The Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 was the largest amphibious assault ever launched. More than 75,000 British, Canadian and other Commonwealth troops landed on the beaches alongside the United States and the Free French, in an Allied invasion force of more than 130,000. Another 7,900 British troops were landed by air. Supporting the invasion were more than 7,000 ships and smaller vessels off the coast (including the famous HMS Belfast) and 11,000 aircraft. In total, British and Commonwealth casualties (killed, wounded or missing) on D-Day numbered approximately 4,300. The invasion established a crucial second front in the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation, ultimately leading to victory for Allied Forces in 1945.
United Kingdom events
Portsmouth, the embarkation point of much of the invasion force in June 1944, is planning a week of commemorations from Monday 2 to Sunday 8 June. On 5 June, a drumhead service will take place on Southsea common, attended by senior representatives, veterans and members of the armed forces. An impressive amphibious landing demonstration on Southsea beach will follow, undertaken by Royal Marines deploying from HMS Bulwark in the Solent.
The famous Red Arrows will then mount a full-scale aerobatic display for the crowds. In the afternoon a flotilla of ships will set sail for France for the international commemorations.
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The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, the UK’s Centre of Remembrance, will be holding a day of commemorations to mark D-Day 70 on 6 June. Events will include a Service of Remembrance at the Arboretum’s Millennium Chapel, a wreath-laying at the Normandy Veteran’s Memorial by a veteran of the landings, and a special performance by the Bolsterstone Male Voice Choir. For further details on the National Memorial Arboretum, please visit www.thenma.org.uk.
A series of ceremonies will take place on 5 June to mark the airborne contribution to the invasion of Normandy. These include:
ceremonies at Pegasus Bridge, and the Pegasus Bridge Museum to mark the airborne landings in Horsa Gliders by troops from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and 249th Field Company Royal Engineers
a mass parachute drop by 16 Air Assault Brigade to mark the liberation of Ranville, the first French village to be liberated, by the British 13th Parachute Battalion
Other ceremonies on 5 June will include:
a ceremony for UK 3rd Division veterans at the British Garden of the Memorial de Caen museum. Further information on the museum can be found at normandy.memorial-caen.com
a memorial service at Breville Les Monts for members of the 12th Parachute Battalion, a company from the 12th Battalion Devonshire Regiment and the 22nd Independent Parachute Company, who suffered heavy losses in an attack on 12/13 June 1944
a memorial service to mark the attack on Merville Gun Battery on 6 June by 9th (Eastern and Home Counties) Parachute Battalion
a midnight celebration at Pegasus Bridge to mark the actual moment of the airborne landings
Many events will be taking place on 6 June, organised by various Allied Nations along the invasion beaches. The UK ceremonies will include however:
- a Service of Remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral organised by The Royal British Legion
- a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Bayeux, organised jointly by the Normandy Veterans’ Association and The Royal British Legion
- an international ceremony organised by the French Government, details to be confirmed
- a march past and service of commemoration held by the Normandy Veterans Association at Arromanches-les-Bains
Further details on the events, and military participation, will be announced in due course.