In the news: Julian Thompson

June 4, 2004

Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of D-Day, when 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in what marked the beginning of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Befitting such an occasion, the BBC is turning over the schedules to live coverage of the memorial events in France. One of the experts on the commentary team is Major General Julian Thompson, a visiting professor in the department of war studies at King's College London since 1997 and a senior research fellow in logistics and armed conflict in the modern age for a decade before that.

He is best known for leading Britain's landing forces in the Falklands conflict in 1983. But five years after the war, Major-General Thompson admitted that Argentina could have won the war had its services been better organised and worked "in concert instead of fighting private wars". In 2001, he returned to the islands in the South Atlantic with Max Hastings, who reported on the conflict for the London Evening Standard , for a BBC programme. Mr Hastings, who went on to edit The Daily Telegraph , will join Major-General Thompson in the commentary box on Sunday.

The former commander of the Royal Marines Commandos has written books on the Second World War, including The Imperial War Museum Book of Victory in Europe: North West Europe 1944-45 .

He believes D-Day still has meaning today, even if this year may be the last time the event is commemorated. "It shaped the world in which we live," Major General Thompson told The Times Higher this week before travelling to France.

The way D-Day is understood has changed over the years, he says. It is now clear that Churchill, among others, had grave doubts about whether the most ambitious seaborne invasion ever attempted would succeed, particularly as he had been responsible for the mass slaughter of Allied troops at Gallipoli 30 years earlier.

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