Izzard became involved in veterans campaigns after meeting a former
Royal Navy sailor, Billy Swift, five years ago. Following Swift's death in 2008,
Izzard travelled with veterans to Normandy to scatter his ashes at this year's
Eddie Izzard's poignant tribute to his D-Day hero pals
10 June 2009 By Jeff Travis
A family and
a famous comedian made an emotional pilgrimage to Normandy to scatter the ashes
of a hero war veteran.
Sixty five years ago Billy Swift was a 21-year-old
Royal Navy sailor who risked his life for his country during the D-Day landings.
Sadly, he never lived to commemorate the 65th anniversary after passing away
in March last year aged 85.
It was Mr Swift's wish that his ashes be
scattered in Normandy at the next big D-Day commemoration.
more than 40 relatives and friends boarded two amphibious DUKWs and scattered
his ashes in the sea off Hermanville, Sword Beach, for a service his family said
would have made him proud,
Eddie Izzard was among the people who attended
the service for Mr Swift, of New Road, Lovedean, who served on HMS Scourge.
The comedian met Mr Swift on the ferry en route to the 60th anniversary celebrations
in Normandy five years ago.
The pair instantly hit it off and had remained
friends until his death.
Mr Swift's granddaughter Georgia said she had
to fight back tears during the service, in which she sang Andrew Lloyd Webber's
Requiem on the beach.
The congregation then boarded the DUKWs and went
half-a-mile out to sea.
Under blazing sunshine, his ashes were scattered
in the sea, followed by flowers and a tot of rum for each family member.
Miss Swift, 32, from Southsea, said: 'We thought it was going to be really rough,
but it was very calm and just very, very emotional.
'As we went out and
then turned back round, we saw the beach as they would have done 65 years ago.
'I could not believe the enormity of what they would be experiencing – the
unknown and the impact it would have on the future. They liberated Europe from
Mr Izzard wrote on his online blog about the service: 'May
his memory and spirit live forever.'
Mr Swift had visited the Normandy
coast many times in his life and was instrumental in the building of a memorial
at Hermanville to pay tribute to the servicemen of 23rd Destroyer Flotilla.
'He was very enthusiastic and proud of the achievements of his comrades,'
added Miss Swift. 'He was very proud to be a part of D-Day.'
Members of Mr Swift's family
with Eddie Izzard (second from right) – from left to right: Georgia Swift, Sjoke
Swift, Angela Swift, Ray Swift, Jimmy Ring and Anneke Swift. PICTURE: Ivor Sadler
LAST JOURNEY TO NORMANDY
The DUKWs travelled 36
hours from Portsmouth across the English Channel to be part of the service.
The Swift family got them after contacting the owners, from Holland, who
had restored them.
The six-ton 31ft trucks were used during the Second
World War for transporting goods and troops over land and water and for use approaching
and crossing beaches in amphibious attacks.
They reached a top speed
of 50mph on land and 6mph on water.
Around 2,000 were used by British
forces during the Second World War.
AT BRIDGEWATER HALL
WE MUST NEVER FORGET
Eddie Izzard, who helped raised cash to pay for many of the veterans to get to
Normandy, yesterday issued a plea that their bravery should never be forgotten.
He said: “What the veterans did
in June 1944 was a beautiful thing, beating fascism.
was so important then and it remains so even today. Look at the rise of the BNP.”
speaking to the Sunday Express in Bayeux, the first town to be liberated by the
Allies after the D-Day landings, said that he had been delighted to help the veterans
after the Government refused to finance what for many of them will be their final
pilgrimage to the graves of their comrades.
on board to help because I’m fanatical about World War Two history and it’s importance,”
“It’s crucial that we never forget about what
happened in Normandy on D-Day.
“The veterans deserve
the utmost respect for what they achieved.
“But they are
dying off now so it’s up to us to keep their memory alive.”
survivor warns Britain not to give power to BNP By Matt Blake 28/05/2009
Gisela Feldman, 84, and Ken Reilly, 83, joined the Daily Mirror
Hope Not Hate bus in Manchester to ask people to vote against the BNP in next
week's European elections. Jewish Gisela was 15 when she fled Germany in 1938
as the Nazis killed her father.
She said: "We cannot allow the fascist BNP
into our politics no matter what they promise. "I lived through the Nazi regime
and remember the Brown Shirts marching through Berlin.
We didn't know of the hatred flourishing beneath."
fought in the Royal Armoured Corps during D-Day and the Battle of Arnhem. He said:
"We must look through the BNP's false brandishments. Hatred is an abomination
and we must vote for hope not hate."
