THERESA May paid tribute this morning to the bravery and “ultimate sacrifice” made by the British servicemen who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day 75 years ago today.
The Prime Minister lauded the “greatest generation” of military personnel during a memorial event in France to commemorate those who faced Nazi gunfire on the beaches on June 6, 1944.
A lone piper plays on the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches in Normandy, in northern France, as British Army personnel mark the exact moment the first British soldier landed on Gold Beach 75 years ago[/caption]
Thousands gathered on the beaches of Normandy today to pay their respects – including veterans of the Second World War and military reenactorPA:Press Association
Theresa May said she wanted to say the only words the British can say to our veterans: ‘thank you’Reuters
Donald and Melania Trump arriving in Caen, France, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landingsReuters
The Royal British Legion Service of Remembrance is also taking place today in the Bayeux CathedralIn one of her last official engagements as Conservative leader, Theresa May attended an inauguration ceremony in Normandy for a memorial to over 20,000 members of the British armed forces who died there decades ago.
The British Normandy Memorial is being built on a hillside in Ver-sur-Mer, overlooking Gold Beach, one of the key sites for British troops during the Normandy Landings.
Speaking to D-Day veterans today, Mrs May said: “If one day can be said to have determined the fate of generations to come, in France, in Britain, in Europe and in the world, that day was the 6 June 1944.
“More than 156,000 men landed on D-Day, of which 83,000 were from Britain and the Commonwealth.
“Over a quarter of a million more supported operations from air and sea, while the French Resistance carried out extraordinary acts of bravery from behind enemy lines.
“Many were terribly wounded, and many made the ultimate sacrifice that day, and in the fierce sacrifice that followed, as together our Allied nations sought to release Europe from the grip of fascism.”
The Prime Minister read the names of several British troops who were killed during the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy.
She said: “These young men belonged to a very special generation, the greatest generation.
“A generation whose incomparable spirit shaped our postwar world.
“They didn’t boast. They didn’t fuss. They served.”
Speaking of the names on the new memorial, she added: “We will always remember their courage and convictions.
“To our veterans I want to say the only words we can: thank you.”
Mrs May’s respectful and solemn tribute was echoed by D-Day veteran Kenneth Hay, who read from the poem Normandy by Cyril Crain, who also took part in the Allied invasion.
The poem, read in the Bayeux Cathedral today, begins: “Come and stand in memory of men who fought and died.
“They gave their lives in Normandy, remember them with pride.”
Crain landed at Juno Beach in June 1944, four days before his 21st birthday.
He died in 2014, aged 91.
Earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron joined the Prime Minister at the inauguration ceremony, where a sculpture created by David Williams-Ellis was unveiled marking the beginning of construction for the memorial.
Expected to be completed within a year, it will record the names of 22,442 members of the British armed forces who died in the D-Day landings and Battle of Normandy.
President Macron said: “I am honoured to stand alongside Theresa May today to launch construction work for the British memorial at Ver-sur-Mer.
“The British people have long dreamt of this memorial.”
Mr Macron said the monument would also be a symbol of the ties binding France and the UK.
He said: “Nothing will break them. Nothing can ever break ties that have been bound in bloodshed and shared values.
“The debates taking place today cannot affect the strength of our joint history and our shared future.”
Normandy veteran and patron of The Normandy Trust George Batts told the crowd: “They were the soldiers of democracy.
“They were the men of D-Day and to them we owe our freedom.”
After the memorial inauguration, Theresa May joined veterans and the Prince of Wales at a cathedral service in Bayeux.
Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry are also attending the service of remembrance.
The city, close to the northern French coast, was the first major place to be liberated after the Allied forces invasion.
Following the service, veterans will parade from the cathedral to the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery.
Dignitaries will be invited to lay memorial wreaths and the last post will be played at the site where more than 4,000 war dead are buried.
‘GAVE US OUR FREEDOM’
At the start of the service, a message on behalf of Pope Francis was read by Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
He said D-Day was “decisive in the fight against Nazi barbarism” and paid tribute to those who “joined the Army and gave their lives for freedom and peace”.
The great grandson of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, Randolph Churchill, has also paid tribute to those who took part in the D-Day landings.
“It’s remarkable to think that 75 years ago the heroes that gave us our freedom were coming up these shores,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“With the veterans here today – and it’s wonderful to see so many – it’s wonderful we can honour them and their comrades that didn’t come back.
“They really did give their today so we can have a better tomorrow.”
The day began at 6.26am with the haunting sound of a lone piper playing — marking the moment the first British soldier stormed the beaches of Normandy.
After his bagpipe performance on Arromanches beach, Pipe Major Macey-Lillie said: “That was nerve wracking to do but I feel very proud and it was a privilege to do it.”
Some 300 plus veterans will be flocking to the town of Arromanches for a series of events today to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day today.
This signals the minute the invasion began and the moment the first British soldier landed on Gold Beach.
Stood atop the structure, Pipe Major Trevor Macey-Lillie, of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Scottish Gunners) performed Highland Laddie as crowds gathered on the beach below him and lined the promenade, applauding his performance.
The same tune was played by piper Bill Millin, who performed as his comrades were cut down around him on Sword Beach in 1944.
MOST READ IN NEWS
‘KIDS COULD HAVE DIED’
Kids ‘vomit and suffer panic attacks’ after lifeguard shot on beach
Teacher who rarely drank died after sharing bottle and half of wine with pal
Alabama passes law forcing paedos to be chemically castrated before release
MIGUEL ON EARTH
Storm Miguel to batter Brits with gales & rain as SEVERE warning issued
‘DON’T HIT ME’
Neymar rape accuser filmed hitting star in hotel room a day after ‘attack’
Woman ‘strangled swan to death in public park after straddling it’
Across the Channel, a service of remembrance and wreath laying takes place at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.
In Portsmouth, following President Donald Trump’s visit on Wednesday, a veteran’s parade will take place before a memorial service at the city’s D-Day Stone.
And in London, the Duke of Sussex will attend Founder’s Day at the Royal Hospital Chelsea where he will see the Chelsea Pensioners and six veterans from the Normandy Landings.
AFP or licensors
Theresa May was visibly emotional as she embraced Macron during the inauguration[/caption]
Len Perry, 95, from London, holds a D-Day 75 wreath while sailing on the MV Boudicca from Portsmouth to Normandy for the commemorations
French WWII enthusiasts from the group Overlord 76 plant red roses in the sand in tribute to Americans who died on Utah beach in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont
AFP or licensors
Pipe Major Macey-Lillie said his performance this morning was ‘nerve wracking’ but ultimately ‘a privilege’
Patrick Moore from Kent, a veteran of the Royal Engineers, ahead of the Inauguration of the British Normandy Memorial site in Ver-sur-Mer
Military vehicles line the beach at Arromanches in Normandy for the anniversary
Crosses of remembrance placed alongside a Union flag at dawn on the beach at Arromanches in Normandy
French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May lay a wreath together at the Inauguration of the British Normandy Memorial site in Ver-sur-Mer
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump make their way to board Air Force One at Shannon Airport in Shannon, Ireland, to fly to Normandy for the commemorations
AFP or licensors
Trump already attended a memorial event in Portsmouth in the UK with The Queen during his state visit to Britain
AFP or licensors
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at email@example.com or call 0207 782 4368. You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.