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Sword Beach, Normandy: presiding role for the Queen on 70th anniversary of D-Day

Her Majesty is to be guest of Honour on the 70th Anniversary of the D- Day landings on 6 June 2014.

Her Majesty is to be guest of Honour on the 70th Anniversary of the D- Day landings on 6 June 2014.

6 June 2014 will mark the 70th Anniversary of D Day, the allied campaign which turned the tide of war into an eventual victory. The Queen will take part in the anniversary as guest of honour to commemorate the British contribution to Operation Overlord.

Her Majesty will attend a ceremony to be held on Sword Beach, the landing site of British troops during the Normandy battle.

In 2009 France snubbed The Queen for the 65th Anniversary which caused anger not only at Buckingham Palace but with war veterans. The French President Nicholas Sarkozy seemed a bit disrespectful in marking the event solely as a French and American anniversary.

To add to the ire, In a 2009 article in The Telegraph it was reported that a government spokesman, Luc Chatel, speaking in regards to the anniversary, commented it was “first and foremost a Franco-American ceremony given the recent election of President [Barack] Obama.” The show of blatant disrespect furthered when Chatel ended with “there will be other June 6.”

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown did not help matters as he himself attended but did not inquire as to whether Her Majesty wanted to join him.

“Controversy is something that should be avoided. The 70th anniversary of D-Day should be a reason for national cohesion and pride. Choosing Sword beach makes sense because other beaches have been chosen for major anniversaries and this beach is the history of the British involvement. France is a land that can accommodate all her friends and allies,” noted Minister of Foreign Affairs Kader Arif according to News in Normandy.

Five years later, lessons have been learned. “The Queen has been invited and will be present along with US President [Barack] Obama,” A spokesman for France’s war veteran’s ministry told The Telegraph.
The events will allow France “to mark his eternal gratitude to its allies, while promoting a peaceful memory,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Kader Arif commented to Le Parisien.

In 1944, the then Princess Elizabeth was 18 when the battle commenced. In May, prior to the beginning of the campaign, she visited Salisbury Plain at Bulford with her parents, King George VI and Queen Elziabeth.

Sword Beach represents the third and the last of the British landing sectors during the Allied invasion.

Sword Beach represents the third and the last of the British landing sectors during the Allied invasion.

The troops landing on Sword Beach on 6 June had the most critical task on D-Day: to defend the eastern flank of the whole landing area against the likelihood of a key German armoured counter-offensive from the east, whilst at the same time carrying out the assault on Caen. The beach was divided into four zones: Peter, Queen, Roger and Oboe.

The second mission after the successful landing on the beach was to advance towards Caen. Taking part in this action were the 185th Brigade, the tanks of the Staffordshire Yeomanry and joining in the assault were the 9th Canadian Brigade from Juno Beach.

The British troops landed at 0725 hours on D-Day and were met with modest enemy fire. By 0800 they were able to hold back the fire and made their way inland. At 1300 the troops had overcome fierce fighting and completed the key objective of linking up at the Orne waterway bridges with the airborne division.
A testament to the fighting forces of Britain is that 29,000 men landed on Sword beach and the forces suffered just 630 casualties.
The Queen last attended the 60th Anniversary of the D Day landings in 2004.

photo credit: Commonwealth Secretariat via photopin cc

photo credit: Cindy Stockman 2010

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