Home UK World Politics US Ocean Rescue Science & Tech Business Ents & Arts Offbeat Analysis Opinion Sky Views Videos Weather Watch Live Queen joins world leaders to mark courage of D-Day veterans in Portsmouth Events at Portsmouth will tell the story of the build-up to D-Day through music performance and readings. By Alistair Bunkall, defence and security correspondent
image/svg+xml Why you can trust Sky News The Queen will lead a host of world leaders to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day at a special event on the south coast of England later today.
In a message to mark the occasion, she has praised the “immense bravery, ingenuity and determination” of troops who set sail to defeat Nazi forces.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the event, as well as prime ministers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Denmark.
The Queen added: “At this time of reflection for veterans of the conflict and their families, I am sure that these commemorations will provide an opportunity to honour those who made extraordinary sacrifices to secure freedom in Europe. They must never be forgotten.”
The Queen will address the crowd, as will the Prime Minister who will read a letter written by Captain Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps to his wife on the eve of D-Day, in which he expresses his love for his family and his fears for the future.
She will be joined by the leaders of 15 nations, including Theresa May, Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Justin Trudeau. Senior members of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales, will also be in attendance.
They will be joined by D-Day veterans and serving personnel to marking the turning point in the history of Europe thousands of soldiers set sail to invade occupied France.
“It is thanks to their courage and that of other allies that today Europe is free and at peace,” the Prime Minister has said.
The events in Portsmouth will tell the story of the build-up to D-Day through a programme of live music, performance and readings. A Royal Naval frigate will fire a gun salute before a flypast of historic aircraft including the Red Arrows and Spitfire.
Commenting on the two days of commemorations, the Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “D-Day 75 is an unprecedented tribute to our Second World War generation. These commemorations will give young and old the opportunity to learn why we should never forget the debt we owe for the peace and freedom we now enjoy.”
At the same time, an extraordinary display of 35 World War Two Dakota aircraft will take off from Duxford airfield in Cambridgeshire, escorted by Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs.
They will cross the channel in formation and drop paratroopers into Normandy, re-enacting events of 1944 when thousands landed under the cover of darkness behind enemy lines to prepare the ground for the amphibious invasion.
George Ciampas job during D-Day was to collect and bury the dead. 75 years on, he recalls what it was like. The Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 was the largest amphibious assault ever launched. More than 75,000 British, Canadian and other Commonwealth troops landed on the beaches alongside the United States and the Free French, in an Allied invasion force of more than 130,000. Another 7,900 British troops were landed by air. Supporting the invasion were more than 7,000 ships and 11,000 aircraft.
“It is fitting that we take huge pride in the parts played by our forebears in the greatest amphibious operation in history,” said the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter.
“D-Day was the last big operation of the war to be dominated by British commanders, British planning and British genius. Rightly this week we will focus on the sacrifice of those who gave their lives assaulting the beaches on D-Day.”
A proclamation promising to ensure the “unimaginable horror” of the Second World War doesnt happen again has been signed by the 16 countries attending the D-Day commemorations.
It reads: “We stand together today to honour the memory of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on D-Day, and those many millions of men and women who lost their lives during the Second World War, the largest conflict in human history.
“We affirm that it is our shared responsibility to ensure that the unimaginable horror of these years is never repeated.
Donald Trump will join the Queen and Theresa May in Portsmouth to remember the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, on the final day of his UK state visit.
“Over the last 75 years, our nations have stood up for peace in Europe and globally, for democracy, tolerance and the rule of law.
“We re-commit today to those shared values because they support the stability and prosperity of our nations and our people. We will work together as allies and friends to defend these freedoms whenever they are threatened.”
"And it is right that at the heart of today's commemorations are the veterans who fought to secure the liberty and the peace that we now enjoy.
The ceremony in Portsmouth will bring to an end President Trumps three day State Visit to the UK. He will then travel to Ireland where he will stay overnight and then onto Normandy for further events on Thursday, the anniversary of the invasion.
A vast security operation to safeguard the US president and other dignitaries, including Theresa May and the Queen, has been put into place on Southsea Common, the venue for the centrepiece of the British ceremonies to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings.
Miles of fencing, roadblocks and checkpoints have been set up and residents have been told not to aim long-lens cameras at Wednesdays event from nearby flats or fly drones over the common.
D-Day was the start of Operation Overlord which saw the Allied forces launch a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France.
Read more Protests are planned both at the edge of the ring of steel and a mile from the common in Portsmouths Guildhall Square, but the hope from most is that the circus around Trump will not overshadow the principal purpose – to honour the sacrifice of those who took part in D-day.
Figures from every country that fought alongside the UK will be attending, as well as Prince Charles and members of the Armed Forces.
At the D-day Story museum in Southsea, its manager, James Batney, said the buildup to the big day had been moving and wonderful.
Weve had a real mix of people of all ages and all nationalities arriving, he said. The other day, a group of veterans was sitting out in the sun. Children were coming up to ask for photos. Then a coach full of American tourists stopped. Every one of them that got off the bus went and shook hands with the veterans. This is the last big date when well have so many veterans.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Miles of security fencing has been erected around Southsea Common in Portsmouth. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Ernie Nelson, a 95-year-old veteran from Cheshire, said it was first class to be back in Portsmouth for the 75th anniversary. Nelson was a wireless telegraphist on HMS Scourge, which escorted convoys to Sword beach and provided fire support to troops when they landed.
A lot of memories come back to me, thats the trouble, he said. I get flashbacks, I remember the people I was with at that time. His daughter, Susan Conneely, said this was not the time or place for demonstrations: Its all about remembrance, its not about politics.
Letitia Abbott, a US citizen, was in Portsmouth to remember her father, Jack, who landed at Omaha beach on D-day. He was deeply affected, she said. He would talk about it but he couldnt do some things, such as go to the movies, for years after. It was just too much for him. Im here because I loved my father and I wanted my son [also Jack] to come here and understand it all.
Abbott said it was right that the US president should be present but she was sad it was Trump who was in office. This is the guy with bone spurs who couldnt fight in Vietnam.
The event on Southsea Common will tell the story of the buildup to D-day through live music, performance and testimonials. Those not invited will be able to watch on big screens on the common, although some residents feel they have been pushed away from it because of the security.
Hundreds of veterans will attend the ceremony and up to 300 will board a cruise ship, the MV Boudicca, later on to retrace their route to Normandy 75 years ago accompanied – as they were then – by a flotilla of Royal Navy vessels.
The leader of Portsmouth council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said he hoped the protesters would stay away from the common and the Tory group leader in the city, Donna Jones, said demonstrations would make the event about Trump rather than the veterans.