The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended a commemoration event for the Gold Beach Landings, which formed part of D-Day.
They went to support the Commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings at Gold Beach, one of the many that the Allied soldiers landed on at the north of France. 83,115 British soldiers landed in Normandy on D-Day, with 24,000 of those on Gold Beach.
A two-hour event was held at Arromanches-les-Bains to remember and commemorate the Normandy Landings. It was organised by the Surrey Branch of the Normandy Veterans Association, and included a veterans parade and wreath layings, near the D-Day museum to honour the event, which saw the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division form the bulk of the man-power at Gold Beach, and 79th (Armoured) Division, 231st Infantry Brigade , 69th Brigade and No. 47 (Royal Marine) Commando land alongside them. Despite the initial fierce opposition, the German defences were broken with relatively few casualties.
The assistance of the 79th (Armoured) Division, which had the use of Hobart’s Funnies, unusually modified tanks, proved essential, clearing minefields, bridging ditches and assisting exiting the beaches with track-ways. By midday, most of the beach was controlled by the Allied forces.
As the Royal couple arrived, the bagpipes were playing, and they spoke with a history expert who told them more about the day, and that Arromanches was hoped to be preserved, and not obliterated due to fighting there. Military vehicles, like the ones used on Gold Beach, were displayed for the public to see. 22,000 Union Jacks have also been laid.
It is on this beach, 5 miles wide, that William and Kate commemorated the soldiers’ daring feat; 4,413 Allied soldiers were killed on D-Day, and around 1/4 of them were British – 400 casualties were taken on Gold Beach.
— Royal Reporter (@RoyalReporterUK) June 6, 2014
Veterans and their families attended the commemoration. Historian Dan Snow gave a speech, encouraging remembrance of the Second World War, and naming individual soldiers for their service. Veterans were wheeled in front of the stage, or walked if they were able, and received rounds of applause as they passed the public, as well as from The Duke and Duchess.
The Duke gave a speech for the commemoration, saying: “it is vital that this sacrifice, and the reasons for this sacrifice, are never forgotten.”
Percy Lewis, a veteran of the Normandy Landings, gave a reading too, from “Ode of Remembrance” taken from Laurence Binyon‘s poem, “For the Fallen”, which was followed by The Last Post; 17 French veterans of WWII received the highest French honour available to them, the Legion of Honour (Légion d’honneur).
William laid a poppy wreath alone for the service of the fallen, and their comrades, and the whole congregation of people sang ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, as well as a rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ after prayers were said.