Emotional tributes to fallen heroes at services to mark D-Day anniversary
Veterans gathered with the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Theresa May to honour those who fought in the courageous Second World War assault.
The courage and sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the D-Day landings 75 years ago has been honoured in moving ceremonies on both sides of the Channel.
Thousands gathered in the small seaside town of Arromanches in northern France in tribute to those who fought heroically in the daring campaign which changed the course of the Second World War.
Some 300, largely British, veterans, many approaching 100 years of age, made the pilgrimage to the commemorations in the main square to remember their fallen comrades.
Wreaths were laid, a minute’s silence held and veterans linked arms and joined in singing a rendition of the war-time anthem We’ll Meet Again, before watching an RAF flypast.
Prime Minister Theresa May, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended special services of remembrance with veterans at Bayeux Cathedral and the nearby Commonwealth War Graves cemetery.
In the UK, the Duke of Cambridge delivered the D-Day address made by his great-grandfather George VI, and met former servicemen and women at a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.
Meanwhile in London, the Duke of Sussex praised the efforts of the six D-Day veterans being cared for at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, saying he was honoured to be in their presence.
D-Day on June 6 1944 was the largest amphibious invasion in history, and ultimately led to the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation.
More than 156,000 troops were launched by sea and air, and 4,400 were confirmed dead by sunset.
At the Bayeux Cemetery service, 95-year-old Frank Baugh gave his own moving, personal account of how he was a signalman on a landing craft that took 200 troops from 2nd Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry from Newhaven to Sword beach.
Surrounded by rows and rows of pristine white graves and standing in front of the towering Cross of Sacrifice, the veteran said: “My most abiding memory of that day is of seeing our boys. We had been talking to them minutes before they were cut down with machine gun fire…
“They would fall into the water, floating face down, and we couldn’t get them out.
“We couldn’t help them and that is my most abiding memory and I can’t forget it.”
He finished his emotional speech, with “Thank you for listening”, and a salute.
Hundreds of people had earlier lined the streets of Bayeux to clap and cheer veterans as they paraded from the cathedral to the nearby cemetery.
Heir to the throne Charles and Mrs May were among those who placed wreaths of poppies at the cemetery’s central cross to honour those who died.
Bayeux, close to the northern French coast, was the first major place to be liberated, after the Allied forces’ invasion.
Prayers were said at the service of remembrance in the city’s Gothic cathedral.
The 1,000-strong congregation, including Charles, Camilla, Mrs May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, declared in unison, “We shall remember them”, before a two-minute silence.
US troops were also honoured when President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the US commemorations at Omaha Beach in Colleville-sur-Mer.
Mr Trump told veterans: “Our debt to you is everlasting.”
Early on Thursday morning, Mrs May and Mr Macron paid their respects at Ver-Sur-Mer, at the inauguration of the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach where many of the troops arrived on D-Day.
Funded by the Normandy Memorial Trust, the monument will list the names of all 22,442 members of the British armed forces who died in the Normandy campaign in the summer of 1944.
Mrs May, completing one of her last engagements as PM, said: “Standing here, as the waves wash quietly on to the shore, it’s almost impossible to grasp the raw courage that it must have taken that day to leap out from landing craft and into the surf – despite the fury of battle.”
She added: “If one day can be said to have determined the fate of generations to come – in France, in Britain, in Europe and the world – that day was June 6 1944.”
At the National Memorial Arboretum, second in line to the throne William laid a wreath at the Normandy Campaign Memorial, with the personal message: “In memory of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We will remember them.”
The duke, giving George VI’s speech, said: “This time the challenge is not to fight to survive but to fight to win the final victory for the good cause.”
His younger brother Harry told the D-Day veterans and other Chelsea Pensioners at the annual Founder’s Day Parade: “To all who are on parade today, I can only say that you are a constant reminder of the great debt we owe those who have served this nation.”
The start of the day was marked in France at 7.25am local time by lone piper Major Trevor Macey-Lillie, of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Scottish Gunners) playing a lament on the remaining Mulberry harbour in the town called Port Winston.
This signalled the minute the invasion began and the moment the first British soldier landed on Gold Beach.