The 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings

From Wednesday 5th June to Thursday 6th June 2024, The King and Queen, joined by other Members of the Royal Family, will remember the sacrifices made by troops during the historic military operation at a series of events to mark the 80th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings.

The King and Queen with President and Madame Macron

Events attended by Members of the Royal Family

Wednesday 5th June 2024

Today, D-Day commemorations began in earnest in Portsmouth and Normandy, with members of the Royal Family attending events to commemorate the sacrifices made by troops 80 years ago as the Battle of Normandy began.

The King at the D-Day Commemorations in Portsmouth

In Portsmouth, The King and Queen, accompanied by The Prince of Wales, attended the UK’s national commemorative event in Portsmouth. The event told some of the countless stories of heroism and bravery through song and performance.

D-Day Commemorations in Portsmouth

Addressing veterans, Heads of State and members of the public at the event, The King said:

The stories of courage, resilience and solidarity which we have heard today, and throughout our lives, cannot fail to move us, to inspire us, and to remind us of what we owe to that great wartime generation.

The Prince of Wales also made a speech reflecting on the thousands of troops, staff and operatives who were making final preparations and facing an uncertain fate this time 80 years ago.

Aircrew flying overhead, sailors manning warships; or troops in assault craft battering their way through the stormy swell to the shore; whether dropping by parachute, landing in a wooden glider, or taking that terrible leap of faith onto the beaches… all must have questioned whether they would survive and how they would respond when faced with such mortal danger.’

Following the event, The King, The Queen and The Prince of Wales met D-Day veterans, who were guests of honour at the event. 

Last month, Their Majesties hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace to hear the stories of these few surviving veterans and to thank them for their service.

Meanwhile, in Normandy, The Princess Royal had a full day of engagements beginning with an event to remember the contribution of Commonwealth troops on D-day. Her Royal Highness unveiled a newly commissioned statue of a Second World War Canadian Royal Regina Rifleman before meeting members of the Regiment at a reception following the event.

The Princess Royal in Normandy

At the Bayeux War Cemetery, The Princess joined Normandy veterans and French representatives at a Royal British Legion Service of Commemoration before attending the annual Service of Remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral. 

Her Royal Highness’s day ended with a moving service and torchlit vigil at Bayeux War Cemetery.

Thursday 6th June 2024

The 6th June marks 60 years since D-Day - the largest seaborne invasion in the history of warfare, involving over 5,000 ships and landing craft to land more than 150,000 troops on five beaches in Normandy. The landings, which ultimately cost the lives of approximately 10,000 Allied and German men, marked the beginning of the liberation of Nazi-occupied north-west Europe - Paris was liberated less than three months later. 

D-Day 80

The King and Queen attended the main commemorative event at the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer organised by the UK Ministry of Defence and the Royal British Legion. 

The King and Queen at DDay80

His Majesty – who is Patron of the Royal British Legion and the Normandy Memorial Trust – spoke at the event, remembering all those who gave their lives for the freedoms enjoyed by future generations.

It is with the most profound sense of gratitude that we remember them, and all those who served at that critical time. We recall the lesson that comes to us, again and again, across the decades: free Nations must stand together to oppose tyranny.

The Prince of Wales was also in Normandy, where he attended the Canadian commemorative ceremony at the Juno Beach Centre meeting Second World War Veterans, as well as Canadian Armed Forces personnel, cadets, and youth representatives. 

The Prince of Wales at DDay 80

At the event, His Royal Highness made a speech and laid a wreath before attending the International commemorative ceremony at Omaha Beach, joining over 25 Heads of State and veterans from around the world in marking this historic D-Day anniversary.

The Prince of Wales at DDay 80

Letters between The King and Churchill

Both King George VI and Winston Churchill wished to observe the D-Day landings at first hand on board one of the Royal Navy ships. However, there was concern that a chance bomb, torpedo or mine could hit the ships they were on, leading to one or both being killed.

Here, The King and Churchill are seen with members of the Prime Minister's Cabinet.

Aware of this possibility, the King reluctantly decided that he should stay in Britain, and wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to do the same. After a further letter, Winston Churchill grudgingly gave way to the King’s wishes and agreed not to go to the Normandy beaches. 

Within two weeks both had crossed the Channel to inspect the landing sites. Churchill arrived on 12 June, and was met by Gen. Bernard Montgomery, Ground Forces Commander-in-Chief. The King arrived on 16 June, again met by Montgomery who explained how the battle was progressing.

31 May 1944: George VI writes to Churchill explaining that ‘I have come to the conclusion that it would not be right for either you or I to be where we planned to be on D day…We should both I know love to be there. But in all seriousness, I would ask you to reconsider your plan’.

2 June 1944: George VI writes to Churchill, who still seemed determined to go, asking him ‘most earnestly to consider the whole question again & not let your personal wishes, which I very well understand, lead you to depart from your own high standard of duty to the State’.

3 June 1944: Churchill grudgingly gave way to the King’s wishes and agreed to stay in Britain, writing ‘Since Your Majesty does me the honour to be so much concerned about my personal safety on this occasion, I must defer to Your Majesty’s wishes and indeed commands’.

 

What were the D-Day landings?

The D-Day landings were a huge military operation involving 7,000 ships and landing craft, 156,000 men and 10,000 vehicles which attacked German Forces in Normandy on 6 June 1944.

The landings, which ultimately cost the lives of approximately 10,000 Allied and German men, marked the beginning of the liberation of Nazi-occupied north-west Europe - Paris was liberated less than three months later. 

The King's speech on D-Day

Four years ago, our Nation and Empire stood alone against an overwhelming enemy, with our backs to the wall. Tested as never before in our history, in God's providence we survived that test; the spirit of the people, resolute, dedicated, burned like a bright flame, lit surely from those unseen fires which nothing can quench.

Now once more a supreme test has to be faced. This time, the challenge is not to fight to survive but to fight to win the final victory for the good cause. Once again what is demanded from us all is something more than courage and endurance; we need a revival of spirit, a new unconquerable resolve. After nearly five years of toil and suffering, we must renew that crusading impulse on which we entered the war and met its darkest hour. We and our Allies are sure that our fight is against evil and for a world in which goodness and honour may be the foundation of the life of men in every land.

That we may be worthily matched with this new summons of destiny, I desire solemnly to call my people to prayer and dedication. We are not unmindful of our own shortcomings, past and present. We shall ask not that God may do our will, but that we may be enabled to do the will of God: and we dare to believe that God has used our Nation and Empire as an instrument for fulfilling his high purpose.

After nearly five years of toil and suffering, we must renew that crusading impulse on which we entered the war and met its darkest hour.

I hope that throughout the present crisis of the liberation of Europe there may be offered up earnest, continuous and widespread prayer. We who remain in this land can most effectively enter into the sufferings of subjugated Europe by prayer, whereby we can fortify the determination of our sailors, soldiers and airmen who go forth to set the captives free.

The Queen joins with me in sending you this message. She well understands the anxieties and cares of our womenfolk at this time and she knows that many of them will find, as she does herself, fresh strength and comfort in such waiting upon God. She feels that many women will be glad in this way to keep vigil with their menfolk as they man the ships, storm the beaches and fill the skies.

At this historic moment surely not one of us is too busy, too young or too old to play a part in a nationwide, perchance a worldwide, vigil of prayer as the great crusade sets forth. If from every place of worship, from home and factory, from men and women of all ages and many races and occupations, our intercessions rise, then, please God, both now and in a future not remote, the predictions of an ancient Psalm may be fulfilled: "The Lord will give strength unto his people: the Lord will give his people the blessing of peace."

 

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