As the 80th Anniversary of D-Day - the largest air and sea invasion of Normandy France by the Allies on June 6, 194 - approaches, a Fermanagh man has been showing some fascinating memorabilia he has collected from the Second World War.

To call Julian Thornton (37) from Bellanaleck a historian is putting it mildly, as the genial Julian has a passion for the subject and specifically for World War Two that goes beyond words.

And, last Thursday he showed some priceless memorabilia from around the D-Day period.

They include the original signatures of General Dwight Ike Eisenhower - his hero - and General Bernard Montgomery on documents relating to D-Day. Before that the Battle of El Alamein as well as the helmet of a dead German soldier and sand from the famous five beaches in Normandy, the scenes of fierce fighting and heavy casualties.

Julian got his love for history first at Jones Memorial Primary School, Enniskillen under the late Ms Beatrice Crawford and his current job as Digital Remembering Officer is an ideal one as he delivers talks to several schools all over Fermanagh.

“I buy stuff at military auctions and that is where I get most of the stuff.

“Ms Crawford was the first person to mention World War Two and that is where my interest was sparked. I asked my granny Thornton about the war and she spoke about the rationing etc. and I found it fascinating. I watched Dad’s Army and it was very educational as it is based on events that actually happened. It was the Home Guard.”

Julian continued: “The first piece I collected was from a trip to Flanders where I collected a button and to me it was real as somebody owned that and wore it and there was history attached to it.

“My granny had an armband- and my granddad was in the Home Guard, and he was also a former chairman of Fermanagh District Council.”

Julian got a room in his house to store pieces from the Second World War.

“I followed the big characters like Eisenhower and Montgomery.”

He then showed an Anniversary Programme from the Royal Albert Hall five years after the Battle of El Alamein which took place in North Africa in 1943 where General Montgomery won a famous victory.

“This was the programme, and the programme was signed by Field Marshal Montgomery himself.

“He was a huge player in the war, and it is a great programme to have.”

“I have no interest in replicas only originals.”

Julian will be giving talks to schools around June 6 and telling them how important D-Day was in the Second World War.

“There was heavy fighting on the beaches and the US army had heavy casualties on Omaha Beach as the Germans had machine guns in the hills.

“D-Day was a success as the Allies managed to get a foothold in Normandy.”

Julian also has a photo of Eisenhower, and it is signed by 'Ike'.

“Eisenhower is my hero, and he was a great man who went on to be US President.

"He was the Supreme Allied Commander, and he told his men that if the landings failed it was his fault and he had a note to verify it so he was a man of real character.

“Of all the photos I have, that one would be my favourite.

“On the night before the invasion on June 5 'Ike' visited the paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division in a camp in Greenham Common in London.

“These guys were going to be jumping into war very shortly and he was giving them a bit of encouragement, but he later said that it was very difficult to look a man in the eye when you knew that maybe you were sending him to his death.

“He had been told earlier that the losses for these men were likely to be seven out of 10 and thankfully they were not that high.

“They were to parachute behind enemy lines and try and take out their big guns.

“Ike was nervous and a bit subdued as well.  “It was that night that he issued his famous order: 'Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force, you are about to embark on the great crusade which we have striven for these many months. The eyes of the world are on you. Your enemy is well-trained and equipped and battle-hardened, and he will fight savagely. 'Good luck and may the blessing of God be upon this noble undertaking'.”

Julian added that he hopes to have an exhibition in the Museum in the future.

He also showed parts of glider planes that crash-landed in fields from which the men jumped out.

"It was a very dangerous operation and quite a few men died as there was no engine and it was a very tricky landing, and they were towed, and they were let go over Normandy and more men survived it than was originally thought."

Julian then displayed sand from Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno and Gold the five beaches where there was some fierce fighting.

“Eisenhower was a diplomat, and he went on to be the 34th President of the United States.

“He genuinely felt for his men and while Montgomery was a brilliant general, he had a huge ego.

“Eisenhower was able to handle his generals well and he had so much humanity.”

And then he showed us a German helmet from World War Two.

“I have helmets from all the major Allied forces and they are all shaped differently and the German helmet was probably the best of all the helmets.

“This helmet was used by a German soldier on D-Day and people in Normandy collected relics from the battle and kept them.

“The battle lasted for around a day and there were 155,000 men involved in the Allied invasion and it was the largest air and seaborne invasion ever mounted.

“It was a complete armada of ships, boats, men and aircraft.”

Under Julian’s colourful words, you can almost hear the sounds and sirens of war on one of the most momentous days in our history.

His impressive collection of memorabilia will make marvellous memories for those of us who love history for many years to come.