D-Day anniversary marked with socially-distanced ceremony in France

Second World War veterans were also able to watch footage of the new British Normandy Memorial being built.
D-Day anniversary marked with socially-distanced ceremony in France

The 76th anniversary of the D-Day landings has been marked with a socially-distanced ceremony at the graves of fallen war heroes in France.

Compared to 2019’s extensive 75th anniversary commemorations, this year’s remembrance of the crucial 1944 allied invasion of Normandy was vastly scaled back.

The ceremony at the Bayeux Cemetery in Normandy (Prefecture du Calvados-BV/PA)
The ceremony at the Bayeux Cemetery in Normandy (Prefecture du Calvados-BV/PA)

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) said no more than 20 people – including the British Ambassador to France, Edward Llewellyn – attended a “small, but poignant” ceremony at the Bayeux Cemetery in Normandy at midday.

CWGC spokesman Peter Francis said it was a “stark contrast” to the 2019 anniversary event, which saw about 4,000 people mark the occasion.

British Ambassador to France Edward Llewellyn lays a wreath during the ceremony (Prefecture du Calvados-BV/PA)
British Ambassador to France Edward Llewellyn lays a wreath during the ceremony (Prefecture du Calvados-BV/PA)

To support those unable to make the annual pilgrimage to France, the CWGC offered to place tributes at graves and memorials on behalf of veterans and their families.

Local gardeners for the CWGC, which maintains thousands of sites commemorating the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars, placed special markers at its main locations in Normandy to help honour those killed in fighting there.

Winston Churchill’s famous speech being carved at the new British Normandy Memorial (National Memorial Trust/PA)
Winston Churchill’s famous speech being carved at the new British Normandy Memorial (National Memorial Trust/PA)

Meanwhile, Second World War veterans whose anniversary trip to the new British Normandy Memorial was cancelled were provided with footage of the site to mark the day.

More than 70 veterans were due to visit the memorial, which is located near the French town of Ver-sur-Mer.

Instead, the British Memorial Trust released a video on Saturday showing its construction.

Lord Peter Ricketts, chairman of trustees at the Normandy Memorial Trust, said: “We at the trust know how much the veterans and their families were looking forward to visiting the site around the time of the D-Day anniversary to see the memorial taking shape.

“We share their frustration that the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic have made that impossible.

“But the good news is that we are pressing on with real determination to complete the construction, despite all the obstacles.”

The video includes footage of carvers inscribing the words of Sir Winston Church’s speech from June 4 1940, which included the famous line: “We shall fight on the beaches”.

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