Exploring WWII’s Forsaken Fortresses
For history buffs, veterans, and families of World War II heroes, Normandy has become something of a pilgrimage site. Millions of travelers come to the region each year to reverently visit the beaches (where Allied forces invaded on D-Day in 1944) and its cemeteries. But what about the lesser-known battlefields of the war? In his book, The Last Stand, and a photo series of the same name, British photographer Marc Wilson documents the abandoned relics of fortresses and bunkers throughout the UK and along the northern coast of Europe.
“These man-made objects and zones of defense now sit silently in the landscape, imbued with the history of our recent past,” wrote Wilson about his subjects. “Some remain proud and strong, some are gently decaying. Many now lie prone beneath the cliffs where they once stood. Through the effects of the passing years, all have become part of the fabric of the changing landscape that surrounds them.”
In his works, Wilson evokes a literal fog of war, casting these ruins as ghastly figures disappearing physically back into nature and, metaphorically, from the collective memory of the nations involved in the war.
“There is something visually appealing about the alien (and sometimes sinister) forms of those bunkers,” wrote Rox Exley of the images in the forward of Wilson’s text. “Novelty does not quite describe this appeal: more surprise perhaps—a surprise that courts the sublime.”
The Last Stand is nearly sold out, but if you still want a copy, a few special editions are available through his publisher’s website. Wilson’s prints are also available, ranging in price from £85 to £980, but use the code “article” when ordering to receive a 30 percent off discount.
Caroline Hallemann is an assistant digital editor at Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @challemann.