Archive for June, 2014

War veteran’s medals are stolen on D-Day anniversary

June 9th, 2014

The victim, a former Grenadier Guard, was at home on Friday morning when a man posing as a water company official conned his way inside, claiming he was checking the water pressure in the area.

The victim, who has not been named, served in the Grenadier Guards during the Second World War and saw action in Italy and North Africa.

He was said to be extremely upset by the theft particularly coming on the anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy.

Police are urging anyone with information to contact police via 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Officers are also warning the elderly and vulnerable to be on their guard for bogus callers.

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Dame Vera Lynn breaks chart record aged 97 with album of wartime hits

June 8th, 2014

An early version of We’ll Meet Again was played at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday, in a “duet” with singer Katherine Jenkins. Dame Vera appeared on screens in black-and-white footage, with her daughter watching on from the audience.

On being told of her achievement, Dame Vera said: ”I am delighted of course. It is wonderful to hear these songs again that were at the top of the charts so long ago, and it’s warming to think that everyone else is listening to them too.”

The veteran singer’s last major chart feat was five years ago when, at the age of 92, she achieved a number one with an earlier best-of release.

Dame Vera – who made her professional debut at the age of seven – already holds the record as the first British artist to top the US charts in 1952 and as the only artist over 90 to top the UK album charts.

Elsewhere in the chart, singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran achieved his first UK number one single with Sing, while fellow British solo star Sam Smith remained at the top of the album chart with In The Lonely Hour.

Sheeran’s single, which was co-written and produced by US star Pharrell, sold nearly 124,000 copies over the last seven days, according to the Official Charts Company. It knocked Sam Smith’s Stay With Me off the top spot, with the 22-year-old’s track slipping to number two.

A charity single inspired by teenage cancer victim Stephen Sutton also reach ed the top 20. Hope Ain’t A Bad Thing by The Neon Brotherhood finished in 16th place.

Tom Drover from Neon Sound Studios, who played guitar on the track, said: ”The idea was hatched when Stephen posted his thumbs up picture. We all decided to come together to do something for Ste, one of the things on his bucket list was to have a charity single.”

Stephen, 19, raised millions of pounds for Teenage Cancer Trust before his death last month and all the profits from the song will go to the charity.

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Revealed: war diary meant to stay secret

June 8th, 2014

Other entries record the unseen wranglings of the coalition government, spies on British shores, the perceived warmongering of Churchill, tearful German ambassadors and personal clashes around the Cabinet table.

Sketch of a camouflaged warship,drawn by Joseph Pease and passed to Lewis Harcourt during the Cabinet meeting of 18 February 1915

Harcourt even records private conversations with King George V, in which the monarch allegedly claimed the government was out of touch with the people.

The politician also gossips about Asquith, who “never” indulged in a cup of tea.

Harcourt, who served as colonial secretary in 1914-15, made his notes – often verbatim – on the back of Foreign Office telegrams, as well as neat pieces of paper written up after meetings.

The papers, which were filed in initialled cases, were stored by Harcourt’s family after his death in 1922, and have been seen only by a handful of academics.

They were transferred to Oxford University in 2008, where they have been catalogued. They will now go on show in an exhibition at the university and in a book, From Downing Street to the Trenches by Mike Webb.

Issued by the Bodleian Library, the book will use personal letters and first-hand diary extracts of contemporary politicians and their peers to tell the story of how the First World War unfolded.

Harcourt’s notes, which he was expressly forbidden from taking, are believed to have been intended to one day contribute to his memoirs, and give an unexpectedly candid account of life in the pre-war government.

In 1914, he recorded how Asquith had been warned about the activities of Churchill, of whom Harcourt recorded having a “profound distrust”.

By June, he wrote of Churchill’s getting “prematurely into the war stage”, noting: “I think he has gone mad.” In August, Harcourt claimed that the French and German ambassadors were “in tears” at the prospect of being “crushed” by war, while Churchill threatened to resign if Germany was permitted to violate Belgium’s neutrality.

Further Cabinet clashes involved Churchill’s “trying to raise compulsory service” against the prime minister’s wishes, and various members trying to bargain over the ownership of Cyprus and Malta.

