6 Jun 2014

D-Day 70 years on – the world remembers

World leaders and world war two veterans gather in Normandy to mark 70 years since D-Day, when allied forces landed in German-occupied Europe.

Pictures: D-Day 1944 - a pivotal moment in history

The Queen laid a wreath in Normandy for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for “freedom in Europe” at a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

The royal family and Prime Minister David Cameron were joined by around 400 Commonwealth veterans for a Royal British Legion service in Bayeux to honour the fallen.

Remembrance service

During a solemn open air ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery, the Last Post was followed by an emotional minute’s silence under sunshine and clear blue skies.

Moments after the Queen arrived, a fly-past of historic aircraft – two Spitfires, a Dakota and a Lancaster bomber – roared overhead as they flew in formation.

Earlier, a remembrance service took place in Bayeux Cathedral, where biblical lessons were read and hymns sung.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, on a three-day state visit to France, were joined by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall for the commemorations.

Here in this cemetery we are reminded of the true cost of D-Day whose 70th anniversary we mark today. Reverend Patrick Irwin

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond were also among the congregation for the open-air service at the cemetery, as was Foreign Secretary William Hague and Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

At the start of the outdoor service the Reverend Patrick Irwin, the Royal British Legion Chaplain to Normandy, told the congregation: “Here in this cemetery we are reminded of the true cost of D-Day whose 70th anniversary we mark today.

“We pay tribute to the dead and welcome enthusiastically the veterans for whose courage and devotion we are most grateful.

“This is a British cemetery and most of the graves in this place are British but D-Day involved many nations and many nations are represented here.”

‘Written in blood’

Elsewhere, US President Barack Obama paid tribute to his country’s sacrifices at the Normandy American cemetery and memorial, where nearly 10,000 servicemen are buried.

Mr Obama said the American commitment to liberty, which is “written in blood” on the beaches of Normandy, endures with a new generation.

And he told D-Day veterans gathered above Omaha beach that their legacy is in good hands.

The allied assault on 6 June 1944 was the largest amphibious operation in history and marked the start of an 80-day campaign to liberate Normandy.

Three million troops were involved and 250,000 lost their lives, but the end of the war was brought closer as the Nazi hold over western Europe began to crumble.

In a foreword to the official D-Day commemorative brochure, the Queen said that the campaign was launched to secure “freedom in Europe”.

She added: “This immense and heroic endeavour brought the end of the Second World War within reach.”