D-Day latest: Biden takes swipe at Putin in D-Day speech; read chilling 'in case of failure' letter (2024)

Anniversary events
  • King: Free nations must come together to oppose tyranny
  • Biden takes aim at Putin: War's 'dark forces never fade'
  • Zelenskyy greeted by raucous applause
  • Veteran minesweeper's stern words forRussian president
  • Veteran British Wren, 103, gets France's highest honour
  • Watch: Parachutists recreate D-Day invasion
Revisiting D-Day
  • Chilling letter Eisenhower drafted in case of failure
  • The elite veteran division that may have prevented the collapse of the invasion
  • How the Germans responded and clues to why they failed
  • Veterans' stories:My ears bled as I bombarded shore|Shrapnel still lodged in my head nearly killed me
  • Watch: How the D-Day landings unfolded
  • Timelines: The lead-up to the landings|What happened across the five D-Day beaches?| The Battle of Normandy
  • Produced byBrad Young


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D-Day anniversary highlights

A number of commemorations have marked the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

Royals, world leaders and veterans gathered in Normandy for a series of ceremonies and events, paying tribute to those who served during the 1944 beach invasion.

The King and the Prince of Wales praised the "bravery and sacrifice" of D-Day veterans who "served at that critical time" as they both made speeches in France today.

Here is a roundup of the highlights from the D-Day anniversary commemorations.


As they increasingly fade away they never want us to forget the freedoms they fought for

By royal correspondent Rhiannon Millsin Normandy

This was the day that the world made a journey to towns across Normandy. Those remarkable stories of bravery and acts of patriotism that have cemented D-Day in our consciousness, touching so many different nations.

From the 13 countries that made up those Allied troops for the landings thousands of people gathered onto those wide sweeping beaches for ceremonial events, others crowded into their towns and villages wanting to say a more personal thank you.

But talking to those who've been here for previous commemorations, they told me that this year has felt different, an added significance, with precious few veterans still with us.

Whether it's been the international diplomatic events which always add that extra focus onto moments like this, or more intimate events up and down the coastline, the elderly have been treated with so much love and respect.

At a ceremony in the small town of Asnelles to unveil a commemorative memorial for those who died from the 47 Royal Marine Commando, I spoke to Norman Ashford, a 99-year-old D-Day veteran from the Royal Marines.

He couldn't speak about what he saw on D-Day. Eventually, he told me he was at least pleased that he had come.

Remarkably, at least three women came up once I'd spoken to him to shake his hand and personally thank him because of what the actions of him and his friends had meant to their relatives all those 80 years ago.

As international leaders took to the stage, the veterans have been treated like the real superstars.

But not in their eyes. Repeatedly they want to bring it back to those who weren't there.

The men I met felt lucky to have gone on to have had really fulfilled and happy lives.

They made it home. They managed to have their own families.But their friends, who died on these beaches, they were never able to fulfil those dreams.

Kneeling next to them the veterans I spoketo were quiet, more discrete in their message than the world leaders, but with no less conviction.

As they increasingly fade away they never want us to forget the freedoms that they fought for.


D-Day re-enactment groups say events more important as veterans pass away

D-Day re-enactment groups have said their work to inspire remembrance of the Normandy landings is more important now many of the men involved are now longer with us.

Living history groups have collected garments, artefacts and weaponry to display for educational purposes, while re-enactment groups go a step further in theatrically recreating the event.

Michael Lycett, organiser of the East Yorkshire Regiment Living Group, said the reenactors had become friends with many of the battalion's veterans over the years.

"We have heard their stories first hand and feel well qualified to pass them on. By attending shows and putting on displays we are able to tell their stories to a wide audience.

"This is more important now these men are not here to do so themselves."

The group displays weapons and explosives, as well as a pot of sand from each of the landing beaches and a lump of concrete from the Merville Gun Battery in Normandy.

Glenn Caton, 61, who runs the Suffolk Military Show portraying historical conflicts from the past 1,000 years, said re-enactment is vital for stoking remembrance.

