Huge commemorations involving over 4,000 military personnel across the UK and France are taking place to mark 75 years since the D-Day landings. We remember the mass sea and air assault by over 156,000 ground troops and an armada of 7,000 ships onto 5 Normandy beaches. This “Great Crusade”, described by King George VI, on the 6th of June 1944 marks the beginning of the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation by allied forces in Normandy.
Major testimonies for this nostalgic event began yesterday, 5th June, in Portsmouth (a key embarkation point for landing craft). Vast numbers of people, including major global leaders of countries that fought alongside Great Britain, gathered to witness theatre performances, live music and tributes from over 300 surviving veterans who attended in the UK. All of these veterans are over the age of 90. Hundreds more gather in Normandy. Extravagant contributions towards the anniversary included 94 year old veteran Harry Read’s 10,000 foot parachute into Normandy, recreating the exact situation he found himself on this day 75 years ago.
Today, the stories of D-Day are further evoked as a memorial service takes place in the Cathedral in Bayeux, the first town liberated by allied forces. Additionally marking this milestone anniversary is the recreation of the invasion journey across the English Channel whereby 244 French veterans are aboard a cruise ship commissioned by the Royal British Legion, visiting major commemoration sites.
Many of these survivors are returning to France for the first time since 1944, contributing to the remembrance of lost friends and poignant memories of the landings. Fred Brunt, a coxswain of a landing craft for D-Day, expressed how the recreation of this emotional journey over the past week has contributed to highlighting the importance of reflecting and remembering moments of the Second World War for future generations.
A variety of memorials are continuing through to the end of the week to mark the date and pay respect to the 9,000 lives lost over the course of this invasion. These major efforts towards the remembrance of the D-Day landing have led to the largest meeting of global leaders since the 2012 Olympics. The memorials have truly contributed to showing the resilience of the allied troops, unification of multiple countries and the genuine pride the survivors feel and deserve.