By March 2 1915, a frustrated Asquith had passed a handwritten note to Harcourt, reading: “I shall some day keep a Cabinet time table. I roughly estimate that about one-half of the whole is taken up by one person.”

Sketch by Lewis Harcourt from his journal, showing the positions round the table of the first coalition cabinet,27 May 1915,together with his notes of the discussions

For the avoidance of any doubt, Harcourt added the initials W.S.C: Winston Spencer Churchill. On Aug 17 1916, at what appeared to be a crisis point for the government, Harcourt wrote of persuading Kitchener, the war secretary, not to resign, putting him in a “more yielding mood” by informing him he would be “damned in history and by the allies”.

As well as negotiating the future of Europe, the Cabinet found time for “long and confused discussion” about women’s suffrage, with one member condemning it as a “criminal waste of time”.

By Oct 5 1916, Harcourt’s note-taking had come to the attention of Asquith, who wrote to him saying: “It has been represented to me by some of my colleague that you are in the habit of taking notes of what goes on at Cabinet. As I have more than once pointed out in the past, this is a violation of our unwritten law.”

After resigning in Dec 1916, Harcourt recorded a personal conversation with the King, in which the monarch shared strong political opinions, including a belief that the Cabinet was far too large, that the government had fallen “a little out of touch with public opinion” and that he was “utterly opposed” to a snap election .

Mr Webb said the notes included were merely “scratching the surface” of Harcourt’s complete collection, despite the fact he had not been a “prominent” political figure.

“It’s more vivid than anything I’ve seen before,” he said. “There are not that many private diaries around of this kind.

“The thing that makes it most interesting is that it was not just a Cabinet journal, he also recorded private conversations and meetings.

“He quite happily recorded that Churchill was very angry on several occasions. He sometimes even quotes exactly what people were saying. It’s almost like a drama.”

The exhibition The Great War: Personal Stories from Downing Street to the Trenches 1914-1916 is at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, from June 18 to November 2.

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D-Day air show over Arromanches

June 7th, 2014

Crowds lined the beach and cliffs of Arromanches on Saturday as French and British aircraft took part in an air show to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Several British Royal Airforce (RAF) World War II planes and a French Airforce display team flew over the cliff tops of Gold Beach in Normandy to the delight of onlookers.

“You could feel the adrenaline rush. It was spectacular,” said one local resident.

Gold beach was one of the five code-named landings for the secretly planned Operation Overlord.

Others were Sword, Juno, Omaha and Utah.

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D-Day anniversary: Queen ‘stirred’ by commemorations

June 6th, 2014

On the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings the Queen travelled to the French coast with the Duke of Edinburgh, and spent the day with other heads of state honouring the actions of veterans and their fallen comrades.

Later at a banquet to mark her three-day state visit to France, the monarch described how the day’s commemorations had left Philip and herself “filled with emotions”.

She added: “With sorrow and regret, remembering the loss of so many fine young soldiers, sailors and airmen; with pride, at the sheer courage of the men who stormed those beaches, embodied in the veterans among us; and with thankfulness, knowing that today our nations are free and sovereign because allied forces liberated this continent from occupation and tyranny.

“Knitted together by common experiences of struggle, sacrifice and reconciliation, we remember those times in a way that strengthens unity and understanding between us.”

In her address at the Elysee Palace banquet staged in her honour by President Francois Hollande, the Queen, who delivered parts of her speech in French, sounded a note of caution.

She said: “Our peace and prosperity can never be taken for granted and must constantly be tended, so that never again do we have cause to build monuments to our fallen youth.”

The Queen made three “observations” during her address telling the guests “the true measure of all our actions is how long the good in them lasts”.

The monarch went on to say that “everything we do, we do for the young”.

The Queen was dressed in a full beaded bodice with sleeves in brilliant Diamante and her skirt was draped across the front in white chiffon.

She wore the Queen Mary tiara, the Queen Victoria necklace with matching earrings and the French order, red sash and badge.

The guests dined on foie gras, served with Sauternes jelly and truffle aspic, followed by Spring saddle of Sisteron lamb and garden vegetables, and for dessert was Bourbon vanilla ice cream with wild strawberries and pink Champagne sorbet.

Roblechon and Comte cheese was also served, along with a full bodied Bordeaux white wine.

