She attended a service for British personnel at Bayeux Cathedral and then laid a wreath at the nearby cemetery during poignant service of remembrance in Bayeux, the first town in Normandy to be freed.
‘I am very pleased to be able to join veterans here in Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. On June 6 1944 after months of planning and training, the largest amphibious assault in history was launched to secure freedom in Europe,’ she said.
‘Hundreds of thousands of servicemen made the journey across the Channel by sea and air, and through their brave actions and dogged determination, established a vital foothold in occupied Europe. This immense and heroic endeavour brought the end of the Second World War within reach,’ she continued.
‘I am sure that these commemorations will provide veterans of the conflict and their families gathered here in France, along with their hosts, the people of Normandy, with an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and the incredible sacrifices that were made,’ she added.
Around 400 Commonwealth veterans attended the Royal British Legion service in Bayeux where the Last Post was followed by an emotional minute’s silence. There was a fly past of historic aircraft. Two Spitfires, a Dakota and a Lancaster bomber flew in formation overhead.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were joined by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond as well as Foreign Secretary William Hague and Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
‘Here in this cemetery we are reminded of the true cost of D-Day whose 70th anniversary we mark today,’ said the Reverend Patrick Irwin, the Royal British Legion Chaplain to Normandy.
‘We pay tribute to the dead and welcome enthusiastically the veterans for whose courage and devotion we are most grateful. This is a British ceremony and most of the graves in this place are British but D-Day involved many nations and many nations are represented here,’ he added.
The Queen then went on to the Benouville Castle just outside Caen where she joined other heads to state for an international lunch before moving on to the international ceremony a few miles away at Sword beach.