On be­half of the free world... I thank you

Daily Express - - 75th D-Day Anniversar­y - By Richard Palmer Royal Cor­re­spon­dent

THE Queen thanked the heroes of D-Day on be­half of the free world yes­ter­day at a mov­ing in­ter­na­tional cer­e­mony at­tended by lead­ers mark­ing the 75th an­niver­sary of the Nor­mandy landings.

Some 300 vet­er­ans joined the 93-year-old monarch, Prince Charles, Theresa May, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and the lead­ers of 13 other Al­lied na­tions in­volved in Op­er­a­tion Over­lord at the cer­e­mony in Portsmouth be­fore sail­ing to France last night for to­day’s com­mem­o­ra­tions of the day that changed his­tory – June 6, 1944.

The 15 lead­ers, along with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, who was also at the cer­e­mony, later signed the D-Day procla­ma­tion, com­mit­ting to work to­gether to re­solve in­ter­na­tional ten­sions peace­fully to en­sure the “unimag­in­able hor­ror” of the Sec­ond World War is never re­peated.


Stand­ing in the royal box at the cer­e­mony on South­sea Com­mon over­look­ing one of the main em­barka­tion points for the landings, the Queen paid trib­ute (right) to the war­time gen­er­a­tion.

She told guests and thou­sands watch­ing on big screens: “When I at­tended the com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 60th an­niver­sary of the D-Day landings, some thought it might be the last such event. But the war­time gen­er­a­tion – my gen­er­a­tion – is re­silient, and I am de­lighted to be with you in Portsmouth to­day.”

Some of the lead­ers of the mod­ern free world, in­clud­ing Mrs May, Pres­i­dent Trump, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, and Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, went on stage to take part in a 70-minute per­for­mance telling the story of the events that led to D-Day. Pres­i­dent Trump, at the end of his three-day state visit to Bri­tain, read the prayer that his pre­de­ces­sor Pres­i­dent Franklin D Roo­sevelt broad­cast to his na­tion on the even­ing of D-Day: “Almighty God: our sons, pride of our na­tion, this day have set upon a mighty en­deav­our, a strug­gle to pre­serve our repub­lic, our re­li­gion, and our civil­i­sa­tion, and to set free a suf­fer­ing hu­man­ity...”

Vet­er­ans and rel­a­tives wiped away tears as Mrs May read a let­ter from Cap­tain Nor­man Skin­ner writ­ten to his wife Gla­dys on June 3, 1944. It was in his pocket when he was killed the fol­low­ing day.

On a giant screen, vet­er­ans re­called their mem­o­ries and on stage John Jenk­ins, a 99-year-old for­mer sergeant in the Pioneer Corps, de­scribed land­ing on Gold Beach aged 23. Mr Jenk­ins, who still works as a match­day ste­ward at Portsmouth’s home games at Frat­ton Park, said: “I was terrified – I think ev­ery­one was. You never for­get your com­rades be­cause we were all in it to­gether.”

Af­ter the cer­e­mony, which ended with a fly­past of Sec­ond World War and mod­ern planes, the Queen, Charles, Pres­i­dent Trump and his First Lady Me­la­nia – aptly sport­ing an ivory coat by New York label The Row, a hat by Bri­tish milliner Philip Treacy, and heels by French brand Dior – met six vet­er­ans.

Ac­com­pa­nied by old news­reels and news­pa­pers and 1940s mu­sic, the politi­cians, ac­tors, cur­rent ser­vice per­son­nel and com­pere Celia Im­rie nar­rated the story of the war up to D-Day, with at one point Win­ston Churchill boom­ing out, vow­ing to fight on the beaches...

Mr Trudeau, whose grand­fa­ther James Sin­clair was a squadron leader in the Royal Cana­dian Air Force dur­ing the war, read the VC ci­ta­tion of Lt-Colonel Ce­cil Mer­ritt, the first Cana­dian given it, for his part in the 1942 Dieppe Raid.

Af­ter a trib­ute to the women agents of the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Ex­ec­u­tive parachuted be­hind en­emy lines, Pres­i­dent Macron read the last let­ter to his par­ents from 16-year-old French Re­sis­tance fighter Henri Fertet, ex­e­cuted on Septem­ber 23, 1943: “The sol­diers are com­ing to get me. I must hurry. My handwritin­g may look wobbly but it is just be­cause I am us­ing a small pen­cil. I am not afraid of death...”

The pres­i­dent said: “Let me thank you sin­cerely on be­half of my na­tion.”

For pos­si­bly the first time, some­one dropped the F bomb in front of the Queen – in an ex­tract from the play Pres­sure in which Gen­eral Eisen­hower ex­pressed frus­tra­tion with ex­perts ad­vis­ing him to de­lay D-Day be­cause of bad weather.

A few rows be­hind the world lead­ers sat Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn.

“We must not just com­mem­o­rate those who fought and died, but hon­our them by op­pos­ing the forces of ha­tred to­day,” he said.

“Only by stand­ing up to hate, op­pres­sion and war can we pro­tect in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion and peace.”

The Queen, stands with world lead­ers in trib­ute to vet­er­ans and below, John Jenk­ins, cir­cled, has a giant im­age of him in his Army days pro­jected

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