Major puts D-Day plan into action

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JOHN MAJOR launched a million- pound programme yesterday which he hoped would 'unite the nation' - the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June 1944. 'The overwhelming cost will fall on the Government,' he said at the Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, south- east London. 'Not a huge and outrageous sum, but in the low figures of millions. This is a unique event.'

The celebration has already provoked some controversy over the decision not to invite the Germans to participate in commemorating the D-Day landings, although they are expected to participate in commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the war's end in May next year.

'This is essentially an occasion for the wartime allies,' Mr Major said. Chancellor Kohl of Germany had been invited to join in the commemoration of the June anniversary but was unable to attend. Asked if he expected unofficial German visitors at the ceremonies in Normandy in the summer, Mr Major said: 'I'm not expecting an unofficial German presence, no.'

Field Marshal Lord Edwin Bramall, chairman of the Imperial War Museum and a member of the organising committee, who was a young officer in the D- Day landings, was more explicit: 'We've got to take into account the French feelings . . . because it was a landing in an occupied territory.' He thought that the proper place for German representation was in commemorating the final peace in Europe.

Viscount Cranborne, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, said that only nations that had contributed 'formed units' to the D- Day units had been invited to participate - the United States, Canada, France and Poland. The Poles, who until a few years ago were members of Warsaw Pact forces arrayed against Nato, will be sending paratroops to form part of a 1,000-strong force which will jump into the area seized by Allied paratroops before the main invasion from the sea.

When Overlord was launched in June 1944, Britain was the base for 3.5 million troops - half British, 1.5 million from the US and 220,000 other Allies. The initial operation involved 1 million troops. In its complexity and ingenuity, it was unquestionably the greatest combined operation in the history of war.

(Photographs omitted)