THE courage and sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the D-Day landings 75 years ago were honoured today in moving ceremonies on both sides of the Channel.
Prime minister Theresa May, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall gathered with D-Day veterans for special services of remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral and the nearby Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in northern France.
In the UK, the Duke of Cambridge delivered the D-Day address made by his great-grandfather George VI, and met veterans at a ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.
In London, the Duke of Sussex joined six Normandy landings veterans at the Chelsea Pensioners’ annual Founder’s Day Parade.
At the Bayeux cemetery service, 95-year-old Frank Baugh gave his own moving, personal account of how he was a signalman on a landing craft that took 200 troops from 2nd Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry from Newhaven to Sword Beach.
Surrounded by rows and rows of pristine white graves and standing in front of the towering Cross of Sacrifice, the veteran said: ‘My most abiding memory of that day is of seeing our boys. We had been talking to them minutes before they were cut down with machine gun fire…
‘They would fall into the water, floating face down, and we couldn’t get them out.
‘We couldn’t help them and that is my most abiding memory and I can’t forget it.’
He finished his emotional speech with ‘Thank you for listening’ and a salute.
Hundreds of people had earlier lined the streets of Bayeux to clap and cheer veterans as they paraded from the cathedral to the nearby cemetery.
Prince Charles and Mrs May were among those who placed wreaths of poppies at the cemetery’s central cross to honour the fallen.
Bayeux, close to the northern French coast, was the first town to be liberated after the Allied forces’ invasion.
Earlier a service of remembrance was also held in the city’s gothic cathedral.
The 1,000-strong congregation, including Charles, Camilla, Mrs May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, defence secretary Penny Mordaunt, first minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, declared in unison ‘We shall remember them’, before a two-minute silence.
US troops were also honoured when president Trump, first lady Melania and French president Emmanuel Macron attended the US commemorations at Omaha Beach in Colleville-sur-Mer.
Mr Trump told veterans: ‘Our debt to you is everlasting.’
Early this morning, Mrs May and Mr Macron paid their respects at Ver-Sur-Mer, at the inauguration of the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach where many of the troops arrived on D-Day.
Funded by the Normandy Memorial Trust, the monument will list the names of all 22,442 members of the British armed forces who died in the Normandy campaign in summer 1944.
Mrs May, completing one of her last engagements as PM, said: ‘Standing here, as the waves wash quietly on to the shore, it’s almost impossible to grasp the raw courage that it must have taken that day to leap out from landing craft and into the surf — despite the fury of battle.’
She added: ‘If one day can be said to have determined the fate of generations to come — in France, in Britain, in Europe and the world — that day was June 6, 1944.’
At the National Memorial Arboretum, Prince William laid a wreath at the Normandy Campaign Memorial, with the personal message: ‘In memory of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We will remember them.’
The duke, giving George VI’s speech, said: ‘This time the challenge is not to fight to survive but to fight to win the final victory for the good cause.’
Prince Harry praised the efforts of the D-Day veterans being cared for at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, saying he was honoured to be in their presence.
The start of the day was marked in France at 7.25am local time by lone piper Major Trevor Macey-Lillie, of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Scottish Gunners), playing a lament on the remaining Mulberry harbour in the town of Port Winston.
This signalled the minute the invasion began and the moment the first British soldier landed on Gold Beach.