Comic Eddie Izzard, who joined us at
the Imperial War Museum North, said: "Meeting Gisela and Ken reminds us of the
sacrifices their generation made so we can live in a hate-free society. But now,
60 years on, we've got the BNP dragging us back in time.
the BNP is to vote for hope against hate."
Izzard says we owe it to WW2 heroes not to let in BNP
National Party aired its election broadcast on our televisions last night.
only did far-right leader Nick Griffin compare himself to Winston Churchill, he
also claimed the fallen of the Second World War would be "turning in their graves"
at what has happened to Britain.
I believe it is Churchill who would be
turning in his grave to see the new Nazi party, the BNP, presenting itself as
the heir to those who died fighting fascism.
As someone who has visited
the beaches of Normandy many times, I'm horrified to see Griffin dressing himself
in fallen heroes' clothing.
Next Thursday, June 4, the date of the European
Elections, is just two days before the 65th anniversary of D-Day. It seems to
me we are two very different generations but we are facing the exact same threat.
6, 1944, was one of the proudest days in British history. At H-Hour, 6.30am, the
Normandy landings began. By sunset, 150,000 troops were on the beaches.
June 4, 2009, our generation faces its own test of courage. This time the fascists
aren't across the Channel, they're on our own shores.
Last time, 65 years
ago, people from around the world got together to fight fascism. But this time,
unless we stop them, the fascists will be democratically elected.
BNP needs only a small swing in some areas, and at a time of unprecedented national
anger with the mainstream parties.
When I went to the 60th anniversary of
the Normandy landings five years ago, I met Gunner Billy Swift.
a D-Day sailor and he set up a monument to those who died in the landings. Sadly,
he has since passed away but his family will visit Normandy next week to spread
his ashes in the sea.
Men like Billy would be bitterly disappointed to think
fascists were being elected by voters 65 years after their comrades fell fighting
I was proud to be one of the funders of this year's trip to Normandy
for the veterans. I did this because those men and women protected us from the
In a recent film, Valkyrie, I tried to kill Hitler - so some people
might think I've got a thing against Nazis. They'd be absolutely right.
We all know the BNP is a racist party and racism is active hatred. The BNP
talk about racial purity, a concept they learned from Hitler.
the idea was always false. If the same genetic people have kids with each other,
we all know where that leads. It's called in-breeding.
It is the blend of
your genes that makes you powerful and makes us, as a country, strong.
your mum's from England and your dad's from Ukraine, that's a good thing. If you're
born in Hawaii, your mum's a white woman from Kansas and your dad's a black man
from Kenya, you could be president of the US - oh, hang on, that's already happened.
was in the US for the elections and witnessed Hope's great victory.
now, in Britain, we are about to elect racists to represent us in Europe.
was born in Yemen but, whatever the place of my birth, I feel I am a British
I believe it's a weakness of the human spirit to hate people. And I am lucky because
I have already seen what Hope can do.
I am taking my inspiration from Barack
Obama, but I am also taking it from the hundreds of students, workers, housewives,
activists, trade unionists, doctors, teachers, mums and dads who have been uniting
these past weeks under the banner of Hope Not Hate.
Today, I will be in
Manchester with the Hope Not Hate bus, meeting veterans and holocaust survivors
and hearing their stories of the horrors that occurred when fascism almost triumphed
65 years ago.
June 4, 2009, is our D-Day and we owe it to that great generation
to simply walk to the ballot box.
If you believe in humanity, in our modern,
diverse country, I ask you to reject the politics of hate.
On election day,
I will be voting Labour. But, whoever you vote for, make sure your vote counts.
of the way our electoral system works, not voting at all means the BNP are more
likely to get in.
'So put a cross in any box you like - as long as it's
not the BNP.
Eddie in Cardiff - Euro Campaign
Izzard Rants Against Racist
Funnyman EDDIE IZZARD is urging his fellow Brits to stand
up to a tide of fascism sweeping European politics - amid fears right-wing extremists
could gain a foothold in the U.K. Political activists in Britain have launched
a campaign after concerns grew over the rise of far right-wing British National
Party, whose members expect to pick up thousands of votes in the upcoming European
Parliamentary Elections next month (June09). And comedian-turned-actor Izzard
has backed calls for voters to make a stand against the controversial party to
stop it gaining ground. Izzard, who played a German World War II officer
involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 2008 movie Valkyrie, tells Britain's
Daily Mirror newspaper, "We all know the BNP is a racist party and racism is active
hatred. The BNP talk about racial purity, a concept they learned from Hitler.
