D-Day: 70 year anniversary commemorations

The Queen arrived in France yesterday for a 3-day state visit arranged to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Today, 6th June marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, which were to signal the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

As guest of honour of the D-Day anniversary events, the sovereign’s schedule is jam packed. This evening, following the official ceremony marking the landings in Normandy, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will attend a state banquet at the Presidential Elysée Palace in Paris organised in her honour. Guests will enjoy foie gras, lamb and a variety of French cheeses. A fluent French speaker, the Queen will be seated next to the French President, François Hollande. The playlist is set to include Offenbach, Purcell, Michel Legrand and even The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine. The choice of music is (partly) inspired by melodies enjoyed a century ago at a similar meeting with the then French President Raymond Poincaré and the Queen’s grandparents King George V and Queen Mary.

Other members of the Royal Family including Prince Charles, his wife Camilla along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will also be attending commemorative events in France and the UK over the next few days.

Around 650 British veterans and 350 from the US are expected to join commemorations. This year’s D-Day anniversary is highly poignant as it is likely to be the last significant gathering of those who took part in the landings. Even the youngest veterans are well into their eighties. Although the surrounding towns have French names, the five Allied landing beaches are still known as Utah, Omaha, Juno, Gold and Sword. About 160,000 Allied troops including British, American and Canadian men crossed the English Channel in the initial D-Day assault on 6 June 1944. As intended, within 11 months of the D-Day landings, the Allied forced defeated Nazi Germany.

D-Day events

A range of commemorative have been organised in the Normandy region for the first 2 weeks of June. Several exhibitions will also be open throughout the summer months.

Thursday 5th June: a huge firework display, which was be visible from 24 beachfront towns. Mass parachute jumps near Ranville, close to Pegasus Bridge.

Friday 6th June: official ceremony to be attended by a host of world leaders and representatives including the Queen, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is to be held at Sword, the most eastern of the five beaches, and assaulted by the 3rd British Infantry Division with some 29,000 men landing there.

Saturday 7th June: a massive picnic on Omaha Beach in the evening, featuring a Glenn Miller tribute band. Elsewhere, Bayeux, which became the first town in France to be liberated on 7th June 1944, will host a Liberation Ball and an open-air jazz and gospel concert. 1940s flash mobs will be dancing in the streets of Carentan. The French equivalent of the RAF’s Red Arrows, the Patrouille de France will perform above Arromanches at 4pm.

Sunday 8th June: The Great Liberation vehicle parade – ‘A tribute to the British XXX Corps’ and a parachute display at La Fière with men dressed in original uniforms.

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