Guardian editor Steve Adams will be in France next week accompanying a veteran of the Normandy campaign to the cemeteries, monuments and battlefields that have come to symbolise one of the key periods that shaped modern European history.

Steve will attempt to maintain a blog on the Guardian website throughout the week for any readers who may be interested.

Here he offers a brief insight into the trip before his departure:

The Normandy campaign, which began on June 6, 1944, with the D-Day landings, marked the beginning of the end of World War Two as the Allied forces re-entered mainland Europe and began the push eastward, driving the German army back towards Berlin.

The final months of the war and the ultimate defeat of Hitler’s army are far too complex to be explained here, but the bridgehead that was created by the Normandy campaign gained the Allies a crucial foothold on the continent and will be forever remembered as paving the way for victory in Europe.

Geoffrey Veale was born in London in September 1924 and spent his childhood in Kent.

He was not yet 15 years old when war was declared, and he and his pals stared skyward in 1940 as the RAF repelled the German Luftwaffe when the Battle of Britain raged overhead.

The aerial dogfights he witnessed in the skies above Maidstone and the bravery of the fighter aces that fought them led to a lifelong love affair with one of the greatest pieces of machinery ever created, the Supermarine Spitfire.

By the end of 1942, Geoff had enlisted as a 17-year-old apprentice aircraft fitter. His job saw him repairing and maintaining the machines he had watched with awe just months earlier.

In the summer of 1944, in the days and weeks after the D-Day landings, Geoff and many others like him landed on the French coast.

His task was to locate and rescue the Spitfires shot down while battling to keep the Messerschmitts, Focke-Wulfs and Junkers Ju 88s from attacking Allied ground troops. Those aircraft that could be saved, he and his colleagues loaded onto trucks to be transported back to Britain for repair; those that could not, were stripped of anything useful and their remains destroyed to ensure their engineering secrets remained beyond the enemy’s grasp. He was 20 years of age.

I first met Geoff some ten years ago through a complicated series of relationships. Over the past decade we have become friends, though I’ve never been entirely sure how or why he ended up in Carmarthenshire. Now 91, he describes me as his step-grandson-in-law; I tell people he is my adopted grandfather. Neither is true, but both are close enough to make no odds.

I was born in 1970, fortunate to have lived through a period of history which has ensured I have avoided the type of events which shaped Geoff’s youth and have cast a shadow over the rest of his life.

I have a reasonable grasp of the events of 1939 to 1945, though while Geoff Veale lived them and has continued to do so for seven long decades, my knowledge will forever be viewed through the prism of the films, books and documentaries I watched and read during my childhood.

I have had endless conversations with him about Juno, Gold and Sword beaches, about the Battle of the Bulge, the Bridge at Arnhem and the genius of Barnes Wallace.

But while my understanding of the war has been shaped by John Wayne in The Longest Day, Richard Todd in The Dambusters, and Laurence Olivier’s The World at War, Geoffrey Veale was there.

What for me was the action and adventure of Saturday evenings spent in front of the television, was life and death reality for a young lad from Kent just 30 or so years earlier.

I have no idea what to expect when we arrive in France next week.

I cannot guess how Geoff will react or what impact this trip will have on me.

I imagine it will be an experience unlike any other, poignant and emotional.

The only things I know for sure is that an old man wants me at his side when he pays perhaps his final tribute to those fallen comrades who never blossomed beyond their youth, and that it will be privilege to be there when he does.