A speech by The Princess Royal at Bayeux War Cemetery to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings


80 years on, let their memory still live on in our hearts.

At 04.15 hours on 5th June 1944, General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Forces, took the momentous decision to launch Operation overlord – what we now call D-Day – the largest sea and airborne invasion the world has ever seen. After 5 years of war, all that time training and waiting, who knows what those Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen felt. 80 years ago today, charged with storming the Normandy coastline and beginning the campaign to free Western Europe from Nazi tyranny. 

One of those sailors was my husband’s uncle, Sub-Lieutenant Keith Symons who, at the age of 20 was in command of three landing craft at Gold Beach in the first wave on D-Day. 

Recalling in his memoirs the evening of 5th June he wrote:

“At last it was time for our briefing. Our confidence was dented by predictions that casualties in the first wave were likely to be heavy. Everyone was quite subdued, but it was all very matter-of-fact. They were in those days. After supper we sat around making light conversation and listening to the chaplain playing his violin.

My cabin companion was a Captain in the Green Howards, a charming man who had been a solicitor before the war. We talked about what we would do when the war was over. Sadly he was killed in France only a few weeks later.”

Bayeux was close to the landing beaches and it was the first city to be liberated by the British on 7th June. The City’s hospitals were soon full of the wounded from the surrounding battlefield. For those who could not be saved, this was their final resting place.

It is the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France and contains four thousand one hundred and forty allied graves. It is my honour as President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to continue to protect their legacy.

The epitaphs on the headstones here capture the grief of those who loved these men. One mother’s words are:


80 years on, let their memory still live on in our hearts.

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