SAILORS joined Normandy veterans as they returned to the beaches of France to commemorate the bold D-Day invasion 70 years on.
After taking part in Thursday’s commemorative events in Portsmouth, Royal Navy flagship HMS Bulwark sailed to Normandy to join in the international events there.
Groups of sailors and Royal Marines went ashore in the early hours to provide support to the events.
They met veterans and offered their help throughout the day to those who had travelled from Britain to go to ceremonies attended by heads of state from around the world.
Commander Gavin Edward, 41, from Rowlands Castle, said: ‘Landing on the beaches it has been sunny and warm and it couldn’t have been more different to the reality the guys faced going ashore 70 years ago.
‘It really brings it home and it’s actually quite emotional.
‘I landed on a landing craft and I was thinking afterwards about what I went through – the sun was shining, the sea was calm and I didn’t get my feet wet. It really does make you think.
‘These guys landed on the beaches of Normandy and they really did go through something quite incredible.
‘I was able to experience just a little bit of what it felt like. We must remember them and take time to think on the sacrifices people made for our freedom today.’
British sailors, soldiers and airmen set up a base in the town of Arromanches-les-bains to provide support to veterans who had travelled there to take part in the ceremonies.
They provided first aid, water and guidance as well as taking part in the civic events.
Located among the very heart of the D-Day beaches, Arromanches is known for the artificial Mulberry Harbour which remains in the place it was put in for D-Day.
It serves as a constant reminder of what happened on its beaches 70 years ago.
The creation of the artificial harbour was a remarkable technical feat, moving 600,000 tonnes of concrete and equipment across the Channel.
The resort was a priority target for the Allies, who wanted to use it as an artificial port to supply weapons and ammunition to the invading forces.
HMS Bulwark spent Thursday off Portsmouth, before taking a moment to ‘cheer ship’ to the city and leaving for France.
Once she arrived, the warship went to anchor and sent her landing craft up the beaches.
HMS Bulwark is one of the Royal Navy’s two assault command and control ships, and is based in Plymouth.
Her large floodable dock holds four landing craft, with another four carried on davits on the ship’s side.
They were put to use off Portsmouth when Royal Marines embarked on board put on a dramatic display of their skills by assaulting the seafront at Southsea.