100 Days Until 70th Landing Anniversary on Normandy Beaches

D-dayclockWith 100 days to go until the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy is marked, most of the planning for what will probably be the last major commemoration of its kind are now in place.

World leaders including US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have confirmed the will attend the event along with Queen Elizabeth II and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh and security will be tight.

Those wishing to visit the beaches and cemeteries on the 06 June are advised to arrive early as roads will be blocked off. There will also be security at places like the railway station in Caen and the Ouistreham ferry terminal.

UK Defence Minister Lord Astor has already visited Pegasus Bridge with a British delegation to hear about the plans for the sector where British troops and airmen landed. He explained that the work on the commemoration events are being led by the Force Troops Command and 3rd (UK) Division of the British Army, the division that led the assault onto Sword Beach 70 years ago.

Events taking place in the Normandy region include ceremonies on 05 June to mark the liberation of Ranville by the British 13th Parachute Battalion, the first village to be liberated on D-Day.

Members of 16 Air Assault Brigade will mount a mass parachute drop, which will be followed by a memorial service at the statue of Field Marshal Montgomery in Colleville-Montgomery.

On 06 June, a joint UK French service of remembrance will take place at Bayeux Cathedral, followed by a special event at the Bayeux Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

‘I’m delighted that the Ministry of Defence will be supporting the veterans of this historic campaign as they gather to remember on the beaches of Normandy. The 70th anniversary will be an occasion for us all to pay fitting tribute to those who fought for the liberation of Europe, and I know that our servicemen and women will be honoured to take part,’ Lord Astor said.

‘The Ministry of Defence is working closely with partners across government and with external agencies, including the Normandy Veterans Association, the Royal British Legion and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to deliver a fitting programme of commemorations to mark the anniversary,’ he added.

British veterans wishing to return to Normandy in June will be able to apply for financial support from the Big Lottery Fund, which last February extended its Heroes Return 2 scheme until December 2015. The scheme helps Second World War veterans and their spouses, widows and widowers, and accompanying helpers, to undertake commemorative visits.

Around 300 American veterans are expected for the 70th anniversary. Special trains are being arranged by the French government to take them to the various events at the landing beaches and accommodation with local people is also being arranged.

French Minister for Veterans Affairs, Kader Arif, said it was part of a ‘commitment to honour the American soldiers who died on the beaches of France in the name of freedom’, adding that this year’s events were vitally important as it will be the last major official commemoration of the landings.

Around 650 American military personnel will be taking part in various events, including the famous parachute jump at Saint-Mere-Eglise which always attracts a large crowd and also includes parachutists from the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. This year it takes place on 08 June.

The main international event will take place on 06 June attended by the heads of State and governments at Sword Beach, which extends from Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to Ouistreham. It is where British troops had landed along with 177 French commandos.

Around five million visitors are expected for the 70th anniversary of which 40% are likely to be from abroad.
On 06 June there will also be a service of remembrancec at Bayeux Cathedral followed by a special event at the Bayeux Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

The Normandy Veterans Association has said that this year’s tributes will be the last it will officially mark before it is disbanded. ‘We are disbanding because we are losing too many members. We used to have 15,000, but we’re now down to less than 600,’ said national secretary, 89 year old George Batts.

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About Ray Clancy

Ray Clancy has 20 years experience in journalism including contributing articles to print and on-line publications such as PropertyWire.com, Property World Middle East and websites for estate agents. She has also written for the Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday.

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