Share a part of the life of our consultants by discovering their hobbies! This month, let's talk about Edouard Thillaye du Boullay (d²X West) and his passion for historical re-enactment events and the Second World War.
(credit: C. Duchemin 2017)
What is your passion?
I remember the men who gave their youth and sometimes their lives for our freedom by collecting British equipment and artefacts from the Second World War and I participate in historical re-enactment events.
I focus on the theme of the "Free French Forces" and more precisely the French commandos of the 1st Marine Rifle Battalion Commandos, led by Major Phillipe Kieffer and the 3rd and 4th Parachute Regiments integrated into the British SAS and commanded by Colonel Bourgoin, known as "Le Manchot".
When and how did you start?
Being a native of Caen (Calvados in France) and having lived several years in Ouistreham, I grew up on the D-Day landing beaches. I was very quickly attracted by the history of the 1939-1945 War and more particularly by the "Free French" who joined General de Gaulle in London to continue the fight alongside the British from July 1940.
I began reading a lot about the history of the Second World War in general, and the French units under British command in particular. I also read about the uniforms, weapons and other equipment used by these units at the time. Then I bought my first collector's items.
Wishing to share my passion with others, I joined a historical re-enactment association specialising in the themes of Commandos and SAS.
What do you like about this activity?
There are two aspects to my passion.
The first aspect, which is the collection, is rather individual. The search for beautiful pieces is a long-term activity! You have to be extremely well documented and be very patient. Sometimes it takes several years of research to find the rare pearl! But once found, what a joy!
The second aspect, more collective, is the reconstitution which allows me to experience events with other enthusiasts (commemorations, reconstitution of period camps, battle tour, figuration in historical reports and fictions, etc.), and to share our historical and technical knowledge with visitors.
Visits from veterans are always very intense moments during these events. There are only a handful of them left (2 of the 177 French commandos who landed in Normandy) and as they often tell us: "it will be up to us, reenactors, to bring their memory to life". The exchanges we have with them and the anecdotes they tell us are as many imperishable memories.
And in your daily life, how does your passion fit in?
Collecting, like reconstructing, can be very time-consuming. So you have to know how to juggle and keep a balance between your passions, your family life and professional life.
I still read a lot about this period in French history. So much has happened during these five years!
I also regularly search on the Internet for specific pieces for my collection, as well as to complete or improve my uniforms.
I take part in a few events during the year, unfortunately not as much as I would like 😉, in particular the commemorations of the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944.
Have you acquired skills that you use in your professional life?
For any collector, documentation is essential. You have to know how to find the right information in order to search for and identify the right object.
Tenacity and rigour are other qualities to have. You have to know how to stay the course to reach your goal without straying off course and without getting discouraged when you haven't found the desired object for a long time. As our aim is to pay tribute to veterans, it's not a question of improvising. To reassemble an original outfit in the smallest details, we have to be faithful to the period photos, without adding this or that accessory because it's "prettier"!
As many items are sold at auction, you have to keep a cool head so as not to get carried away and keep control of your budget!
As a reenactor, I have to spend several days with people I didn't know before. We share the same passion but come from different backgrounds and horizons. Kindness and clear communication are required to create and maintain good relationships in order to make the most of these opportunities.
Finally, here is a quote from George Santayana, taken up by Winston Churchill:
"Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."
(Credi: Pascal Boisivon)
Thank you Edouard for answering our questions!