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Hundreds of D-Day veterans to be joined by world leaders for 75th anniversary

The commemorations are expected to be one of the biggest British military spectacles in recent years.

Tributes left in remembrance of soldiers who died on D-Day in Ranville Cemetery, Normandy (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Tributes left in remembrance of soldiers who died on D-Day in Ranville Cemetery, Normandy (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Hundreds of D-Day veterans will be joined by royalty and world leaders to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the largest seaborne military invasion in history.

The Queen, the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Theresa May will host representatives from every country that fought alongside the UK in the Battle of Normandy for what is expected to be one of the biggest British military spectacles in recent years.

US president Donald Trump, on the final day of his state visit, will be joined in Portsmouth by German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.

The leaders of the Czech Republic, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland, as well as representatives from Slovakia, Denmark and New Zealand, will also attend the commemorations on Southsea Common on Wednesday.

More than 4,000 personnel will be involved in D-Day events in the UK and France, in what is set to be one of the biggest mobilisations of the UK Armed Forces in recent history.

Three hundred veterans – all over 90 years old – will attend the commemorations, which are expected to feature testimonies from former personnel, theatrical performances and live music – with a flypast of 24 aircraft, including the Red Arrows and a Spitfire.

Mrs May will read a letter during the performance written by Captain Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps which was in his pocket on the day he was killed in June 1944.

The world leaders will then join veterans at a reception, before having lunch together where they are expected to discuss the importance of the western alliance.

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How the D-Day landings unfolded, the beach defences faced by allied troops and troop numbers and casualties (PA)

On Wednesday evening, the veterans will depart Portsmouth on MV Boudicca to Normandy, retracing the voyage they made across the Channel 75 years ago.

The ship will be met by a flotilla of Royal Navy vessels with sailors lining the decks in salute as it enters the Solent, and a lone Spitfire will fly overhead.

The Prime Minister will wave the veterans off from the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, alongside the Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt and the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones.

Mrs May will attend further commemorations in Normandy on Thursday, where she will witness the unveiling of a new memorial to British servicemen at Ver-sur-Mer and attend services of remembrance at the cathedral and cemetery in Bayeux.

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Theresa May said the commemorations will be particularly poignant (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ahead of the commemorations, Mrs May said: “This week, people throughout Britain will pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives during D-Day and for the liberation of Europe in World War Two.

“This year’s commemoration will be particularly poignant and I am honoured to be able to mark the 75th anniversary of the landings alongside the veterans who were there.

“It is the sheer scale of D-Day that made it such an awe-inspiring feat. Troops from around the world fought together with a common goal and with a shared ideal.

“And so it is right that together we reflect on and celebrate the cooperation that helped to secure the freedom we cherish today.”

Ms Mordaunt added: “It is Government’s hope that D-Day75 leaves a lasting legacy and provides an opportunity for people young and old to reflect on the achievements and sacrifice of our Second World War generation.

“Over the next few days it will be a privilege for us all to learn more of these extraordinary men and women.”

PA

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