King Charles 'adamant' to attend D-Day anniversary in person as commemorations get under way in UK and France

5 June 2024, 10:35 | Updated: 5 June 2024, 10:42

Charles and Camilla are joining veterans to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day
Charles and Camilla are joining veterans to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Picture: Alamy/PA

By Emma Soteriou

King Charles was 'adamant' that he would attend D-Day anniversary commemorations as two days of events get under way in the UK and France.

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The King is attending a commemorative event in Portsmouth today as well as the commemorations in northern France on Thursday.

It will mark his first major international event since he began treatment for cancer.

It comes as his return to public duties was brought forward by "about a month" due to him making a good recovery, according to the Times.

Charles is said to have been determined to attend as it will be the last milestone that D-Day veterans will be able to witness themselves.

He will be joined by Camilla and Prince William, to mark 80 years since the largest seaborne invasion in history that saw thousands of soldiers killed.

The Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, went on to lay down the foundations for the Allied victory.

Rishi Sunak is also attending the national commemorative event alongside a slew of dignitaries, and veterans who fought on the beaches in 1944.

The proceedings have already begun for dozens of other Second World War veterans, including former D-Day soldiers who have made the journey from Portsmouth to Normandy once again, retracing their steps 80 years ago.

This means D-Day veterans, politicians, the royals, and the general public will commemorate the historic battle at the very ports traversed by Allied soldiers in 1944.

Read More: LIVE: King Charles to join veterans at D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations

Read More: Last of D-Day veterans in France to mark 80th anniversary of Normandy landings and pay tribute to fallen friends

Veteran Donald Jones returns to Sword Beach in Normandy, France, where he landed on D-Day
Veteran Donald Jones returns to Sword Beach in Normandy, France, where he landed on D-Day. Picture: Alamy

It comes after Charles and Camilla hosted four D-Day veterans at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, hearing moving personal stories and seeing their poignant keepsakes.

Football boots carried on the straps of a military backpack, dog tags still bearing blood, and photos of a much cherished wife were among the mementoes shared with Charles and Camilla.

Charles, in turn, read aloud from his grandfather's handwritten diary, recounting George VI's D-Day entry about the breaking news of the "successful landings" in June 1944.

Veterans John Life, and Donald Jones return to Sword Beach in Normandy, France, where they landed on D-Day
Veterans John Life, and Donald Jones return to Sword Beach in Normandy, France, where they landed on D-Day. Picture: Alamy

Dame Helen Mirren will host the commemorations in Portsmouth on June 5, and military musicians and special guests will lead the ceremony. The morning will culminate in a flypast by the Royal Air Force Red Arrows.

The Prime Minister will then deliver a reading to the crowds and meet with veterans to hear their D-Day stories to mark the occasion

In the afternoon, tributes will move to the beaches of Normandy, where hundreds of allied defence personnel will parachute into a historic D-Day drop zone to commemorate the airborne invasion of 80 years ago.

Anne, the Princess Royal, will join British and Canadian military veterans across the English Channel in Normandy.

In her role as Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Regina Rifles, a Canadian military unit, the King's sister, joined by her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, will unveil a statute of a rifleman from the regiment and later attend a reception with former soldiers.

Nicknamed "The Johns", the unit was one of the first infantry regiments to storm Juno Beach 80 years ago with other Canadian forces.

Later, Anne and Sir Tim will join Normandy veterans and French representatives at a Royal British Legion service of commemoration at Bayeux War Cemetery, where the princess will lay a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice.

Normandy veterans (left to right) Alec Penstone, 98, Gilbert Clarke, 98, Richard Aldred, 99, Henry Rice, 98, Donald Howkins, 103, Mervyn Kersh, 98, Stan Ford, 98, Ken Hay, 98, and John Dennett, 99.
Normandy veterans (left to right) Alec Penstone, 98, Gilbert Clarke, 98, Richard Aldred, 99, Henry Rice, 98, Donald Howkins, 103, Mervyn Kersh, 98, Stan Ford, 98, Ken Hay, 98, and John Dennett, 99. Picture: Alamy

The Bayeux War Cemetery is France's largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War and is the final resting place of more than 4,000 military casualties. The site is run by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, an organisation the princess supports as president.

During her day in Normandy, Anne will attend the annual service of remembrance at Bayeux Cathedral where she will read a lesson and take part in a procession, led by pipers from France, Germany and the UK.

It will return the royal to the military cemetery for a vigil where she will lay a posy at the Grave of the Unknown Soldier and give a speech on behalf of the nation.

The day will also see hundreds of Armed Forces service personnel take part in a parachute drop into a historic D-Day zone to pay tribute to the contribution of airborne forces 80 years ago.

Paratroopers from the UK, Canada, Belgium and the US will take part in the commemorations near Sannerville, followed by a display by the British Army's Red Devils.

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