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D-Day commemoration live: Queen thanks veterans and hails wartime generation

The Queen was joined by Theresa May and Donald Trump alongside 300 veterans.

The Queen shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel as Theresa May watches on (Jack Hill/The Times/PA)
The Queen shakes hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel as Theresa May watches on (Jack Hill/The Times/PA)

The Queen has been joined by Prime Minister Theresa May, US president Donald Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel alongside 300 veterans in Portsmouth for a ceremony ahead of Thursday’s anniversary of 75 years since the D-Day landings.

Speaking at Southsea where troops taking part in the biggest amphibious invasion in military history in 1944 left from, the monarch thanked veterans and hailed the resilience of “the wartime generation”.

Hundreds of veterans joined world leaders representing the Allied nations involved in Operation Overlord at the Portsmouth event marking 75 years since D-Day.

1.40pm

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A man watches a Red Arrows display over Southsea (PA)

1.35pm

Army veteran Alfred Fuzzard, 97, offers a painful recollection of preparing a solider for burial after D-Day.

1.30pm

A short while ago, the Queen and Mr Trump met half a dozen D-Day veterans with Mrs Trump and the Prince of Wales.

They shook hands and exchanged a few words with each of the old servicemen, asking them about their stories.

“Congratulations. Thank you very much,” Mr Trump could be heard saying to one.

The four the stood for a farewell photo, with Mr Trump saying to the Queen: “It was a great honour to be with you”, before telling the watching press pool “Great woman, great, great woman.”

1.20pm

President Trump has tweeted footage from the ceremony.

1.15pm

The Queen referenced a speech by her father during her words at the ceremony: “In a broadcast to the nation at that time, my Father, King George VI, said: ‘…what is demanded from us all is something more than courage and endurance; we need a revival of spirit, a new unconquerable resolve…’

The Queen added: “That is exactly what those brave men brought to the battle, as the fate of the world depended on their success.

“Many of them would never return, and the heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten.

“It is with humility and pleasure, on behalf of the entire country – indeed the whole free world – that I say to you all, thank you.”

1.10pm

Theresa May was holding a series of bilateral meetings with world leaders at the D-Day event.

Downing Street said she had met Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki and was due to have talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.

“The main theme of the talks today is about shared security,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

1pm

World leaders present posed for a photo with the Queen and the Prince of Wales to mark the occasion.

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(Jack Hill/The Times/PA)

12.40pm

Standing in the royal box, the Queen said: “When I attended the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, some thought it might be the last such event.

“But the wartime generation – my generation – is resilient, and I am delighted to be with you in Portsmouth today.

“Seventy-five years ago, hundreds of thousands of young soldiers, sailors and airmen left these shores in the cause of freedom.

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The Queen recalled the 60th anniversary of the landings (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“In a broadcast to the nation at that time, my Father, King George VI, said: ‘…what is demanded from us all is something more than courage and endurance; we need a revival of spirit, a new unconquerable resolve…’

“That is exactly what those brave men brought to the battle, as the fate of the world depended on their success.

“Many of them would never return, and the heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten.

“It is with humility and pleasure, on behalf of the entire country – indeed the whole free world – that I say to you all, thank you.”

12.30pm

Actor David Haig performed an extract from his play Pressure.

It tells the story of the weather forecaster for D-Day, Scottish meteorologist, Group Captain James Stagg, who persuaded military chiefs to delay the huge assault because of a predicted storm.

The spectators saw the key scene from the play when the decision is taken on June 3, 1944 to postpone the D-Day after Haig, playing Stagg, tells the assembled senior officers he predicted a “storm of unprecedented malignancy”.

Haig is best known for the film Four Weddings And A Funeral and BBC sitcom The Thin Blue Line.

12.20pm

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French President Emmanuel Macron meets veterans after his speech during the ceremony (Andrew Matthews/PA)

12.15pm

12.10pm

Prime Minister Theresa May read a letter from Captain Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps, to his wife Gladys on June 3, 1944.

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Theresa May read out a letter from a D-Day soldier to his wife (Paul Halliwell/MoD/Crown Copyright/PA)

The letter was in his pocket when he landed on Normandy’s Sword Beach on D-Day but he was killed the following day, leaving his wife and two young daughters.

Reading the letter Mrs May said: “My darling this is a very difficult letter for me to write. As you know something may happen at any moment and I cannot tell when you will receive this.

“I had hoped to be able to see you during last weekend but it was impossible to get away and all the things I intended to say must be written. I’m sure that anyone with imagination must dislike the thought of what’s coming, but my fears will be more of being afraid than of what can happen to me.

