D-Day 80: Princess Royal praises Second World War veterans courage at France and Portsmouth ceremonies start

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The Princess Royal has paid tribute to British D-Day veterans, telling one he was the reason she performed her public role.

Anne met the former servicemen as they gathered in Normandy to remember fallen colleagues and their own efforts, ahead of the 80th anniversary of the Second World War campaign to liberate Europe from Nazi rule. She joined veterans and their families at the Royal British Legion’s poignant service of commemoration at Bayeux War Cemetery, where the congregation was surrounded by the manicured graves of more than 4,000 military casualties.

Before the service, Anne chatted to Don Jones, 99, who served in the Royal Navy ferrying men and equipment on to Sword Beach. She told the veteran that a reason she carries out her role “is because I meet people like you”. Mr Jones, from Mold, North Wales, was a 19-year-old Able Seamen with the Royal Navy and said he focused on his job on June 6 1944 as the cacophony of battle was so great.

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The Princess Royal, President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, arrives to attend the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's annual service of remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral, in Bayeux, France, during events to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2024. Picture: Hannah McKay/PA WireThe Princess Royal, President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, arrives to attend the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's annual service of remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral, in Bayeux, France, during events to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2024. Picture: Hannah McKay/PA Wire
The Princess Royal, President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, arrives to attend the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's annual service of remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral, in Bayeux, France, during events to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Picture date: Wednesday June 5, 2024. Picture: Hannah McKay/PA Wire | Hannah McKay/PA Wire

He said after speaking to the princess: “I was in the Royal Navy on a tank landing craft, we took tanks and materials across and were dropping them off on Sword Beach. Then the following two months we were backwards and forwards with materials. “I think on our third journey we brought prisoners back, and for the next two journeys after that, about 500 prisoners in all.

Crowds arriving at the Southsea Common evening ceremony. Picture: Sarah StandingCrowds arriving at the Southsea Common evening ceremony. Picture: Sarah Standing
Crowds arriving at the Southsea Common evening ceremony. Picture: Sarah Standing | Sarah Standing
The start of the Southsea Common evening ceremony. Picture: Sarah StandingThe start of the Southsea Common evening ceremony. Picture: Sarah Standing
The start of the Southsea Common evening ceremony. Picture: Sarah Standing | Sarah Standing

“It was so busy, I couldn’t absorb everything that was going on, the noise was so great. The bigger ships with the huge guns were firing over us all the time, firing inland to try and clear the enemy positions.” A minute’s silence was observed in remembrance of the fallen and readings were given of first-hand accounts of British Forces who were tasked during the Normandy Landings with taking the stretch of coastline codenamed Sword Beach.

Portsmouth residents are once again flocking to Southsea Common for the evening service. Broadcasts from France will be played ahead of the late night ceremony, where each of the 4,600 headstones of those that fell will be individually illuminated across Bayeux War Cemetery.

Scottish folk singer Julie Fowlis will perform The Parting Glass at the Southsea show, alongside Jack Savoretti, and British baritone and composer Roderick Williams. Later tonight, just a few minutes before 10pm, a drone lightshow is expected to take place. Residents caught a glimpse of the show trials earlier this week.

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