Sources: Reuters/PA

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D-Day anniversary: live

June 6th, 2014

Sussex Police were called at 7.15pm yesterday by staff at a nursing home in Hove who said an 89-year-old who lived there had gone out at 10.30am and had not been seen since.

Officers began searching the area, including checking hospitals in case something had happened to him, and spoke to bus and taxi companies, but none of them knew where he was.

The nursing home received a phone call from a younger veteran from Brighton at 10.30pm who said he had met the pensioner on a coach on the way to France and that they were safe and well in a hotel in Ouistreham.

In a statement, Sussex Police said they were “satisfied that the pensioner is fine”.

Two Chelsea Pensioners chat as veterans gather at Sword Beach in Ouistreham. Photo: AFP

14.45 A D-Day veteran, was just 18 years old when he waded ashore on Gold Beach in Normandy with the Royal Engineers on June 6, 1944, was presented with a special award by David Cameron this morning for his work organising pilgrimages to the landing sites for his comrades.

Grandfather-of-two George Batts, 88, the national secretary of the Normandy Veterans’ Association (NVA), was announced as the latest recipient of a Points of Light award for his voluntary work.

Mr Batts considers himself one of “the lucky ones”. With incredible recall, he described how he landed on Gold Beach, one of the five landing beaches used on D-Day. He said:

Quote The noise was fantastic. You’ve never heard anything like it. The Navy were shooting shells right at the Germans.

As they went overhead, they went ‘whoosh’. It sounds silly now, but you were left thinking, ‘I hope to God they got the range right’.

Then we went towards the beaches and when you get there the ramp went down, and away we went to get off the beach into the bit of cover at the back.

Knowing what war is like, you can imagine what the beaches were like. I won’t talk about it because I think it’s unfair on relatives to know too much.

There was a misty haze across the beaches – Germans firing machine guns, rifles – everything was coming in. We got off the beach okay, we lost a few obviously, and then we just kept going for as long as we could or for as far as we could.

Normandy veteran George Batts who was presented with a special award by David Cameron for his work organising pilgrimages to thelanding sites. Photo: PA

14.15 Archive shots show scenes from 70 years ago:

Injured American soldiers rest on the beach. Photo: Alamy

The town of Caen is bombed during Operation Overlord. Photo: Alamy

14.10 Gordon Rayner, in Bayeux, reports that the Prince of Wales told a D-Day veteran that he worries about the Duke of Edinburgh‘s insistence on still driving a car as he approaches his 93rd birthday.

The Prince revealed his concern when he met Ivor Thomas, a former Corporal in the Royal Engineers from Gloucester who landed on Gold Beach on D-Day.

Mr Thomas’s son, Philip, 61, told the Prince his father, who was sitting in a wheelchair, still insisted on driving his car, a 1985 Ford Sierra.

“So does my father. I’m always worried,” the Prince said, before gesturing towards Mr Thomas, and asking: “But his eyesight’s all right?”

The Duke of Edinburgh likes to drive an old London taxi cab when he is in the capital so he can remain incognito. He drives other vehicles during stays at Balmoral and Sandringham.

13.50 In a rather sweet photo, Barack Obama and Jerry Mateparae, New Zealand’s Governor-General, have been spotted guiding the Queen to her position for a group photo in Benouville:

Photo: AP

13.30 As world leaders gather in Caen to commemorate the D-Day landings, you can listen to the men and women who fought there after The Telegraph met ten veterans of the 1944 Normandy invasion.

A Dutch B-25 and a Dutch Spitfire take part in a flypast over Arromanches-les-Bains, Normandy. Photo: AFP

13.15 First Minister Peter Robinson, who was also at Bayeux Cathedral this morning, has said he is eternally grateful to the men and women from Northern Ireland who played their part in the D-Day landings.

The head of the Democratic Unionist Party said he was deeply honoured to be there for the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe.

QuoteWe must never forget the bravery, courage and sacrifice of those thousands of soldiers who fought and for the many who ultimately gave their lives for all of us. It is right that those veterans are central to today’s commemorations.

Northern Ireland provided a staging platform for allied forces prior to the D-Day landings.

We are all eternally grateful to the men and women of Northern Ireland who played their part in one of the most significant engagements in military history.

