Countdown Begins to 2014 International D-Day Ceremony on Sword Beach

CountdownAs events commemorating the 65th anniversary of D-Day come to an end this weekend the countdown to next year’s ceremonies in Normandy have already began.

A giant clock counting down to 06 June 2014, the 70th anniversary of the landings, has been started at the tourist office in Bayeux and it has been announced by the Minister for veterans Kader Arif that the main international official ceremony will be held at Sword Beach next year.

That means that Ouistreham and Colleville-Montgomery will see visits from the main world leaders who are likely to include Untited States President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Stephen Harper and probably a representative of the British royal family.

There is a lot of speculation that Prince Harry, a serving soldier, could make his first appearance at a D-Day event since this is the first time that a beach that was the focus of the British involvement in the landings has been chosen to host the main ceremony.

Prince Charles may also consider attending the 70th anniversary but is more likely to want to go to Ranville and Pegasus Bridge as he is Colonel in Chief of the Parachute Regiment. It is unlikely that the Queen will attend. She missed out on the 65th anniversary and with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, has been increasingly handing over duties to younger royals. Although there is some who think she might want to make a last visit to Normandy.

There is also speculation that Sword has been chosen as the main focus event for D-Day 2014 after a row broke out when it was left out of a major tourism marketing campaign which only features the other four beaches; Utah, Omah, Gold and Juno, with critics claiming it ignored the contribution made by and British troops and Free French commandos who landed on Sword.

But Mr Arif denied this. ‘Controversy is something that should be avoided. The 70th anniversary of D-Day should be a reason for national cohesion and pride. Choosing Sword beach makes sense because other beaches have been chosen for major anniversaries and this beach is the history of the British involvement. France is a land that can accommodate all her friends and allies,’ he explained.

Mr Arif also announced that two other major ceremonies are planned for 2014; one at Omaha beach in the American sector of the landing beaches and one at Juno where Canadian and British troops landed.

Sword beach is famous as being where Lord Lovat and his commandos landed and were piped ashore by Piper Bill Millin, who will be remembered this weekend when a new statue of him resplendent in his kilt is unveiled at Colleville Montgomery. The commandos went on to Pegasus Bridge where they relieved troops that had parachuted into France on the eve of D-Day to secure the crossing points on the rivers Benouville and Ranville.

Three french commandos who landed on Sword beach in 1944, Léon Gautier, Jean Morel and René Rosset were at the ceremony where Mr Arif made the announcements about the 2014 ceremonies.

A number of key events are still taking place this weekend and visitors can see the re-enactment camps at Sainte-Mère-Eglise, Picauville and Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. On Saturday in Carentan there is a historic march in the footsteps of the 101st Airborne division which includes people dressed in historical costumes and will feature a parade this year of Second World War bikes.
A parade of World War Two military vehicles is taking part at Isigny-sur-Mer with over 80 jeeps, dodges, GMCs and others. On Saturday evening there is the annual picnic on Omaha beach with 1,500 people exepected to take part.

One of the final popular events is the parachute jump at La Fière near Saint-Mere-Eglise which this year features both military and civilian parachutists. But there is no American contingent this year to defence budget cut backs. But the Americans have promised to return for 2014.

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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, 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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