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Plans unveiled to mark D-Day's 80th anniversary

16 October 2023
Major international commemorative events on both sides of the Channel will mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

D-Day 80 will be a large-scale celebration of those who ran the gauntlet of Hitler’s vaunted Atlantic Wall and helped begin the liberation of western Europe from the Nazi yoke.

The Ministry of Defence will work with the Royal British Legion, Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Normandy Memorial Trust to host commemorations worthy of the sacrifices made and the scale of the operation. 

With the number of those who were there dwindling by the week, these are likely to be the last major commemorations attended by veterans/members of our Greatest Generation. 

Claire Horton, Director General of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said organisers were determined to ensure events would serve as “a fitting tribute to those who paid so costly a price to free our world from the yoke of tyranny, while acknowledging the service of the last of that Greatest Generation – our attendant veterans – and inspiring the next generation in the value of working together to build a peaceful world.”

For the first time, the new British Normandy Memorial at Ver-sur-Mer will host commemorations for a major anniversary of D-Day. 

Partially funded by the UK Government, the British Normandy Memorial was inaugurated by President Macron of France and then Prime Minister Theresa May during commemorations for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019.

The memorial officially opened two years later on 6 June 2021 – with the world still in the grip of the Covid pandemic, making 2024 the first time the completed structure the first opportunity to hold one of the milestone anniversary events.

Among those hoping to attend is 98-year-old Jack Quinn, coxswain of a Royal Marines landing craft overnight in June 1944.

He landed specialist clearance divers ahead of the main invasion waves on D-Day so they could clear mines on the beaches.

“As veteran ambassador for the British Normandy Memorial – and 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,” he said.

In addition services – supported by members of today’s Armed Forces – will take place at Bayeux Cathedral and the nearby Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, last resting place of more than 4,000 UK/Commonwealth personnel. And for those unable to make the pilgrimage to Normandy, events will also be hosted in England; details will be announced in the new year.

Nearly 200,000 naval personnel – more than half of them Royal Navy, plus 25,000 Merchant Navy seaman – manned an invasion force of almost 7,000 vessels, from battleships and cruisers pounding German positions, through more than 4,000 landing craft and a good 1,500 supporting vessels.

The ring of steel drawn around the invasion fleet, plus Allied air cover – including Fleet Air Arm patrols – largely protected it from the German Navy, but losses in the attacking waves of landing craft were heavy: one fifth of 47 (Royal Marines) Commando was wiped out in the initial assault wave at Gold Beach.

Along the coast at Juno Beach, fellow Royal Marines suffered heavy losses as they stormed and captured the seafront village of Langrune-sur-Mer. 

In all upwards of 10,000 men on both sides were casualties on the first day of the invasion; at least 100 sailors and Royal Marines with no known grave are honoured on Portsmouth Naval Memorial alone.

Normandy veterans wishing to attend events (on either side of the Channel) should register their interest via the Royal British Legion’s website.

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