THE Queen is leading tributes to the heroes of the Normandy
landings on a day of international ceremonies to mark the 70th
anniversary of D-Day.
Between 6 June 1944 and the end of the following month, about
1.5 million troops had entered Normandy at the start of the battle
to liberate continental Europe. Losses were significant. Of the
130,000 Allied troops who landed in Normany on the first day, about
10,000 were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner. That figure would
rise to some 600,000 victims by the end of July 1944.
An international celebration on the site of the landings on
Oustreham Beach, code-named Sword, is taking place this afternoon.
The Queen is joined by the French President, François Hollande, the
President of the United States, Barak Obama, and a host of
international leaders, including the President of Italy, Giorgio
Napolitano, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
In a briefing to journalists, President Hollande said that the
"exceptional event" was for the "18 nations allied during the war
or since reconciled. France will not only pay homage to its
liberators, it will celebrate with all the represented countries
the enduring relevance of the struggle to build a more peaceful and
Earlier, at Bayeux, the largest British war cemetery in France,
the Queen laid a wreath during a service attended by veterans and
their families. About 1000 veterans from Britain, the US, and
Canada have come to Normandy for the anniversary - the seventh
since France was liberated. But the numbers are dwindling.
"The number of veterans has diminished greatly. It is not as big
as previous ones," Prebendary John Richards, chaplain to the
Plymouth branch of the Normandy Veterans Association, said. "The
50th was a huge one, with 400 coaches. This has got a sadness about
it because the veterans are no longer there.
"But it was an excellent parade, and the younger generations are
being pulled into things. . . Remembrance is reviving, I guess with
the increase in international tensions that we have now. Things are
different, but tensions reoccur, and you see old patterns coming
back: east and west, or whatever it is."
Writing in the official British souvenir programme, the Queen
said that she was "very pleased" to join the veterans in marking
the 70th anniversary.
She went on: "On 6 June 1944, after months of planning and
training, the largest amphibious assault in history was launched to
secure freedom in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of servicemen made
the journey across the Channel by sea and air, and through their
brave actions and dogged determination, established a vital
foothold in Occupied Europe. This immense and heroic endeavour
brought the end of the Second World War within reach."
The commemorations, she said, would provide the veterans and the
people of Normandy with "an opportunity to reflect on their
experiences and the incredible sacrifices that were made."
Houses and streets throughout Normandy are bedecked with French,
British, American, and Canadian flags, as well as the occasional
Belgian, German, and Australian flag. Handwritten messages are
posted in windows, saying simply "Merci", or "Thanks".
At this morning's ceremony in Bayeux Cemetery, the Prince of
Wales read from Romans 8.31-39: "If God be for us, who can be
against us?"; and the national secretary of the Normandy Veterans
Association, George Batts, led the recital of the Normandy Veterans
Before the service began, the assembled congregation heard what
sounded like an approaching helicopter. Many assumed that it was
the arrival of the Queen, and gasped with delight when it turned
out to be a low-level fly-past of a Spitfire, Lancaster bomber, and
Dakota transport plane.
Earlier, in the nearby Bayeux Cathedral, the Queen attended an
ecumenical service at which the new Thérèse-Bénédicte bell for
peace and freedom was consecrated to "call out for brotherhood
amongst peoples". The bell, which was sponsored by the Queen, is
named after Saint Teresa Benedicta, the patron saint of Europe. A
Carmelite nun, she was executed in Auschwitz in August 1942.
The former Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch,
who is national chaplain to the Royal British Legion, preached at
the service, which was led by the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris,
Later today, at the conclusion of the international service,
attention will move to the beach at Arromanches, code-named Gold,
for the last of the British services.
'King George prefaced the invasion of western Europe by the Allies
with a simple call to prayer for God's blessing' - read the
Church Times' leader from June 1944