"I was in the U.S. for the elections and witnessed Hope's great victory.
Yet now, in Britain, we are about to elect racists to represent us in Europe...
If you believe in humanity, in our modern, diverse country, I ask you to reject
the politics of hate."
Eddie Izzard and Kinnock's
Eddie Izzard is better known for surreal flights of fancy than political campaigning.
yesterday the 47-year-old arrived on the streets of Cardiff to do just that.
long time friend of Neil Kinnock, pro-Europe Labour party member Izzard had arrived
from France. He stayed for an hour and a half urging shoppers on Queen Street
to vote in the European elections on June 4.
A crowd of placard-waving Labour
supporters and photographers were ready for his arrival as he strode toward the
Nye Bevan statue just after 3.30pm.
Dressed in a black jacket, jeans and
battered black leather boots the comic looked a world apart from the New Labour
suits and ties around him.
And in these troubled times any politician would
be envious of the cheers and smiles that greeted him.
Izzard, who was born
in Aden before moving to Northern Ireland, later to Skewen in Neath Port Talbot
as a five-year-old, was in Cardiff to urge people to vote in the European elections
on June 4.
Standing on a soapbox – or stage as he called it – he said: “A
lot of people are disgusted with politics at the moment but I am encouraging people
Within moments of opening his mouth he was interrupted by a voice
from the crowd shouting: “You’re off the telly! I’m Paul!”
Paul and friends
promptly became part of the circus. Afterwards the straggly haired 19-year-old,
from Grangetown, Cardiff, whose full name turned out to be Paul Mereno, announced
he was over the moon at meeting Izzard. “He’s a legend!” he grinned.
was busy attracting attention elsewhere by now. Teenagers and their mums pointed
fingers and whispered his name at one another. A musclebound dad took a picture
of his daughter as she shyly shook his hand and said: “I’m Ffion.” But not everyone
was impressed by the funnyman. One girl asked “Are you Gordon Brown?” followed
by “Do you like Gordon Brown?” When he answered “yes” to the latter she walked
Speakers' Corner: Eddie Izzard On the Politics Show, Sunday 17 February 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed Eddie
Izzard. Eddie Izzard Every town and village, and the village idiot, would benefit
from a Speakers Corner Eddie Izzard
EDDIE IZZARD: Well yes, erm Speakers
Corner, well I've always thought as I've walked passed Speakers Corner and seen
people talking and thought, this is the one in Hyde Park and thought I should
jump up and start speaking about the things I'm erm, positive about, but it feels
very raw but the idea that it's not anywhere else is is kinda crazy really.
JON SOPEL: So every town should have it's Speakers Corner?
EDDIE IZZARD: Yeah,
every town and village and the village idiot, would maybe come and hold sway and
cause you actually need a lot of balls as we say in the medical profession to
erm, er, to do it to get up and do it, it's difficult enough to do stand-up, to
do politics I think it's harder cause you have to get up and talk maybe it's easier,
maybe it's harder, but you, you can bore people to death.
JON SOPEL: This
isn't this nineteenth century, eighteenth we're in the internet age, Yes, we've
got all sorts of other ways of communicating with each other.
Yeah but we don't want to lose the ground level do you, I mean if we just had
people saying hey we've got a massive following of people on the internet and
then you ok let's go down to the Town Hall and make our views known and no-one
turns up that's no good, you've gotta have people on the ground, ground level
and I think it's, I think public opinion, I think public freedom of speech from
the ground up to the internet if the internet is the space age.
is there still a value in this sort of face-to-face communication, arguing, debating?
EDDIE IZZARD: Yes, yes, I mean absolutely, there's this weird thing on television
that, that erm, there's a lot of information arguing and debating I think a lot
of people actually switch off in the middle of an argument or a debate because
usually the people who are arguing and debating usually have pretty good points,
and, and I think the mark of maturity is actually doubt, and if you do have doubt
you go, you tend to go oh that guy is saying something interesting and that other
person is saying something very interesting and you go, oh I don't know how to
decide and it's a good and healthy thing to do but it is difficult to make decisions.
JON SOPEL: But if you kind of listen to phone-in or chat shows or whatever
they happen to be you just get people speaking out they are permanently flicked
to transmit and they are not on receive - yes - and that's a problem - yes - isn't
it for having a dialogue.
