Yanks Weekend, Saddleworth
What is it about the Second World War that inspires such obsessive fascination in some folk? As a subject of 20th century history it is like a giant cuckoo in the nest, pushing out everything else that might divert attention away from it. Witness the history channels that broadcast wall-to-wall Hitler/Churchill documentaries. It evokes heroic values, courage, forbearance, all pulling together, digging for victory and making do and mending. Not to mention the perennial appeal of the uniforms, the fashions and the catchy tunes. I suspect that the cinema has something to do with it. There have been epic movies made on the subject every decade, practically since armistice was declared.
One such film is ‘Yanks,’ filmed in 1978, and starring Richard Gere. Locations in the Saddleworth area were used, and to mark this event Saddleworth hosts an annual weekend-long event that attracts Second World War aficionados from across the country. Attractions include the chance to admire original military vehicles and browse the handful of stalls selling vintage clothing, military garb and 2WW collectables. There’s also evening dances if you want to show off your jitterbugging skills. Most compelling of all is the chance to see enthusiasts dressed up as US Army sergeants driving round in jeeps and Nazi commanders in black leather trenchcoats.
We visited on the last day - a dull, cold and drizzly Sunday - and found that the village of Uppermill that was hosting the Yanks ‘camp’ had not yet roused itself. Indeed, it took some effort to find the camp at all, since signposting duties had been neglected. Our timing was off, we were thoroughly drenched by 10.30 and disinclined to hang around for the parade. This was a disappointment, because I had been looking forward to the “the biggest military convoy in the UK” and the attendant genuine army veterans that were to feature. We also missed the re-enactments of scenes from the film, with a Richard Gere look alike. As a reporter, I’m a sad failure, and certainly don’t have the fortitude of those wartime heroes who shrugged off bullets rather than raindrops.
The Yanks Weekend is part of a lively circuit of Second World War themed events staged regularly all around the country. There’s no obligation to dress the part, although being part of the spectacle adds to the fun, and you can often borrow authentic clothing once you arrive. Despite my cynical opener, its hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere, and its all very friendly and cheerful. Check Rod’s 1940s Events Calendar in the link below for an event near you.
Yanks Weekend photos
More of Trevira's Yanks Weekend photos
How to get there
The Yanks camp was located in the grounds of Saddleworth School. Drive north through Uppermill and look for a turning on the right just as you are leaving the village. Uppermill is about 13 miles north east of Manchester. Google map.