BBC prepares pounds 1m D-Day operation: Live TV to cover 13 hours of Normandy events. Maggie Brown reports

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The Independent Online
THE BBC is to mount its biggest outside broadcasting operation since the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1981, for the Normandy D-Day anniversary next month.

There will be live coverage on BBC Breakfast News as the dawn landings are re-enacted, special News '44 daily bulletins, and live coverage as 7,000 British veterans assemble on the Arromanches beach, where many came ashore on D-Day - 6 June, 1944.

The corporation has been working closely with the Ministry of Defence, rather than with the Government's abortive plans for celebration, and it has not had to adjust either the tone or content of its coverage, the live part of which will last 13 hours.

To involve children and teenagers, who know little of the event, there will also be a Blue Peter Special and a BBC education programme on the crucial role maps played in the invasion.

Phil Gilbert, BBC head of events, said: 'We are very clear we are following the commemorative events.' He added there would be 55 cameras alone in Portsmouth, to cover the opening commemoration, services and fly past on Southsea Common: this event, Beating the Retreat, on Saturday 4 June, will symbolise the gathering of the invasion armada.

Much of the BBC live coverage, costing in excess of pounds 1m, is being broadcast around the world. It is also working with the Royal Navy to crack a key tehnical problem - how to devise a method of transmitting live footage of a service in mid- Channel on Sunday 5 June.

It cannot guarantee a stable uplink from a ship, which may be rolling, so it is beaming the broadcast signal to a Sea King helicopter hovering at 2,500ft. That will then pass the signal to a second Sea King, which will pass it to the mainland. The technique has not been used before.

Mr Wyatt, who yesterday launched the programme plans on HMS Belfast on the river Thames, in the presence of veterans who have assisted with two documentaries about the event, said: 'Fifty years ago it was radio which told the story to the people. Our job in television is to reach different audiences, from veterans and veterans' wives and offspring, to youngsters and children who know little, I fear, of these events'.

Charles Wheeler, the journalist and a D-Day veteran, is presenting two BBC Bristol documentaries, D-Day: Turning the Tide, on Sunday, 5 June, and D-Day: The Battle for Normandy, on 6 June, which tells the story through eye-witness accounts and also deals with the question of why the invasion forces faltered at Caen.

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