The Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles led Britain’s representation at the D-Day remembrance ceremonies in Normandy, in a weekend of overwhelming poignancy and splendour paying tribute to the tremendous sacrifices of June 6, 1944.
Thousands of war veterans took pride of place at the 60th anniversary of Operation Overlord, which saw hundreds of thousands of Allied troops landing on the beaches of Normandy. It marked the start of a three-month military push that proved a turning point in World War II but cost some 250,000 lives.
A score of heads of state and government attended the events, which combined the pomp and ceremony of mass parachute drops, religious services and spectacular flyovers with simple moments of remembrance by individuals. Britain’s Tony Blair and U.S. President George W Bush were among the dignitaries present, and for the first time the German Chancellor – Gerhard Schroeder - attended.
In a speech to veterans at Arromanches, the Queen stressed that the occasion was “a celebration of one of the most significant military successes of the Second World War, but it is also a commemoration of the sacrifices of so many of your comrades... Their sacrifice must never be forgotten.”
The Queen, who served briefly herself as a mechanic and driver during the war, continued: “My father broadcast to the nation on that day, and said, ‘Once more a supreme test has to be faced. This time the challenge is not to fight to survive, but to fight to win the final victory for the good cause.’”
Prince Philip, himself a war veteran, delivered a reading at a service at the Bayeux War Cemetery. He, the Queen and Prince Charles attended several commemoration events, clearly delighted to mingle with the veterans, now mainly in their 80s, but as clearly moved by the enormous poignancy of the occasion.