U.S. WWII veterans salute during the playing of “Taps” at the Normandy American Cemetery. Photo: Getty Images

12.50 Henry Samuel has also been speaking to veterans at Arronmanche ahead of today’s commemorations. Here he is with Cecil Deller, from 1st Suffolk A-Company:

12.40 The Telegraph’s Paris correspondent Henry Samuel, who is in Normandy today, reports that while heads of state are due to convene on Sword beach, Gold beach has been stormed by thousands of “re-enactors” in the same Allied jeeps and tanks that landed here on June 6,1944.

The vehicles will later drive into Arromanches-les-Bains, via the artificial Mulberry harbour (whose remains can still be seen in the background of the photo below).

Later the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will arrive in Arromanches, followed by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall for a memorial ceremony with veterans.

12.25 Associated Press reports on Barack Obama’s speech this morning from the Normandy Cemetery and Memorial, where nearly 10,000 white marble tombstones sit on a bluff overlooking the site of the battle’s most violent fighting at Omaha Beach:

Seventy years after Allied troops stormed the beaches at Normandy, President Barack Obama returned Friday to this hallowed battleground in what he called a “powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom” that lives on in a new generation.

On a morning that dawned glorious and bright over the sacred site he called “democracy’s beachhead”, Obama said:

QuoteOur commitment to liberty, our claim to equality, our claim to freedom and to the inherent dignity of every human being – that claim is written in the blood on these beaches, and it will endure for eternity.

He described D-Day’s violent scene in vivid terms, recalling that “by daybreak, blood soaked the water” and “thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand.”

Veterans of that fierce battle traveled long distances to the remote historic site and removed their hats as the audience delivered a long standing ovation when Obama recognized them.

US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande look out over Omaha Beach. Photo: AFP

Mr Obama continued:

Quote These men waged war so that we might know peace. They sacrificed so that we might be free. They fought in hopes of a day when we’d no longer need to fight. We are grateful to them.

The president mentioned that his grandfather served in Patton’s Army and his grandmother was among the many women who went to work supporting the war effort back home, in her case on a B-29 bomber assembly line. Obama’s grandparents helped raise him, and he broke from his prepared text to observe wistfully that there was never a time he missed his grandfather more or would have loved to be with him.

He said:

QuoteSomeday, future generations, whether seventy or seven hundred years hence, will gather at places like this to honor them. And to say that these were generations of men and women who proved once again that the United States of America is and will remain the greatest force for freedom the world has ever known.

12.10 BBC weather have tweeted this fun picture of what the “D-Day forecast” might have looked had they used the graphics available to today’s forecasters:

Twitter Here’s what the #DDay forecast might have looked like if they had our graphics 70 years ago.

11.55 History enthusiasts from all over the world are gathering in Normandy to celebrate the D-Day anniversary:

History enthusiasts from Seaforth Highlanders of Holland march along former Canadian D-Day landing zone of Juno Beach at Bernieres surMer. Photo: Reuters

WWII military vehicles and enthusiasts muster on Gold Beach at Arromanche. Photo: Getty Images

11.40 Following the service at the cathedral, The Queen laid a wreath in Bayeux (see pictures further down the blog) for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for “freedom in Europe” at a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

During a solemn open air ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery, the Last Post was followed by an emotional minute’s silence under sunshine and clear blue skies.

Moments after the Queen arrived, a fly-past of historic aircraft – two Spitfires, a Dakota and a Lancaster bomber – roared overhead as they flew in formation.

11.30 Watch Prince Charles and David Cameron’s visit to Bayeux Cathedral, where biblical lessons were read and hymns sung, to mark the 70th anniversary of D Day here:

11.20 Today’s first pictures of the Queen – wearing a wonderfully bright lime green coat – have come in. She was attending a service of remembrance at the British military cemetery in Bayeux this morning

HM Queen Elizabeth II pays her respects after laying a wreath at the French-British ceremony held at the British Warcemetery in Bayeux, northern France on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Photo: Reuters

The Queen stands with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (left) and the Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwallat the bi-national France-UK D-Day commemoration ceremony at the British War Cemetery of Bayeux. Photo: AFP

11.10 Did you know that secret D-Day clues appeared in the ‘Telegraph’ crossword 70 years ago? Telegraph features writer Tom Rowley recalls here how wartime codes got into a newspaper puzzle.

