D-Day 70: Veterans see parachute drops again

Normandy Veteran Fred Glover, 88, 9th Parachute Battalion, watches a parachute drop onto the same fields near Ranville, France that were used as a drop zone 70 years ago today to commemorate the involvement of airborne forces in D-Day. ''Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Normandy Veteran Fred Glover, 88, 9th Parachute Battalion, watches a parachute drop onto the same fields near Ranville, France that were used as a drop zone 70 years ago today to commemorate the involvement of airborne forces in D-Day. ''Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

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Hundreds of Second World War veterans have begun commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, with many crossing the Channel for what may be the last time.

More than 650 servicemen, most aged in their 80s and 90s, have travelled to northern France for two days of official ceremonies marking D-Day and the start of the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule.

The Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, laid a wreath at Pegasus Bridge in Ranville, where British soldiers began the invasion after landing in gliders at 00.16am on June 6, 1944.

His hand-written note on the wreath said: ‘In ever-grateful remembrance of your service and sacrifice, Charles.’

Cyril Cook, 91, a former lieutenant with the 12th Yorkshire Parachute Battalion, was amongst those dropped into France on D-Day.

Mr Cook, from Chester, said: ‘People often ask “weren’t you afraid?” What a stupid question!

‘Of course we were afraid. But it was a job and you just got on with it.’

US president Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron also paid tribute to the sacrifice of those who fought.

Some 17,769 British soldiers who lost their lives during the invasion in 1944 are buried in Normandy.

Heads of state from 17 nations, including the Queen and Mr Obama, were due to gather today for the international ceremony at Sword Beach, the easternmost of the five landing sites.

Denys Hunter, 90, from Romsey, was in Normandy for the first time since he landed with the Hertfordshire Yeomanry on Gold Beach on D-Day.

‘It’s the last time I will ever get here,’ he said.

‘At 90 I’ve not got much chance to come again. I suppose I did leave it a bit late. But there you are.’

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