DAVID Cameron 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.
Speaking in Bayeux, he said: ‘I 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.
The Prime Minister joined veterans as they formed a procession from Bayeux’s cathedral to the historic city’s Commonwealth cemetery.
Led by a piper and accompanied by the tolling of the cathedral’s bell, the veterans were applauded by crowds lining the route.
Mr Cameron said: ‘It’s incredibly moving. I was at the vigil at Pegasus Bridge last night, standing at the spot where one of the gliders landed to take that bridge.
‘The sense of history, the sense of awe, but also for my generation the sense of humility - we haven’t had to do anything like what our grandfathers’ generation did to fight for freedom, to put their lives on the line.
‘It is awe inspiring, it gives you a sense of humility but above all it gives you a sense of extraordinary gratitude for what these amazingly brave people did.’
He said the veterans still had a “spring in their step and joy in their hearts about coming back here and remembering what they did”.
The Prime Minister praised the “incredibly welcoming” people of France for the reception they had given the returning veterans.
The Prime Minister was accompanied by his wife Sam, who teamed a Gina Foster hat with an Alexander McQueen suit and LK Bennett shoes for the events.
Labour leader Ed Miliband was also at the Bayeux ceremony, describing the cathedral service organised by the Royal British Legion as “incredibly poignant”.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond chatted to serving and former troops during the procession.