A speech by The King at the D-Day National Commemoration British Normandy Memorial, Ver-sur-Mer, on the 80th anniversary of D-Day

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On the beaches of Normandy, in the seas beyond and in the skies overhead, our Armed Forces carried out their duty with a humbling sense of resolve and determination: qualities so characteristic of that remarkable wartime generation.

Monsieur le Président, nous vous sommes reconnaissants de nous honorer de votre présence ici aujourd’hui, au mémorial britannique de Normandie.

Eighty years ago, on D-Day, 6th June 1944, our Nation and those which stood alongside us faced what my grandfather, King George VI, described as “The Supreme Test”. How fortunate we were, and the entire free World, that a generation of men and women in the United Kingdom and other Allied nations did not flinch when the moment came to face that test.

On the beaches of Normandy, in the seas beyond and in the skies overhead, our Armed Forces carried out their duty with a humbling sense of resolve and determination: qualities so characteristic of that remarkable wartime generation. Very many of them never came home. They lost their lives on the D-Day landing grounds or in the many battles that followed. 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.

As the years pass, the veterans of the Normandy campaign become ever-fewer in number. Over the past forty years I have had the great privilege of attending seven D-Day commemorations in Normandy and meeting so many distinguished veterans. Indeed, I shall never forget the haunting sights and sounds of thousands of be-medalled figures proudly marching past into a French sunset on these beaches. Our ability to learn from their stories at first hand diminishes. But our obligation to remember them, what they stood for and what they achieved for us all can never diminish.

That is why I am so proud that we have a permanent National Memorial in Normandy, by which to remember the more than twenty-two thousand service personnel in British units who gave their lives during the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy. It was built at the suggestion of a veteran, George Batts. He is sadly no longer with us, but lived to see it built and explained on the day it was opened why it means so much: “We left a lot of mates behind and now I know they will never be forgotten.”

So, for the first time today, we can come together at Gold Beach, the objective of the fiftieth Infantry Division, to honour those who fought on this ground eighty years ago, and who continued for three months of the war’s fiercest fighting to secure Normandy.

Ce mémorial rend également un hommage particulier à la plus grande tragédie du Débarquement : le nombre inimaginable de civils français qui sont morts dans cette bataille commune pour la liberté, alors que les Alliés se battaient dans le nord ouest de la France pour s'assurer une victoire finale. Nous ne manquerons jamais de rendre hommage au courage et au sacrifice incroyables des hommes et des femmes de la Résistance française, ainsi qu’aux nombreux civils qui fournirent des renseignements essentiels, sabotèrent les approvisionnements et les communications, et tendirent de cruciales embuscades. La chaleur, et la générosité, de l'accueil réservé aux vétérans du Débarquement par les Normands constituent l'aspect le plus émouvant et le plus mémorable de ces commémorations.

This memorial stands also as a special homage to the greatest tragedy of D-Day: the unimaginable numbers of French civilians who died in this joint battle, for freedom, as the Allies sealed off North-West France to ensure a final victory. We must never fail to pay tribute to the unbelievable courage and sacrifice of the men and women of the French Resistance, and many ordinary people, who provided vital intelligence, cut off supplies and communications, and laid critical ambushes. The warmth, and the generosity, of the welcome which the people of Normandy have shown to the veterans of D-Day is the most moving and memorable part of these anniversaries.

This vital start to the liberation of Europe was a vast Allied effort. American, British, Canadian, French, and Polish formations fought here in Normandy. Among the names inscribed on the walls and pillars of this memorial are men and women from more than thirty different nations and many faiths. United, they fought together for what my grandfather, King George VI, described as “a world in which goodness and honour may be the foundation of the life of men in every land.”

As we stand alongside their remaining friends and comrades on this hallowed ground, let us affirm that we will strive to live by their example; let us pray such sacrifice need never be made again; and let us commit to carrying forward their resounding message of courage and resilience in the pursuit of freedom, tempered by the duty of responsibilities to others, for the benefit of younger generations and those yet unborn. Our gratitude is unfailing and our admiration eternal.

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