EDDIE IZZARD: Yes it is and maybe on television
maybe it's more so that way and maybe on our Speakers Corner it'll be less so
and maybe people will say I hear your point because it's not soooooo, you know
maybe it's not going out to millions, maybe people don't think it's going out
to millions and maybe there's producers on television shows who are saying this
guy seems to be on a one track screaming about something or other so let's bring
him on and give him that completely full on view point.
JON SOPEL: And do
you think one of the problems with political discourse is and I suspect the industry
I work in is probably quite largely responsible for it, is the soundbite culture,
ya know, yeah, can I condense a whole argument into fifteen seconds?
IZZARD: yeah, I think, I think, that is a big problem as a transvestite I had
to come up with soundbites, I had to come up with I had to come up with erm, executive
transvestite, and action transvestite those two soundbites got me a long way ....
you say action transvestites and people laugh and say oh alright and cause straight
transvestites quite like that and I will fight people who give me grief.
SOPEL: And if you found yourself in one of these little villages or a town, anywhere
in the United Kingdom and you had your soapbox, at your feet, what would your
EDDIE IZZARD: It would probably be Europe and, and if it was,
I dunno know the English seem to be quite slow to grab hold of this idea or I
think, I think the negative idea of Europe is a much easier idea. Who are they,
stuff 'em we know us, yeah let us get on. Erm, but the fact when we say that we
don't like the people up there or the people over there or the people in that
town or the people in number twenty three , erm the negative viewpoint is a much
easier one to sell the idea of saying I want to try, I don't know who all the
French people and all the German people but I want, I think if civilisation is
anything, if this life is to do with anything to do with anything then it's surely
about trying to work with people.
JON SOPEL: Ok well you are a man of many
words, sell us the idea, in a headline of why this matters.
Why this matters, freedom of speech, is a wonderful thing and it matters because
I think the strength of, of Britain is based upon it, ..... it is good if Nottingham
are picking it up, and I think other towns should do it it is a great thing. People
may not use it all the time, if it's cold and rainy, they'll probably won't use,
but if you could mix it with the internet, even if you could have the internet
stationed right next to it, or if people could have a webcam, that's was what
they should do, that's not what they should do, this is what they should do maybe
they should have a speakers corner with a web cam permanently on it, so you could
go on it and see whose talking on the speakers corner on the internet so you can
get both things at the same time.
JON SOPEL: Eddie Izzard thank you very much
EDDIE IZZARD: Not at all thank you.
Eddie Izzard on logic, God, Barack Obama, religion and politics in America
Izzard on Newsnight Review BBC2. Kirsty Wark talks to Eddie Izzard about atheism,
his current live show ‘Stripped’ which begins its London run this month, and religion
and politics in America.
Eddie Izzard: 'It also implies
let's go and have sex' Chief political correspondent Nicholas Watt
struggles to interview comedian and Labour supporter Eddie Izzard at the party's
conference in Manchester
on politics Deborah Linton March 02, 2009
Eddie Izzard was in Manchester on a mission to make politics more interesting.
The actor and pro-European political activist had a strong message for the
city's voters - urging them to go to the polls in this summer's European parliamentary
Labour member Izzard, who was meeting Manchester University
students, said he wanted to get more young people into politics.
"If young people get active and learn about the subject they want to talk about
and get involved in politics and that's fantastic.
"At these elections
it's very important because if people don't vote then the BNP will get in. You
have to get people when they're young and the more young people that get involved
the better, just like Barack Obama's campaign. A lot of youth were involved in
that so that was very exciting."
He met culture secretary Andy Burnham
and Labour candidate Lucy Powell at the university before performing a gig to
'to pay for it all', he said.
Earlier this week it was revealed that
Izzard donated £5,400 to help Lucy Powell compete for the Withington seat, held
by Liberal Democrat John Leech.
Izzard hits out at BNP Stand-up comic Eddie Izzard has been visiting
Manchester in an effort to galvanise voters as fears spread of BNP wins in the
forthcoming European parliamentary elections.
Analysts are concerned that
low turnouts during local and European elections allow well-organised far-right
groups to win important seats under the radar.
"If young people get active
and learn about the subject they want to talk about and get involved in politics
and that's fantastic," Mr Izzard said.
"At these elections it's very important
because if people don't vote then the BNP will get in.
"You have to get
people when they're young and the more young people that get involved the better,
just like Barack Obama's campaign. A lot of youth were involved in that so that
was very exciting."
While in Manchester, Mr Izzard met with culture secretary
Andy Burnham and Labour candidate Lucy Powell, who he recently gave £5,400 to
help fight the Withington seat – currently held by Lib Dem John Leech.