WE ALL have a duty to carry forward the torch of freedom, Theresa May said yesterday as D-Day heroes who fought to free Europe from the tyranny of Nazi rule were honoured.
The prime minister praised the war generation’s ‘unconquerable spirit’ as she laid the first stone of a memorial to the 22,422 British fighters who died in the Normandy campaign 75 years ago.
She said the invaders took part in ‘one of the greatest battles for freedom this world has ever known’. But she added: ‘They didn’t boast. They didn’t fuss. They served. They laid down their lives so that we might have a better life and build a better world.’
Mrs May said the memorial would also be a symbol of the price paid by French civilians in the war — and would serve as a reminder of ‘our duty to now carry the torch for freedom, for peace and for democracy’.
Mrs May and France’s president Emmanuel Macron unveiled a dramatic sculpture of soldiers that will form the frontispiece to the new memorial in Ver-sur-Mer, overlooking the Gold Beach battleground.
Mr Macron referred to the Brexit talks as he said: ‘Nothing can ever break ties that have been bound in bloodshed and shared values.
‘The debates taking place today cannot affect the strength of our joint history and shared future.’
Mrs May, in one of her final engagements as Tory Party leader, later attended a service at Bayeux Cathedral with Prince Charles and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
It was followed by a procession to Bayeux War Cemetery, where thousands of the soldiers who died on June 6, 1944, are buried. The PM left a message, writing: ‘We shall never forget the sacrifice and service of a heroic generation.’
As thousands of people watched a parade in Arromanches, part of the Gold Beach landing area, US president Donald Trump met American veterans at a cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.
He and US first lady Melania watched a flypast with Mr Macron and wife Brigitte. Among the Bayeux marchers was George Sayer, six, of Chipping Ongar in Essex, proudly wearing the medals of the great-uncle whose name he shares.
The elder George, one of the first to land on Sword Beach, survived the war and had intended to join the procession. But he died 18 months ago, aged 93.