Politicians and veterans take part in D-Day ceremony

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined the Prince of Wales, US President Barack Obama and French leader Nicolas Sarkozy to mark the 65th D-Day anniversary today.

They gathered at the Franco American-led remembrance service set amidst the graves of thousands of dead US servicemen in Colleville-sur-Mer in Normandy, France.

Mr Brown put aside the political turmoil of a chaotic cabinet reshuffle and spate of resignations to represent Britain's role in ensuring June 6, 1944 became the greatest military victory in history.

But France has been heavily criticised for its Franco-American focus for the 65th anniversary, overshadowing the important role played by British and Canadian forces.

The Prince's last-minute visit was hastily arranged following claims the Queen had been snubbed by the French.

The Union flag was notably absent from the ceremonial ground at Colleville., which was dominated by the flags of France and the US. But standard bearers carried the Allies' flags, which included the Union flag.

Thousands of war graves were instead decorated with both a French and US flag with the symbol of the two nations also flying at full mast above the ceremony.

A documentary about the deadly invasion played to the thousands of guests before the ceremony adopted a distinctly US slant focusing on the American casualties, memorials and the US struggle to advance the front line.

Little mention was made of the British servicemen and military chiefs who played key roles and lost their lives in the Normandy campaign.

Mr Brown and the Prince had earlier attended a remembrance service at Bayeux Cathedral.

They smiled and chatted after taking their seats.

During the service Mr Brown seemed agitated, constantly fidgeting in his seat.

His wife Sarah, wearing a brown checked dress, accompanied the Prime Minister to the event, organised by the Royal British Legion.

Bob Ainsworth, appointed Defence Secretary yesterday after the resignation of John Hutton, also joined the service which Mr Hutton had been due to attend.

Chief of the Defence Staff Sir Jock Stirrup and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon were also present for the service, which saw the 13th century Norman Gothic church filled with Normandy veterans, serving servicemen and women and sea, Army and air cadets.

The Prince was the first to lay a wreath. The circle of poppies with white carnations forming a fleur de lys - the Prince's emblem - bore the message: "In grateful and everlasting memory - Charles."

Mr Brown also laid a wreath in the cathedral, which was followed by a floral tribute from Mr Fillon.

The service was accompanied by music from The King's Division Band.

Afterwards the Prince, Mr Ainsworth, Sir Jock and Mr Fillon travelled to nearby Bayeux cemetery where the Normandy Veterans Association held a moving service among the graves of fallen British soldiers who gave their lives during the campaign to free Europe from Nazi occupation.

Mr Brown was not able to attend as he was hosting a reception for veterans at a hotel in Bayeux.

Hundreds of Normandy veterans paraded into the cemetery to remember the bravery and sacrifice of the troops who landed in northern France from June 6, 1944 onwards.

Thousands of family, friends and well-wishers from Britain, France and other European countries applauded them as the men marched in the warm sunshine.

Children from St Joseph's School, in Hendon, north London, also greeted the veterans with signs saying "The Young Do Care" and "Thank you".

The day, which had started with cloudy skies, was so warm by the time the service began that one standard bearer fainted and had to be carried away for treatment.

The Prince and Mr Fillon were among those who laid dozens of wreaths as the service remembered those who gave their lives in the name of freedom.

The crowds formed a circle with some standing among the graves, several veterans resting a hand on top of the headstones as if to include their lost colleagues in the event.

During the service, the many cadets present pledged to continue remembering D-Day when the veterans themselves were unable to continue making the pilgrimage to Normandy.

The service also included a prayer for the troops currently serving the Queen.

After the service, the Prince spent about 30 minutes meeting veterans and cadets who cheered and clapped him as he walked around the cemetery.

Many said they were thrilled he had attended after the French authorities failed to invite the Queen.

Peter Lennard, a troop commander with 30th Corps Anti Tank Regiment on D-Day, said afterwards: "It was lovely to meet him.

"I was so fed up about it. I felt like saying to him 'how's your mum?"'

Mr Lennard, 92, from Maidstone, Kent, was on the first assault on D-Day, landing on Sword Beach at 7.15am.

Today he used a mobility scooter although he stood to meet the Prince, and said: "I arrived in a tank and I'm going in a scooter."

Frederick Wright, 88, of Beccles, Suffolk, was in a wheelchair and said he had apologised to the Prince for being unable to stand up to greet him.

He was a sapper with 7th Armoured Division and spent much of D-Day waiting on a boat watching the smoke and explosions come up from the beaches. He later landed at Gold Beach.

Major General Tony Richardson, the president of the Normandy Veterans Association who served with the 147th Essex Yeomanry on D-Day, said today's service had been "absolutely tremendous".

"The Prince of Wales is terrific. He managed to speak to so many people, so many veterans and shook so many hands.

"It's wonderful to see so many veterans here. We are getting a little bit older but we remember everything that happened 65 years ago even if we have difficulty remembering what happened yesterday."

Mr Obama looked relaxed as he and his wife Michelle, dressed in white dress and jacket with a gold belt, arrived in Colleville by helicopter to a brass band playing a composition of rousing 1940s military music.

Mr Sarkozy was accompanied by his wife Carla Bruni Sarkozy wearing a white short-sleeved dress, black jacket and matching belt.

Mr Brown sang along as God Save the Queen was amongst national anthems played to the thousands gathered in front of the open arc memorial with its 22 foot bronze statue, The Spirit of American Youth Rising From The Waves.

A total of 9,387 US servicemen are buried at Colleville's American Cemetery, 307 whose names are unknown.

Their resting place overlooks Omaha beach, the last and toughest beach to capture on D-Day.

Actor Tom Hanks, who played Captain John H Miller in the film Saving Private Ryan which dramatises the horror of the Omaha landing in its opening sequence, was amongst guests.

The film's director Steven Spielberg was also invited to attend.

Mr Brown said: "65 years ago in the thin light of grey dawn more than 1,000 small craft took to a rough sea on a day that will be forever a day of bravery.

"On that June morning the young of our nations stepped out on those beaches below and into history.

"As long as freedom lives their debts will never die."

He added: "On D-Day the sounds of liberation on the march were heard across Europe."

Mr Brown said it was an "honour" to speak for the British people on this day which marks the "triumph of right over wrong, truth over lies".

He said Europe and America were allies "not for a season but for centuries" and added: "In June 1944 in this place and at that moment Europe and America came closer together than at any time and any country."

Mr Brown praised British veteran Jack Woods who was presented with the rank of Officer of the Legion d'Honneur, France's highest military distinction, by President Sarkozy during the ceremony.

He said: "I know the whole of Britain will be proud that their veteran is today decorated by President Sarkozy."

He spoke of trouble in Darfur, Burma, Zimbabwe and of poverty and hunger and the legacy of the Second World War.

"How can we say we have achieved all that we set out to do. The promise of peace and justice?" he said.

"There are dreams of liberation still to be realised, commitments still to be redeemed.

"We must be liberators for our generation."

He added: "The beacon of hope that was lit and the liberation of Europe must now lead us on."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game