The 70th anniversary of D-Day will be marked with an impressive calendar of memorial events on and around the beaches of Normandy, the theatre of the beginning of the end of World War II.
As well as official ceremonies on the day itself, June 6, museums, town and village halls and veteran associations have been organising commemoration proceedings in several countries since April and until the end of August.
The main ceremonies will take place on D-Day, June 6. The French government has organised six different memorials and an official lunch. The commemorations will begin at the Memorial de Caen, with a French national ceremony at 09:00 CET to pay tribute to the non-military victims of the landings.
At 10:40, French President François Hollande will be joined by his American counterpart Barack Obama at the American war cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer.
Then, at 17:00, Hollande will visit a bi-national cemetery in Urville-Langannerie to remember Polish soldiers who lost their lives in the conflict.
At 11:30, France’s Prime Minister will lead a Franco-British tribute at the Bayeux War Cemetery, where 3,935 British servicemen and women lay buried among the 4,648 graves. At 17:30, an event will be held at Juno Beach to honour the memory of the Canadian soldiers who landed there.
A war veteran from each of the 18 countries represented in the commemorations will attend the official lunch along with the heads of national delegations. The lunch will be held at the chateau de Bénouville, a former nursing home overlooking the sites of fortified German military installations on the Atlantic Wall. The director of the nursing home at the time, Léa Vion, was a member of the French resistance and provided precious intelligence to allied commanders before and during the landings, as well as medical aid to injured servicemen.
The biggest event of the day will take place at 14:30 in Ouistreham (home of ‘Sword beach’) in the presence of 17 heads of state including Queen Elizabeth II. Around 10,000 people will attend this ceremony, of whom around 1,000 are surviving veterans of WWII.
le château de Bénouville
Other memorial ceremonies
There will also be many unofficial ceremonies and tributes, including parachute drops using WWII-era planes and uniforms and military parades at Angoville-au-Plain from Wednesday June 4.
On Thursday June 5, a fireworks display and military music performance will be held at Utah Beach. A complete programme for these events along the Cotentin coast can be found on the website of the local tourist office .
Ceremonies outside France
British organisers are also holding events at locations from where landing craft set out across the English Channel. The main port of departure was Portsmouth, where an amphibious Royal Marines operation is among the ceremonies held between June 2 and June 8. A flotilla will leave Portsmouth on Thursday evening in order to arrive on the French coast in time for the commemorations the following day.
In the United States, war veterans associations are holding tributes across the country, as in all other countries that made up the allied forces. For example, the Candian government is holding an official ceremony in Ottawa.
A wide range of memorial services and events, including exhibitions, concerts, theatre productions, guided tours on foot, by bike and even by canoe are planned throughout the summer in France and elsewhere.