Britain plans 'unprecedented' D-Day event for queen, leaders
Queen Elizabeth II is set to join British Prime Minister Theresa May, other world leaders and World War II veterans on the southern coast of England on Wednesday to honor the Allied soldiers who risked and gave their lives in large numbers 75 years ago for the D-Day invasion that helped liberate Europe from Nazi Germany.
WWII British veteran Mervyn Kresh holds a poppy on an inscribed wooden Star of David during a remembrance ceremony at The Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer on June 4, 2019, ahead of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. [Photo: AFP/Damien Meyer]
Britain promised "unprecedented commemorations" in Portsmouth. Testimony from some of the more than 300 World War II veterans expected there and "one of the greatest British military spectacles in recent years" featuring a flyby of 24 vintage and modern military aircraft on the schedule.
But the event, which kicks off two days of D-Day anniversary observances, is intended to be a tribute to the soldiers who shaped history during the dangerous mission to reach beachheads and fight in German-occupied France.
WWII British veterans stand before a remembrance ceremony at The Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer on June 4, 2019, as part of events for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. [Photo: AFP/Damien Meyer]
"The Normandy landings 75 years ago were a moment of historic international cooperation," May said. "And it is right that at the heart of today's commemorations are the veterans who fought to secure the liberty and the peace that we now enjoy."
Planning to attend are presidents, prime ministers and other representatives of the countries that fought alongside Britain in Normandy: the United States, Canada, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.
The leader of the country that was the enemy in 1944, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also was invited.
Men dressed as GIs sit on a DUKW (colloquially known as Duck), a six-wheel-drive amphibious modification of the 2 1/2-ton CCKW trucks used by the US military during World War II, on June 4, 2019 off the shores of Arromanches-les-Bains, as part of events for the 75th anniversary of D-Day landings. [Photo: AFP/Alain Jocard]
In Portsmouth, dignitaries plan to read from historical documents linked to D-Day. In May's case, it's a letter written by Capt. Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps to his wife, Gladys, on June 3, 1944, a few days before the invasion. It was in his pocket when he landed in Normandy.
"I can imagine you in the garden having tea with Janey and Anne getting ready to put them to bed," wrote Skinner, who was killed the day after D-Day. "Although I would give anything to be back with you, I have not yet had any wish at all to back down from the job we have to do."
Reenactors drive a tank during a parade not far from Sainte Mere Eglise, northern France, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing, on June 4, 2019. [Photo: AFP/Federico Scoppa]
The observances will conclude President Donald Trump's state visit to Britain, which the 93-year-old queen hosted. Elizabeth will be accompanied by her son, Prince Charles, at the event.
The focus shifts to France, where commemorations will be held at simple military cemeteries near the Normandy beaches where Allied troops landed and died.