"Unfortunately events such as theD-Daylandings are now becoming confined to the history books, as these significant moments are largely beyond living memory."

He added: "One of the mantras The Suffolk Military Shows has adopted is 'I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand'."


Tearful tribute to friend who saved D-Day soldier's life

Arthur Oborne, 100, paid a tearful tribute to a friend who saved his life on D-Day earlier this afternoon.

He was shot in the lung three days after arriving on Gold Beach and his friend, Walter Gummerson, was killed the next day alongside the rest of his unit.

"I wish I could tell him that I have never taken his sacrifice for granted and will always remember him and our friends," said Mr Oborne from Portishead, while speaking at the UK national commemorative event in Ver-sur-Mer, Normandy.

"So Gummy, thank you my old friend."

Afterwards he said: "I had no problems talking but it was a bit emotional, I was a bit upset and teary.

"I think everyone did well at the service, I was a bit apprehensive at the start but I wanted to speak."


Veteran recalls 'deafening' sound of battleships and German guns

Royal Marine Jim Grant recalled the sheer noise of the assault, which left him partially deaf.

Attacking Sword Beach via landing craft, he was escorting Canadian forces across to Normandy.

"The noise from the guns, the German guns and the guns from the battleships who had started firing over our heads, was deafening," he said.


'I'm no hero': The volunteer who kept infantry guns loaded on Sword Beach

Behind the infantry storming the beaches of Normandy were soldiers tasked with keeping guns loaded, vehicles fuelled and troops fed.

Jack Mortimer, 100, was one such driver and dispatch rider, who "worked like hell" to keep his comrades on Sword Beach fighting effectively.

He described driving "frightened to death" up the beach in a jeep with a trailer, with hundreds of rockets flying overhead.

"Driving up that beach, the noise, the smoke, frightened to death, hearing guns going off and seeing thousands of soldiers and ships on either side, it was organised army chaos," said the former 12th Ordnance Beach detachment volunteer.

"Our job was to organise the beach so we could help anyone who got in trouble coming on shore.

"A gun can't fire without ammunition, a tank can't go without petrol and men need food, so we worked like hell to keep the stores equipped."

Mr Mortimer said he will be travelling back to Normandy for the anniversary.

"When I go there, I cry.

"I don't think I'm a hero, the heroes are the ones who didn't come home, and they should always be remembered.

"It is very emotional, of course, to remember those who went and didn't come back."


'Waterproofing weapons before fighting through death I have never discussed'

The most ambitious amphibious operation in history required the waterproofing of weapons and other sensitive equipment

Among those ensuring the guns worked when they landed on Gold Beach was gunner Donald Howkins, who spent the month before D-Day in Weybridge learning how to protect them from the sea.

He said he struggles to remember fighting on the beaches, but battles in the nearby village of Tilly-sur-Seulles were not soon going to leave him.

"The destruction of a town and death in such a way I have never discussed it," he said.

"It was also here that my good friend from my hometown was badly wounded and his war was over."

From there, they "zigged and zagged northward through Normandy" and into Belgium.

"During these first months we lost some good men."


In pictures: Worlds leaders gather on Omaha beach

Royals, world leaders and veterans gathered on Omaha Beach today to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

As veterans arrived at the international commemoration service, world leaders applauded each of them asthey were pushed past them on wheelchairs, some of them smilingproudly and saluting.


Veteran, 99, never knew if his friend survived D-Day

Ralph McClure, 99, who was a signalman on board the HMS LCT 952, has been speaking about the moment he lost a friend on D-Day.

The grandfather of actress Vicky McClure said: "There was a flash where he was standing and from then till now I've tried to find out if he made it.

"I feel he might not have done.

"I think a lot about him - we used to have a lot of good times together."

The veteran left Newhaven on D-Day in a tank landing ship and took tanks and supplies to the troops on the ground in Normandy.

He was there for six weeks and remembers seeing Winston Churchill arriving on the beaches in France.

D-Day latest: Biden takes swipe at Putin in D-Day speech; read chilling 'in case of failure' letter (2024)
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