US troops wade ashore from a Coast Guard landing craft at Omaha Beach. Photo: US National Archives/Handout via Reuters

10.55 The Telegraph’s Berlin correspondent Justin Huggler reports from Germany:

There is huge coverage here in Germany of D-Day. Bild, Germany’s biggest newspaper, is running a “live” ticker of the day in realtime on its website: it just clicked up Churchill being briefed in London at 1015 CET, and Hitler being woken at 10am after going to bed late. Die Welt is running something similar. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has made much of the fact the leaders meeting to commemorate D-Day are also trying to defuse the new crisis in Ukraine.

David Cameron’s meeting with Putin has been heavily reported. Otherwise some of the papers have downplayed British involvement in D-Day — whether this has anything to so with anger over the European Commission chief row is not clear.

All eyes are on Angela Merkel in Normandy, and the difficult path she has to tread, honouring the dead while not being seen in any way to commemorate the SS dead: Helmut Kohl famously refused to take part in D-Day commemorations, saying there was nothing to commemorate in so many German dead. Gerhard Schroder set the path followed by Angela Merkel today.

There has been coverage in recent days of SS crimes in occupied France, particularly a notorious massacre in which more than 600 men, women and children were murdered in a single village.

Normandy Veteran Tony Snelling, 91, and his grandson William Holmes arrive at Bayeux Cathedral. Photo: PA

10.40 In commemoration of this week’s 70th anniversary of D-Day, The Telegraph has explored the statistics behind one of the most significant victories in World War Two. Watch the video here:

10.30 David Cameron has been speaking to the Press Association in Bayeux, where he said he felt a mixture of “awe and gratitude” as he met veterans of the D-Day landings at the 70th anniversary commemorations.

The Prime Minister said it was “incredibly moving” to be at the events in Normandy and it was “humbling” for people of his generation who had not had to do anything like the heroic actions of June 6 1944.

With Russian president Vladimir Putin’s presence highlighting current divisions in Europe over Ukraine, Mr Cameron stressed the role played by Russia in liberating the continent from Nazi tyranny. He said:

QuoteI think the clear evidence of what happened in 1944 and 1945 is the importance of standing up together for freedom and security.

And we should remember that, and the importance of Nato and thinking forward to the Nato summit in Wales in September.

“But I think it’s right today, of all days, to remember all those who served and all those who died.

Yes, of course we have our disagreements today with Russia, but we should never forget that Russia – the Soviet Union – was an ally of Britain and America, the Free French, Canadian and Australian forces, that liberated this continent from the tyranny of Nazism.

Mr Cameron became the first Western leader to hold face-to-face talks with Mr Putin since the Ukraine crisis began when they met in Paris last night.

(Left to right) Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Prince of Wales, British Prime Minister David Cameron and FrenchPrime Minister Manuel Valls walk in Bayeux, northern France, after attending a ceremony at the town’s cathedralcommemorating the Allied landings on D-Day. Photo: AFP

10.15 Gordon Rayner, in Bayeux, has been speaking to some of the veterans who landed on Sword Beach on D-Day.

Cecil Butters, 90, who arrived with 41 Commando, Royal Marines at 7.10am, described the reception from those who clapped him and his comrades on the walk from the Cathedral to the cemetery as “wonderful”.

He said: “In 1944 they welcomed us with an arm round the shoulder and by bringing the wine bottles out, but this is a different kind of gratitude, because most of these people weren’t born in 1944.

“It is a wonderful reception.”

His grandson Michael Butters, 37, walking alongside him, said: “It’s overwhelming really. I’m so proud.”

Cecil, who was shot in the back in Holland in February 1945, bringing his war to an end, said: “It means the world to be here today. I’ve got mates buried in this cemetery and I’ll be thinking a lot about the day we landed and the friends I lost.”

Steve Garrard, 92, a former glider pilot who landed one of the aircraft at Pegasus Bridge in the first action on D-Day, was making his first visit to Normandy since 1944.

He said: “I wanted to come because it will be the last time I get the chance. It means everything to be here. I will be thinking about my best mate and co-pilot, who was killed at Arnhem on the same day as I was taken prisoner.”

