‘For us it was the greatest history lesson ever’ The children who have become best friends with a 95-year-old veteran

Two children, a remarkable D-Day veteran, and a unique look at history – that’s the story behind our series of films, Lest We Forget.

Across three films, Ted Owens – now 95 –travels through France and the Netherlands, and visits Germany for the first time, while telling the children his story and chatting about war, peace, the past and the future.

Here, one of the children, Evan Lewis, aged 10, describes what it was like to make this once-in-a-lifetime journey with Ted.

three at pont l'eveque

D-Day veteran Ted Owens may be 85 years older than me but I am very lucky to call him my friend.

He is the only person I know who has been blown up, shot, and injured by an exploding mine.

He is like the main character in many of the adventure stories I have read. He is as brave as Alex Rider but Ted is even better because he is a real-life hero.

My sister Caoimhe and I have known Ted for ages. When ITV Wales learned we would be visiting the battlefields with him, they wanted to make it into a television series.

It is called Lest We Forget. For us it was the greatest history lesson ever.

Because he was on D-Day, Ted is a French knight, having been awarded the Legion D’Honneur. He only has to walk down a French street to be greeted with applause and cheers. Some people even cry when they see him. On our trip I counted over 1000 photos taken of Ted.

evan and ted.jpg

Being able to talk to a witness of WW2 is like turning the pages of a thrilling history book. His stories can be shocking and sometimes they can even make you feel a little sick – like the time he did not even notice that rats had eaten his toenails while he slept.

As we travelled we asked Ted loads of questions. Sometimes I think we asked him questions which grown-ups might not ask. We asked him about losing friends in the war and what it was like to kill somebody. Sometimes his answers were surprising.

On our travels we met other Normandy veterans, schoolchildren in the Netherlands, and local historians in Germany.

three together

Ted had never been to Germany and we added the visit as a surprise. He loved it. He said he wanted to make new friends and he succeeded.

Travelling with Ted was a pleasure and I learned so much not just about the war but also about the world, about people and about nature.

One of the big things he says is that nobody really wins war. War is a terrible thing. When Ted says things like that we all have to listen.

It’ll be the next century before I’m Ted’s age. But I won’t forget the lessons he taught me.

You can watch ‘Lest We Forget’ for free online here:

One:
Two:
Three:
LEST WE FORGET

2 thoughts on “‘For us it was the greatest history lesson ever’ The children who have become best friends with a 95-year-old veteran”

  1. I just finished Defying Hitler and thought it a wonderful book. The level of detail in the research was unbelievable. It was engagingly written. I was relieved to see that you did not go into detail about the Gestapo interrogation “techniques” more than a couple times (too many for me). Had you repeatedly described tortures I would never have finished it. Thanks for that.
    My dad was a Jewish commanding officer of a navy LCI and brought English soldiers to Gold Beach on D Day. He held German prisoners on his ship that day for many hours. On returning to England he was obliged to take back one professional German soldier POW who, he said, fulfilled all the stereotypes about German arrogance. He said he was tempted to throw him over the side into the English channel but found a better role for this soldier. He had the soldier crank the handle on the ship’s ice cream making machine.

    1. Thanks, Richard.
      Very kind of you to get in touch with the comments and the story.
      With regards to Jewish history, I was very keen that the very many efforts by Germany’s Jews to resist the Nazis be properly represented in the book.

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