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D-Day veterans encouraged to register for ‘major’ 80th anniversary celebrations

The Government has said former soldiers, many of whom are now in their 90s, will be ‘at the heart’ of official events in France and the UK.

British D-Day veterans are being encouraged to register for “major celebrations” in Normandy next year to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the landings.

The Ministry of Defence said former soldiers will be “at the heart” of official events in France and the UK next June 6.

On that day in 1944, tens of thousands of British troops landed at Gold Beach and Sword Beach in a bid to free Europe from Nazi occupation.

They were joined by US troops, who landed at Omaha and Utah beaches, and Canadian forces, who landed at Juno beach, as part of the Operation Overlord campaign which helped end the Second World War.

Veterans are urged to register through the Royal British Legion if they wish to go to France, while those unable to make the trip will be able to attend commemorative events in the UK.

The newly completed British Normandy Memorial in the village of Ver-sur-Mer near Gold and Juno beaches will host anniversary commemorations for the first time.

The memorial, where the names and ages of British dead are written on its walls, was part-funded by the UK Government and officially opened two years ago.

Anniversary of the D-Day landings
D-Day veteran Tom Schaffer, left, and his companion John Pinkerton study the names on the British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer in France (PA)

Armed forces personnel will lead the commemorations as veterans and special guests meet to remember those who gave their lives so Europe could be liberated.

Official commemorations will also take place at the nearby Bayeux Cathedral and at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Bayeux War Cemetery.

The cemetery is the final resting place of 4,144 members of British and Commonwealth service personnel who died in the landings.

D-Day veteran Jack Quinn, 98, who was coxswain of a Royal Marines landing craft overnight on June 5 1944, said: “Having visited the memorial several times, I am delighted that we will finally be able to remember all our fallen comrades of the Normandy campaign in this very unique and poignant setting for the first time on a major D-Day anniversary.”

Fellow D-Day veteran Albert Price, 98, who landed on Gold Beach aged 18, said: “I can still remember driving the tank on to the beach in Normandy and having to zig-zag to avoid mines and shells flying straight at us.

“I will never forget that day, scrambling for safety after our tank got hit. I had to push my commander up out of the hatch and suffered shrapnel wounds in the process.

“I will always remember those young chaps I served with. They lost their lives so we could live.

“With the 80th anniversary of the landings coming up next year, it’s so important to remember those that never came home and sacrificed themselves for the greater good.

“Going back to Normandy with the Royal British Legion in 2019 was an experience I will never forget and I want to go back again.

“I hope as many D-Day veterans as possible sign up to attend the commemorations next year. I want the legacy of those I served with to be remembered.”

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We will do all we can to remember those who died and thank those who served in the defence of freedom 80 years ago.

“Our armed forces are inspired by the legacy of the greatest generation and will lead the nation in commemorating their bravery next year.”

Royal British Legion director of remembrance Philippa Rawlinson said: “It’s vital we honour and remember the service and sacrifice of these brave men, so we encourage D-Day veterans, families and carers who wish to be involved in next year’s commemorations to come forward and contact the Royal British Legion.”

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