King and Queen arrive for commemorations in Normandy on D-Day 80th anniversary (2024)

King and Queen arrive for commemorations in Normandy on D-Day 80th anniversary (1)

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The King and Queen have arrived at a national commemorative event in Normandy marking the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Some veterans of the beach invasion were helped from their wheelchairs to stand when Charles and Camilla arrived on Thursday.

They appeared emotional, with the Queen wiping her eye as the memories of one D-Day veteran were read to the crowd in Ver-sur-Mer.

The audience heard the experiences of Joe Mines, 99, from Hornchurch in east London, and Camilla dabbed her eye before smiling with the King as Mr Mines waved his arms in the air.

Charles sat next to French President Emmanuel Macron during the service and they could be seen talking to each other.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke at the service at the British Normandy Memorial on Thursday, in which he said the veterans of the beach invasion in 1944 “freed a continent and built a better world”.

The King and Queen are also scheduled to pay tribute to fallen soldiers at the event in Ver-sur-Mer, along with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Mr Macron.

Schoolchildren presented veterans attending the UK’s national commemoration event with white roses while cadets waved flags.

At the same time, an RAF band performed a marching display while Dakota military transport aircraft, widely used by the Allies during the Second World War, flew overhead.

The site, which opened in 2021, pays tribute to 22,442 service personnel under British command who died on D-Day and during the Battle of Normandy in the summer of 1944.

It is the first major anniversary event hosted at the memorial, and Charles and Camilla will officially open the Winston Churchill Centre for Education and Learning following the commemorations on Thursday.

Speaking at the event, Mr Sunak said: “Each of you who contributed that day – sailor, soldier, aviator, civilian – whether you fought on the beaches, or parachuted from the skies, or flew fighters or gliders, whether you were an engineer or a radio operator or an intelligence officer, your actions freed a continent and built a better world.

“You risked everything and we owe you everything.

“We cannot possibly hope to repay that debt but we can and we must pledge never to forget.”

He said veterans had “taught generations of young people about the horrors of war”, adding: “Yet with each passing year, it falls now to those of us who listened in awe to your stories to pass them on to our own children and grandchildren.

“Because only by remembering can we make certain that the cause you fought for, that so many of your friends and colleagues died for, that great cause of freedom, peace and democracy, will never be taken for granted.”

Commemorations on Thursday began in the early morning with a military piper at Gold Beach in Arromanches who played a lament at sea at the exact moment of the invasion.

Mr Sunak will miss the major international ceremony for the anniversary of D-Day but Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will mingle with world leaders at the Omaha Beach event.

A Tory source played down the diplomatic impact of the PM’s absence, pointing out he will see Mr Macron, Mr Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other key leaders at the G7 summit in Italy next week.

The Prince of Wales and senior ministers will represent the UK at the international event, joining more than 25 heads of state and veterans for the official ceremony on Omaha Beach, Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.

Thursday’s commemorations follow an emotional ceremony in Portsmouth on Wednesday where the King appeared to wipe away a tear during an event where he paid tribute to the “courage, resilience and solidarity” of veterans.

Following the piper on the beach in Arromanches, commemorations will continue in the French town including a veterans’ parade, air and firework display.

Bayeux War Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France, will host a service led by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

In the UK, an 80-strong flotilla of boats will leave from Falmouth, Cornwall, where thousands of troops departed to take part in the invasion, while a beacon-lighting ceremony will take place in Aylesford, Kent.

The Duke and duch*ess of Edinburgh will join veterans at a Royal British Legion remembrance service at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and the Duke and duch*ess of Gloucester will meet veterans at a show at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The event, D-day 80: Remembering The Normandy Landings, will be hosted by Davina McCall and feature music from the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, as well as Lulu, Katherine Jenkins, Emeli Sande and D-Day Darlings lead vocalist Katie Ashby.

The weather is expected to be “generally dry” during the commemorations, the Met Office said.

King and Queen arrive for commemorations in Normandy on D-Day 80th anniversary (2024)
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