When the HBO World War II miniseries “Band of Brothers” was filmed more than a decade ago, the town of Hatfield in England’s Hertfordshire stood in for France’s northern coast. Last week, for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, members of the series’ cast reunited in Normandy to visit the actual locations of the battles their characters fought.
Among the actors was Ben Caplan, 39, who played Walter “Smokey” Gordon, a member of Easy Company, the group of real-life soldiers portrayed in the 2001 series executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Current television watchers know the Jewish Caplan as Constable Peter Noakes on the popular BBC One period drama “Call The Midwife.”
“It was important for us to be there. There won’t be another major D-Day anniversary like this one,” Caplan said in conversation with The Times of Israel following his return to London. “There probably won’t be veterans still alive or able to attend next time. This one was a big deal,”
The actor found it poignant to see the places that were portrayed in “Band of Brothers,” especially together with his fellow cast members. Driven around by local tour guides, experts in WWII history, they went to a number of D-Day-related locations before meeting hundreds of fans at special events at the Utah Beach Museum in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont.
Upon seeing Carentan, the small rural town where a battle took place June 10-15, 1944 between US airborne forces and German army troops, Caplan was impressed by how accurately the location had been portrayed in the HBO series. “It was amazing to be there, to see where the battles we ‘fought’ actually took place,” he shared.
Damian Lewis (best known for his portrayal of Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody in the Showtime series “Homeland”) laid a wreath at a statue memorializing Major Richard “Dick” Winters, commander of Easy Company (E Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne), whom he played in “Band of Brothers.” There, the actors met 93-year-old WWII veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, who told them he had completed a parachute jump earlier in the week as part of the D-Day commemorations.
Caplan was particularly pleased that Scotty Gordon, the son of Smokey Gordon, was able to join the group in Carentan. “I’ve met Scotty a couple of times, and it’s been important to me. He’s the closest I will every get to knowing the man I played, who died in 1997,” the actor said.
Caplan found signing autographs during D-Day commemorations to be somewhat strange. “But people admire the series because it gives a face to the men who fought here. It keeps their story alive for a new generation.”
Caplan took the responsibility of portraying a member of Easy Company very seriously at the time of filming, and continues to do so now. “This was not just a cast reunion,” he said.
“It was about keeping these men’s stories alive,” he explained. “They are about the horrors of war and bravery beyond anything I could imagine. And they are just as important all these years later.”