US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande stand during a joint French-US D-Day commemoration ceremony atthe Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-mer, Normandy. Photo: AFP

10.00 If you’re interested in hearing how the radio would have sounded on D-Day 70 years ago, Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch is one of a trio of stars who are recreating the original D-Day bulletins for Radio 4 listeners.

The reports began on the Today programme (which you can listen to below) and will continue through the weekend, finishing on Sunday with Broadcasting House and The World This Weekend.

Two hundred pages of D-Day broadcasts, from what was then called the Home Service, have also been published online, including reports by correspondents following the forces on land, air and sea.

Soldiers stand during a joint French-Dutch D-Day commemoration ceremony in Arromanches, Normandy. Photo: Gettyimages

09.45 The only known Allied colour footage of World War Two was uncovered in the attic of a Hollywood director by his son. Director George Stevens was on board the warship HMS Belfast when it fired the shot that launched the D-Day landings, making this unique 16 millimetre colour film journal:

09.35 Telegraph chief reporter Gordon Rayner reports from Bayeux Cathedral:

As veterans made their way from Bayeux Cathedral to the Commonwealth Cemetery ten minutes’ walk away, locals formed an honour guard on either side of the road and clapped them, many of them saying “merci” and shaking hands with the veterans in a moment that evoked the soldiers being welcomed as liberators in 1944.

Many of the veterans, now too frail to manage the journey on foot, were being pushed in wheelchairs or using mobility scooters to make the journey to the cemetery, where some of them were due to meet the Queen. David Cameron chose to make the journey on foot with a group of veterans who told him about their D-Day experiences as they went.

Normandy veterans arrive at Bayeux Cathedral for the service. Photo: PA

09.15 Henry Samuel is in Caen where François Hollande has kicked off D-Day commemorations by inaugurating a memorial stone to pay “national tribute” to the 20,000 French civilians who lost their lives in the battle for Normandy.

Henry reports that it is the first such official French recognition of the heavy civilian losses endured between D-Day, on June 6, 1944 and September 12, when the region was finally freed from Nazi occupation.

Speaking at the war memorial at Caen, where Allied bombers reduced three quarters of the city to rubble to stop the Germans mounting a counterattack, he said:

Quote In every conflict, it is civilians who pay the price.

This battle was also a civilian one. These fighters in the shadows enabled, facilitated the Normandy landings.

I want the role of the Normans to be recognised. They opened their doors to the liberators. They protected them, fed them.

09.00 In his address to the congregation at Bayeux Cathedral, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, National Chaplain of the Royal British Legion, described the commemoration as “a time of profound emotion” summed up by:

Quote That quiet moment when an elderly serviceman stands by the grave of a fallen comrade who in the mind’s eye is still young.

08.50 A few interesting facts about Bayeux Cemetery:

- It is the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France and contains the burials brought in from the surrounding districts and hospitals.

- The Cemetery contains 4,144 Commonwealth graves of which 338 are unidentified and 504 are from other Nationalities, mainly German.

- The Bayeux Memorial stands opposite the cemetery and bears the names of more than 1,800 Commonwealth soldiers who died during the Normandy landing and advance to the Seine and have no known grave.

- On D-Day itself, 83,115 British soldiers landed in Normandy, including 24,000 on Gold Beach, 28,000 on Sword Beach and 7,900 by air.

- A total of 4,413 Allied soldiers were killed, around a quarter of them British.

Landing craft from the Royal Marines arrive on Arromanche beach at sunrise

08.40 Gordon Rayner, the Telgeraph’s chief reporter, is in Bayeux where the Queen will meet veterans when she attends a service of remembrance at the British military cemetery this morning.

Gordon reports that the Queen has paid tribute to the “immense and heroic endeavour” of the soldiers who took part in the Normandy landings on the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

In a message published in the official brochure of the 70th anniversary events which is being given to all veterans, she wrote:

QuoteI am very pleased to be able to join veterans here in Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

On 6th June 1944 after months of planning and training, the largest amphibious assault in history was launched to secure freedom in Europe. 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.

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.

Arlette Gondree, right, owner of the Pegasus bridge cafe, makes her annual toast with British D-Day veterans in Benouville. Photo: Reuters

08.30 Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Early this morning David Cameron joined D-Day veterans for what he described as a “humbling” midnight vigil at Pegasus Bridge to remember the airborne troops who took part in the first action of the Normandy landings.

