Today marks a momentous occasion across the world, as it is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Invasions. World leaders, including Her Majesty The Queen, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Putin, have flocked to France as part of the commemoration ceremonies to mark the brave men who sacrificed their lives all those years ago. However, at the same time, many of the meetings taking place between world leaders have been focused on the Ukrainian crisis.
The Queen has so far led the tributes to the ‘immense and heroic endeavour’ of the 150,000 Allied troops who stormed the beaches of Nazi-occupied France. Surrounded by thousands of war graves, she bowed as she laid a wreath during a poignant service of remembrance in Bayeux, the first town in Normandy to be liberated from Hitler’s vice-grip after the original invasion on 6 June 1944. Queen Elizabeth is the only one of the heads of state in Normandy today to have served during the second world war. She was a member of the auxiliary territorial service, the women’s branch of the British army, in which she was a junior commander.
Ten miles away President Obama spoke at the American War Cemetery in Coleville-sur-Mer, where almost 10,000 US troops who died in the Second World War are buried. Surrounded by veterans, he said that they and their comrades ‘turned the tide in that common struggle for freedom’ on D-Day.
The events surrounding the commemoration of D-Day began just after midnight with a vigil at Pegasus Bridge, followed by fireworks that were watched by hundreds of spectators. One veteran, who originally parachuted onto the beaches at Normandy 70 years ago, parachuted again at the age of 89 by tandem! For many of the veterans, however, this will be their final visit to the scene of their exploits as large numbers are in ill health or have used this occasion to say their final goodbyes.