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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
As well as the US President, leaders and representatives from 14 other countries will join the commemorations to honour veterans of the largest amphibious military invasion in history.
Figures from every country that fought alongside the UK will be attending, as well as Prince Charles and members of the Armed 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.
Some 300 D-Day veterans, who are all now aged over 90, will also attend the event in Portsmouth – one of the key embarkation points for the offensive.
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, and is considered a turning point in the Second World War.
The Allied landings, early in the morning of June 6, 1944, on the Normandy beaches marked the start of a long and costly campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation.
Airborne forces parachuted into drop zones across northern France, while ground troops then landed across five assault beaches – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold along the coast and could begin their advance into France.
The commemoration event on Southsea Common in the Hampshire port city will include an hour-long production telling the story of the invasion with testimony from veterans, theatrical performances and live music, as well as a flypast of the Red Arrows and Spitfires.
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.
The letter was in Cptn Skinner's pocket when he landed on Sword Beach, but he was killed the next day, leaving behind his wife and two young daughters.
In her final official appearance as Prime Minister, Mrs May will also give a speech in which she will call for continued Western unity in tackling "new and evolving security threats".
"The Normandy landings 75 years ago were a moment of historic international co-operation," Mrs May will say.
"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.
"But as we confront new and evolving threats to our security, it is more important than ever that we continue to stand together in upholding our shared values and way of life.
"That's why the UK has this week committed our Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and F-35 fighter jets to support the efforts of Nato forces to preserve the security and collective defence of our allies.
"As I host leaders from around the world today to mark this significant moment in our shared history, we will together reflect on the continued importance of the Western alliance for all our countries' security and prosperity.
"And as we unite to pay tribute to those whose bravery and sacrifice on the beaches of Normandy marked a turning point in the Second World War, we will vow never to forget the debt we owe them.
"Their solidarity and determination in the defence of our freedom remains a lesson to us all. And we will continue to stand up for the values of democracy, justice and tolerance that so many died to preserve."
The event will be the first time the UK has hosted this many world leaders outside a formal summit since the 2012 Olympics.
After the commemoration event, the world leaders will then have a reception with the veterans before sitting down to discuss the continued importance of the Western alliance and security.
From the deck of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Mrs May and Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt will then wave off some 300 veterans as they retrace the journey they made across the Channel 75 years ago, followed by a flotilla of Royal Navy vessels.
More than 4,000 personnel will be involved in D-Day events in the UK and France, in what is set to be one of the biggest mobilisations of the UK armed forces in recent history.
On Thursday, Mrs May will commemorate the anniversary in Normandy at the inauguration of a memorial to British servicemen at Ver-sur-Mer, overlooking Gold Beach, as well as attending services of remembrance at the cathedral and cemetery in Bayeux.