Charles marks 80 years since D-Day: we must ‘remember, cherish and honour’ veterans

The King attended a special event in Portsmouth with Queen Camilla and Prince William

Today, The King and Queen, accompanied by The Prince of Wales, attended the UK’s national commemorative event in Portsmouth to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings.

Embed from Getty Images

Welcomed on to the stage by Dame Helen Mirren who was leading the day’s events, Charles opened his speech by reading out the message from Field Marshal Montgomery, Commander in Chief of the Allied Ground Forces, to all soldiers on the eve of D-Day:‘To us is given the honour of striking a blow for freedom which will live in history; and, in the better days that lie ahead, men will speak with pride of our doings.

‘Today we come together to honour those nearly 160,000 British, Commonwealth and Allied troops who, on June 5 1944, assembled here and along these shores to embark on the mission which would strike that blow for freedom and be recorded as the greatest amphibious operation in history. Those who gathered here in Portsmouth would never forget the sight. It was by far the largest military fleet the world has ever known. Yet all knew that both victory and failure were possible, and none could know their fate.

Embed from Getty Images

‘Aircrew flying overhead, sailors manning warships; or troops in assault craft battering their way through the stormy swell to the shore; whether dropping by parachute, landing in a wooden glider, or taking that terrible leap of faith onto the beaches… all must have questioned whether they would survive and how they would respond when faced with such mortal danger.

The landings, codenamed Operation Neptune, was the largest amphibious invasion in history, combining naval, land and air assaults on Nazi-occupied France.

The King and Queen attending D-Day anniversary events in Portsmouth, marking 80 years since the Normandy Landings – the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare (Defence Imagery)

Embed from Getty Images

The event featured tributes, readings, performances and more to commemorate D-Day, the veterans and the fallen. At one point, Queen Camilla looked noticeably tearful, and The King dabbed at his eye. 

Charles spoke to a crowd which included veterans of the Normandy landings, along with current defence personnel and politicians. the King said the nation should always ‘remember, cherish and honour” those who served that day.

Embed from Getty Images

It comes as The King has returned to public-facing engagements, albeit reduced, as he is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.

His Majesty then reflected on poet Keith Douglas’ point of view of the embarkation: ‘Actors waiting in the wings of Europe we already watch the lights on the stage and listen to the colossal overture begin. For us entering at the height of the din it will be hard to hear our thoughts, hard to gauge how much our conduct owes to fear or fury.

‘At this remove, eight decades later, it is a near impossible task to imagine the emotion of that day: the pride of being part of so great an enterprise, the anxiety of in some way not coming up to scratch, and the fear of that day being their last.’

Embed from Getty Images

Recently, The King and Queen met D-Day veterans at Buckingham Palace, where they heard their stories and memories of D-Day.

Reflecting on this meeting in his speech, Charles noted how the veterans ‘remember with such heartbreaking clarity the sight of those many soldiers lying on the beach, who drowned before they could even engage in combat’.

Prince Charles and Camilla attend #D-Day75 services in France

Charles commented that the ‘stories of courage, resilience and solidarity’ told during the event by others at Portsmouth ‘cannot fail to move us, to inspire us, and to remind us of what we owe to that great wartime generation – now, tragically, dwindling to so few’.

Embed from Getty Images

He added how it is ‘our privilege to hear their testimony, but our role is not purely passive: it is our duty to ensure that we, and future generations, do not forget their service and their sacrifice in replacing tyranny with freedom’ and that our rights and liberty were won at a ‘terrible cost’.

Stressing how it was the actions of the Allies on 6th June ‘ensured the forces of freedom secured, first, a toehold in Normandy, then liberated France, and ultimately, the whole of Europe from the stranglehold of a brutal totalitarianism’, the Monarch also noted how we must ‘never forget that the soldiers who fought in the campaign launched from this place came from 30 nations, from across the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and Allied countries’.

His Majesty concluded his speech by giving thanks ‘for all those who gave so much to win the victory, whose fruits we still enjoy to this day.

‘Let us, once again, commit ourselves always to remember, cherish and honour those who served that day and to live up to the freedom they died for by balancing rights with civic responsibilities to our country. For we are all, eternally, in their debt,’ he added.

Prince William at today’s event in Portsmouth to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. (Prime Minister/Twitter)

Prior to his father’s speech, The Prince of Wales spoke, sharing that he was ‘deeply honoured’ to be attending the event.  Prince William gave a reading from a diary entry by Captain Alastair Bannerman of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which was addressed to his wife on the morning of that fateful day in 1944.

He concluded his speech by saying that ‘we will always remember those who served and those who waved them off. The mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who watched their loved ones go into battle, unsure if they would ever return’.

Embed from Getty Images

William said: ‘Today we remember the bravery of those who crossed this sea to liberate Europe. Those who ensured that Operation Overlord was a success. And those who waited for their safe return.’

For the first time, Prince William was wearing the neck order of Great Master of The Order of the Bath; he was appointed to the Order by The King, earlier this year on St George’s Day, which had remained empty since the Accession. Charles, as Prince of Wales, held the role from 1974 to 2022.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Following the speeches from both Charles and William, the Royals then went on to meet D-Day veterans.

The Prince of Wales gave a rare update on his wife, who is currently undergoing her own treatment for cancer.

One veteran asked him if Catherine was getting any better, to which William replied: ‘Yes, she would have loved to have been here today. I was reminding everybody, her grandmother [Valerie Glassborow] served at Bletchley so she would have had quite a bit in common with a few of the other ladies here who served at Bletchley but never spoke about it until the very end.’

Tomorrow, Charles and Camilla will visit Ver-sur-Mer, France to attend the The Ministry of Defence and the Royal British Legion’s commemorative event at the British Normandy Memorial.

Meanwhile, Prince William will visit the Juno Beach Centre, Courseulles-sur-Me, to take part in the Canadian commemorative ceremony. The Prince of Wales will speak to both Canadian D-Day and Second World War veterans, whilst also speaking with current personnel and cadets.

Share this

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.