Sitting in the dark on the chilly June night, Mr Cameron listened to a recording of Major John Howard, who led the assault on Pegasus Bridge at 12.16am on June 6, 1944, describing how he and his men flew silently in gliders to take the German defenders by surprise.

Mr Cameron said:

QuoteBeing here prompts three emotions – humility because people of my generation never had to do anything like our grandfathers’ generation; awe at thinking of the men preparing for the biggest invasion force ever assembled, and profound gratitude for what they did, which had a massive consequence not just for all of our futures but for the whole continent of Europe.

Because of the D-Day landings Europe has been able to choose its own future.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha arrive for the British D-Day commemoration ceremony at Bayeux Cathedral inNormandy. Photo: AFP

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D-Day anniversary: The Normandy Veterans Association ‘hanging up our colours’

June 5th, 2014

The ranks of the Normandy veterans are thinning slowly. Seven decades after D-Day‘s Operation Overlord, the youngest are in their late eighties.

The Normandy Veterans’ Association (NVA) has announced it will disband in November. “This is a very special time because we know it’s our last big occasion here,” said Brigadier David Baines, 89, the NVA president and a gunner in the Royal Artillery who landed on Gold Beach.

“We know that many of us won’t be alive in five years’ time, and probably not even in a year or two,” he said at a ceremony at the Royal Artillery memorial service at La Brèche, on Sword Beach.

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D-Day parachute veteran: 'I was glad to get out of the plane'

June 5th, 2014

In the early hours of 6 June 1944 around 7,900 troops from the British 6th Airborne Division landed on the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious assault ever launched.

Among them were the men from Parachute Battalion, whose achievements were vital to the success of the operation and the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation during the Second World War.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, 89-year-old D-Day veteran Jock Hutton returned to the drop zone he landed in Normandy.

He remembers that his commanding officer brought with him a hunting horn so that the parachute soldiers would be able come to a rallying point after they landed in the dark.

“It certainly was a big help to those groping in the dark,” he said

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D-Day veterans meet for the first time in 70 years

June 3rd, 2014

They may be a little frailer, but their wartime memories are still razor sharp.

British Normandy Veterans Joe Cattini and Denys Hunter met on Tuesday for the first time in 70 years since they took part in the D-Day landings on the Normandy Beaches.

Mr Cattini, 91, and Mr Hunter, 90, were both in the same unit of Herefordshire Yeomanry on Gold Beach on D-Day and attended a special ceremony at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard before setting off for France for the anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Friday 6th June is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings which saw 156,000 troops from the allied countries including the United Kingdom and the United States join forces to launch the historic attack on the beaches of Normandy, credited with the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany.

A series of events commemorating the anniversary are planned for the week with many heads of state travelling to the famous beaches to pay their respects to those who lost their lives.

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D-Day facts: how the allied forces assembled the largest seaborne operation in history

June 3rd, 2014

It was the biggest seaborne invasion the world has ever seen – and behind it was a gargantuan feat of logistics.

Operation Overlord, the code name for the successful mission to push back the German forces occupying western Europe during World War Two, was set in motion with the Normandy beach landings on 6 June 1944. Known as D-Day, the landings marked a devisive moment in the course of a war that had raged since 1939.

The operation, which took 288 days of planning and lasted 85 days, involved 6,939 ships during the D-Day landings, which were manned by 195,700 naval personnel. Landing on the French coast were a total of 156,115 allied troops, including 73,000 from the US and 61,715 from Britain.

Alongside them marched 100,000 fictional soldiers of the First US Army Group – a fake force simulated by only 400 men with radios.

The ghost army was part of another numbers game: the extensive deception of Operation Bodyguard, a collaboration between Bletchley Park mathematicians and the erratic double agents of the British spy system.

The Germans were so thoroughly convinced that Normandy was only a feint that it took seven weeks for Hitler to finally release reinforcements.

But by that time the Allies had poured at least 900,000 men into the Normandy battlezone.

An estimated 10,000 men lost their lives on D-Day, however the operation was a critical turning point for the allied forces, as 11 months later Germany surrendered.

World War Two

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