Queen moved to tears as King calls on nation to never forget service of D-Day generation (2024)

The King warned we must never forget the service and sacrifice of veterans as the Queen was moved to tears during commemorations for the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

He acknowledged that today, 80 years on, it was “near impossible” to imagine the sheer terror and anxiety that faced the hundreds of thousands who took part in the Normandy landings.

But he said it was our “duty” to ensure that future generations understand how their service and sacrifice replaced tyranny with freedom.

“The stories of courage, resilience and solidarity we have heard today and throughout our lives cannot fail to move us, to inspire us and to remind us of what we owe to that great wartime generation,” he told a commemorative event on Southsea Common in Portsmouth.

“We are all eternally in their debt.”

Before the King gave his speech, he and Queen shared an emotional moment amid the commemorations. The Queen was pictured with a tear in her eye, while the King was seen wiping a tear away.

The King delivered a stirring address to the hundreds gathered in the sunshine, overlooking the sea where 80 years ago hundreds of thousands of men had set off for Normandy, so many never to return.

His Majesty, 75, who was accompanied by the Queen, read a message that Field Marshal Montgomery, Commander in Chief of the Allied Ground Forces, delivered to all soldiers on the eve of D-Day.

He said: “To us is given the honour of striking a blow for freedom which will live in history; and, in the better days that lie ahead, men will speak with pride of our doings.”

The King said that today, the nation gathered to honour the 160,000-plus Allied troops who assembled along the shores where he stood, ready to embark on a mission that did “strike that blow for freedom”, one that would later be recorded as “the greatest amphibious operation in history”.

He said: “Those who gathered here in Portsmouth would never forget the sight.

“It was by far the largest military fleet the world has ever known. Yet all knew that both victory and failure were possible, and none could know their fate.

“Aircrew flying overhead, sailors manning warships; or troops in assault craft battering their way through the stormy swell to the shore; whether dropping by parachute, landing in a wooden glider, or taking that terrible leap of faith onto the beaches... all must have questioned whether they would survive and how they would respond when faced with such mortal danger.”

The King quotes the poet Keith Douglas, who was killed in action three days after writing about the the embarkation.

Mr Douglas wrote: “Actors waiting in the wings of Europe we already watch the lights on the stage and listen to the colossal overture begin.

“For us entering at the height of the din it will be hard to hear our thoughts, hard to gauge how much our conduct owes to fear or fury.”

The King said: “At this remove, eight decades later, it is a near impossible task to imagine the emotion of that day: the pride of being part of so great an enterprise, the anxiety of in some way not coming up to scratch, and the fear of that day being their last.”

He described how he had met several veterans recently, each of whom remembered, “with such heartbreaking clarity the sight of those many soldiers lying on the beach, who drowned before they could even engage in combat”.

The King said that such stories of courage, resilience and solidarity “cannot fail to move us, to inspire us, and to remind us of what we owe to that great wartime generation – now, tragically, dwindling to so few”.

He said it was “our privilege” to hear their testimony, adding: “But our role is not purely passive: it is our duty to ensure that we, and future generations, do not forget their service and their sacrifice in replacing tyranny with freedom. Our rights, and the liberty won at such terrible cost, bring with them responsibilities to others in the exercise of that liberty.

“The Allied actions of that day ensured the forces of freedom secured, first, a toehold in Normandy, then liberated France, and ultimately, the whole of Europe from the stranglehold of a brutal totalitarianism.”

The monarch described the “truly collective” effort of the Allied victory and the many who contributed from so many different countries and religions.

“As we give thanks for all those who gave so much to win the victory, whose fruits we still enjoy to this day, let us, once again, commit ourselves always to remember, cherish and honour those who served that day and to live up to the freedom they died for by balancing rights with civic responsibilities to our country,” he said. “For we are all, eternally, in their debt.”

It comes amid fears young people are increasingly unaware of the sacrifices made by the wartime generation.

A recent survey by The Commonwealth War Graves Commission found only 48 per cent of people aged 18 to 34 recognised D-Day as the date that Allied forces landed on the beaches in Normandy on June 6, 1944. This rose to 59 per cent when surveyed across all age groups.

One in five (21 per cent) of young people admitted they did not know what D-Day was at all, while 12 per cent believed it was “the day that Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces unconditionally”.

Queen moved to tears as King calls on nation to never forget service of D-Day generation (2024)
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