“You and I have had some lovely years which now seemed to have passed at lightning speed. My thoughts at this moment, in this lovely Saturday afternoon, are with you all now.”

12.05pm

The next segment of the event saw a tribute to the agents of the Special Operations Executive which supported the French Resistance.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron read the last letter of a young resistance fighter Henri Fertet, executed at just 16 years old.

Before he began he said: “First, let me thank you sincerely, on behalf of my nation.”

Speaking in French he read the letter, saying: “My dear parents, My letter is going to cause you great sorrow, but I have seen you so full of courage in the past that I do not doubt that you will remain courageous, if only out of love for me.

“I am going to die for my country. I want France to be free and the French to be happy. I do not want France to be arrogant and the world’s leading nation but hard-working, industrious and honest.”

11.55am

President Trump read an excerpt from the prayer president Franklin D Roosevelt delivered by radio on the evening of June 6, 1944, in which he spoke to the US for the first time about the Normandy operation.

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US President Donald Trump (Andrew Matthews/PA)

11.50am

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau read the Victoria Cross citation of Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Merritt, the first Canadian to be awarded the medal for gallantry and inspired leadership during the disastrous raid on Dieppe in 1942.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking during the commemorations (PA)

Later actress Sheridan Smith performed Second World War song When the Lights Go On Again, that expresses hopes for an end to the war across the world.

As she sang black and white wartime images were shown on a huge screen behind her.

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D-Day veterans take the stage during the commemorations (Andrew Matthews/PA)

11.45am

Meanwhile in France, C-47 transport planes in Second World War colours dropped parachutists with round canopies reminiscent of those used by airborne forces in 1944 over Carentan in Normandy.

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Spectators watch parachutists jumping in Carentan, Normandy (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP)

11.45am

Actor and author Celia Imrie narrated the event and began by introducing a segment on the fall of Europe and the start of the Second World War when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.

She said the scene in Southsea ahead of D-Day, 75 years ago, was very different from today: “This was no green and open land but a sea of uniform and an ocean of men.

“Seventy-five years later we are honoured to be joined by over 300 veterans of Operation Overlord.

“They bravely risked their lives for our today and to them we show our profound appreciation.”

An extract from Second World War leader Winston Churchill’s famous “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech was played: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; We shall never surrender.”

11.40am

The audience watched three veterans sharing their testimonies of D-Day in a pre-recorded video displayed on large screens.

Bert Edwards, a British veteran who served as an Able Seaman on HMS Bellona spoke of provided firing support to Omaha beach from the ship.

He said he was not nervous on the day just “apprehensive” adding: “At the time we had no idea it was as vicious as it was.”

Canadian veteran Bob Roberts also spoke, he was a lance corporal in the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment and was among the first to land on Normandy’s Juno beach on June 6.

American Eugene Deibler shared his memories of serving as a sergeant with the 501st Airborne Regiment and parachuting into Normandy at 1.30am on June 6, behind Utah beach.

As the event got under way a group of veterans came onto the event’s large stage and were given a standing ovation.

11.35am

The Royal Family twitter account shared footage of the Queen shaking hands with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

11.30am

The audience and dignitaries were also treated to the spectacle of a guard of honour, formed of military personnel from Royal Navy, Army and RAF marching through the spectator aisles and onto the main stage.

The Queen’s arrival in the royal box was signalled by a fanfare from musicians from the Band of the Royal Marines and the Tri-Service orchestra performed the national anthem.

The orchestra also performed John Williams’ Hymn To The Fallen which opens the D-Day based war film Saving Private Ryan, and has become associated with Second World War remembrance and memorials.

11.20am

World leaders representing the Allied nations who took part in the D-Day landings are also in Portsmouth, including French president Emmanuel Macron, prime minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump, who is coming to the end of a three-day state visit to the UK.

Other guests included Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison, prime minister Charles Michel from Belgium, the Czech Republic’s prime minister Andrej Babis and president Prokopis Pavlopoulos from Greece. Chancellor Angela Merkel represented Germany.

The PM of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel also attended, as did his counterparts from the Netherlands Mark Rutte, Norway’s Erna Solberg, Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki and Slovakia’s deputy prime minister Richard Rasi.

They all met the Queen before the event began – a first for Mr Macron – and then posed for a group photograph with the monarch and Prince of Wales.

11.15am

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A man in US Airborne period dress during the commemorations for the 75th anniversary at Southsea Common (Victoria Jones/PA)

11am

The Queen has arrived for the D-Day commemorations in Portsmouth marking the 75th anniversary of the Second World War campaign, but is not due to take her seat in the royal box for some time.

10.45am

Earlier, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to the “unimaginable heroism” of the troops who took part in the D-Day landings.

PA

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