Thousands gather to mark 70th anniversary of D-Day

By Jon Bauckham, 5 June 2014 - 4:11pm

Veterans, world leaders and senior members of the Royal Family have been gathering in France and the UK for a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings

D-Day veterans (L-R) Wally Beale, Doug Lakey, Bernie Howell, Bob Conway, George French, Gordon Smith and Albert Williams from the Royal Wootton Bassett Normandy Veterans Association posing for a photograph on Sword Beach earlier today (Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Thousands of people from across the world are gathering in France to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Meeting at memorial sites and war cemeteries in Normandy, surviving veterans, politicians and members of the Royal Family have been attending special events throughout the week, which will continue tomorrow.

Friday's commemorations include an international ceremony taking place at Sword Beach – the most eastern of the five beaches where a total of 156,000 men launched their invasion of Nazi-occupied France on 6 June 1944.

Around 650 surviving British and 300 US veterans are expected to be present, as well as The Queen.

Many of the British veterans will also visit Bayeux Cathedral for a service led by the Royal British Legion, followed by a remembrance ceremony at the nearby Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery where 4,144 Allied soldiers are buried.

Other events so far have included parades, concerts and vigils, plus a descent by 300 UK and US soldiers at Ranville – the first French village to liberated during the invasion.

In addition to the commemorations across the Channel, spectators in Portsmouth were today treated with a drumhead ceremony attended by The Princess Royal and a display by the Red Arrows.

Tomorrow will also see a Service of Remembrance held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Normandy Veterans Memorial.

The Normandy landings marked the start of Operation Overlord – the Allied plan to invade Nazi-occupied Europe and bring the Second World War to an end.

Comprising British, American, Canadian and Commonwealth troops, as well as Free France commandos on the ground, the forces started with a seaborne attack on the Normandy coastline intended to take the Germans by surprise.

While the invasion was ultimately successful in bringing the conflict to a conclusion the following year, thousands of Allied troops lost their lives during the mission, including over 4,000 on D-Day itself.

Take it further

► Watch live coverage of tomorrow’s D-Day events on BBC One from 9.15am (highlights broadcast at 8pm on BBC Two)

► Get help with your Second World War research by taking part in our live web chat with military family historian Phil Tomaselli between 1pm and 2pm tomorrow. Click here to start posting your questions in advance. 


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